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School Board hires agency to find new Superintendent

(Pictured: School board members Jennifer Kreigh (left) and Reggie Foster)

The Custer County School’s Board of Education (BOE) held a special meeting on January 24 to address the search process for a new Superintendent, following Jackie Crabtree’s resignation announcement at the January 9 regular meeting; and also for a new BOE member, following Tracy Broll’s resignation.

Board President Joseph McCarthy read Broll’s resignation letter, dated January 17, 2024, into the record as correspondence to the Board. In the letter, Broll cites Crabtree’s resignation, as well as family matters, as a factor in her decision to resign. In accepting the resignation, member Jordan Benson, now the only remaining member from the previous Board, said he had appreciated working with Broll, while Secretary Jennifer Kriegh said she was disappointed she was not going to be able to work with her.

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McCarthy introduced Resolution 2024-01, declaring the vacancy and laying out the steps for replacing a Board member, stating that other school districts call either for an application or letters of interest, then “we interview candidates and then pick the top two candidates.” McCarthy added that if the vacancy wasn’t filled within 60 days, it was his prerogative as President to pick the replacement.

After a discussion of how to advertise the vacancies in the newspaper and through social media, the question of deadlines came. McCarthy said that the BOE had 60 days to replace a BOE member, which gave a deadline of March 24, 2024, with Wednesday, February 14 at 3 p.m. decided as the deadline to turn in a duly notarized hard copy of an application to the school office; with interviews to follow on February 19 to pick the top two candidates, and then a vote to follow at a special meeting on February 20.

After the vote to approve Resolution 2024-01 came consideration of the Superintendent search process. McCarthy opened the discussion by referring to a passage in a book given to him by a former BOE President, Dr. Terre Davis, which outlined the differences between a BOE-driven search and contracting with an outside agency for the search. Kriegh referred to a search firm called McPherson and Jacobson, associated with the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), which is currently conducting superintendent searches for several other school districts, including neighboring Cotopaxi and Fremont R-2.

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Kriegh stated that she had spoken to administrators in the Swink school district who had used the firm and spoken highly of them, adding, however, that “we don’t want someone to come in and make a whole lot of changes,” apparently a danger she associated with a broad search: “As a conservative parent, I want to be around like-minded people – if this were a very progressive community, that’s just not what I’m looking for – so we need conservative people [to apply].”

Vice-President Reggie Foster stated that she had also called other school districts that had used McPherson and Jacobson for their searches in 2021, “and they still have their same superintendents [two years later]… the advantage to using them is that it takes the search burden off the BOE.” Another advantage, Foster said, with regard to longevity in the position, was that the company guaranteed that if a superintendent recruited by their search departed within two years of hire, the firm would conduct another search free of charge.

Benson made the motion to approve a resolution calling for further negotiation with McPherson and Jacobson, saying, “I think we would have a better level of control over the process if we hire an outside company,” and Kriegh seconded, saying, “We need the community to have faith in the process,” which may have been a reference to the superintendent search that the previous BOE had undertaken in 2022, with no outside consultation.

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The result was a botched process that saw that BOE first offer, then rescind, an offer to former Principal Joe Vergilio, and which resulted in Crabtree’s hire – a process that left many members of the community, as well as school staff, frustrated and angry. “I think we should use this company in order to do a proper job,” Kriegh concluded.

Benson agreed, saying, “I don’t have the time to run a super search.” “It’s not just the time, it’s the skill set,” said McCarthy: “Do you have the skill set to check people’s credentials?…Do I have the time [for the search]? – no. Do I have the skill set? Probably, but this is these peoples’ job.”

“If we can keep a superintendent for more than two years then we will recoup the money that we spend on this firm,” Kriegh said.

After further discussion, the motion to go forward with negotiations with McPherson and Jacobson passed unanimously.

In other business, the BOE approved a contract with Rightly Garage Doors in Silver Cliff for garage door lifter kits for the bus barn. McCarthy said that there would be a continuing series of special meetings, with the next one on January 31, to catch up with unfinished business left over from the previous BOE.

– Elliot Jackson

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