Questions about the director of schools job still have the power to divide the school board.
This was revealed at the board's December meeting Monday night, when board member Craig Michael moved not to post the director of schools job, but continue to retain interim director Roy Dukes. Curt Denton seconded the motion, which was defeated by five votes to four after a spirited discussion.
The board split along the same lines voting in favor of a motion to post the position of director for 45 days, starting Dec. 15.
"The school system has calmed down," Denton said in favor of not starting the search for a new director. "We're coming up on the holidays, and then the time for re-hires; it would make Dukes' job harder."
"I concur," said board member Ann Tears. "The teachers and students deserve some stability - we went through months of turmoil."
"The overwhelming majority in the community is pleased to have Dukes in that position," Michael said. "We're in a budget crisis and it's difficult to bring someone into the middle of that. Plus, turnover in the Board is possible in August. Dukes is in a position to provide stability through September."
"I heartily agree," said Barbara Kennedy, one of the new board members. "But he was hired as interim and not meant to be long-term. Everyone needs to know we're not in a holding pattern."
"I think everyone agrees Dukes is doing a wonderful job," said board member Kristen Gold, to applause from the audience. "It's our responsibility to get a long-term director in place. Starting the search doesn't diminish Dukes' authority."
"Let's make Dukes director," suggested Tears. "Why waste time on a search when we could be dealing with other issues?"
"Once a leader is on a timeline to the exit, he is weakened," Michael said. "We have stability and overwhelming support, and a chance to keep an individual with over 40 years' experience. There will be a new board after the August election, and they could start looking for a new director since they will be the ones working with him."
"Right," agreed Denton. "The board that hired (Stan) Curtis isn't the board who worked with him. The new board is the one who's going to have to deal with a new director."
"This board saw fit to dismiss the director," said board member Randy Perryman. "We should be responsible enough to start the search for a new one."
"I didn't come on here to sit back," said the other new board member Harvey Jones. "We need to be moving forward and looking. We need to know who's out there and available."
"Can we not just make Dukes director?" insisted Tears. "Let's contact legal and find out what our options are."
Chairman Mike Keny reminded the board that there was also a time constraint: they could not hire or fire anyone within 60 days of the August election.
Michael's motion NOT to post the director position got "yes" votes from him, Denton, Tears, and Dee Dee Owens.
"We will come back early in January and get this going one way or the other," said Keny.
Tears' motion to get legal advice on whether they can just hire Dukes or whether they have to go through a search failed because, with Michael abstaining, the vote was tied.
Kennedy's motion to post the director's job for 45 calendar days, starting Dec. 15, had the same board members voting for it as had voted against Michael's motion: Perryman, Gold, Keny, Kennedy, and Jones.
Michael, Denton, Owens, and Tears - along with Perryman and Keny - were the ones who voted to remove Curtis from office in October. The vote to replace Curtis with Dukes at that same meeting was unanimous, but took place after board members Gold and Todd Tietgens left the room. Gold has since decided not to resign, but Jones has replaced Tietgens.