By ERICKA WERLING
SOLOMON –– The Solomon Board of Education said it will continue to look for a candidate to fill a split K-5 principal/superintendent’s position despite complaints from its patrons and teachers.
The district had a special meeting Tuesday to hear patron comments.
Community member Denise Miller, Solomon, presented the board with a petition signed by 185 patrons stating they are against the split position. She said the petition was the first time many had heard that the district was considering the combined position.
Superintendent Jim Runge announced his retirement in November, and the board accepted high school Principal Shelly Swayne’s resignation earlier this month.
At the regular January board meeting, many patrons discovered that the board was seeking candidates for the split position, and the board set a special meeting Tuesday to allow patrons to express opinions either for or against the decision.
Tuesday’s meeting was moved from the high school library to the commons area to accommodate more than 40 people, including patrons and teachers, who showed up to speak or hear comments.
“I didn’t agree with it then, and I don’t agree with it now,” said Miller, who spoke at the January board meeting. “I think it sends a wrong message that we are a dying school.”
Miller said a letter from the search firm of McPherson and Jacobson did not state that the district was considering a split position. Some patrons found out about the split position at the January board meeting when search firm representatives addressed the board.
Miller said she was talking on behalf of the children and added that the current structure is working well.
“Please put the children first, not the finances,” she said. “This position is a huge conflict of interest.”
Miller said that the board had lost two respected community members from the board because of the issue. Acting board president Gary Mitchell said the board has not formally accepted resignations from board members Russ Fair and Mark Wallace.
Elementary Counselor Cindy Gant, and first grade teacher Lynsey Webb each presented enumerated lists explaining the duties of an elementary principal, and explained how important it was to have an elementary principal visible throughout the
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school and community.
Both women, and a parent, Jayme Randels said that each job has enough duties to be combined into one 40-hour position.
“Principals must have a clear vision,” Webb said.
Gant asked if the board would consider hiring a part-time superintendent, possibly someone who had retired from being a superintendent.
A former high school principal, Bob Warkentine, received a standing ovation later in the meeting when he spoke in opposition to the restructuring and hiring current Elementary Principal Kerri Lacy for the principal/superintendent position.
First, Warkentine lauded Lacy’s abilities as the elementary principal.
“She’s dynamic, she’s charismatic. She has done a lot with this district. I would do everything in my power to support her and keep her,” he said.
“If restructuring is the only way to go, Miss Lacy’s not qualified. That’s not a road and an avenue I’d go down,” he said.
Jayme Randles said she had reservations speaking, because she doesn’t live in the community, but she and her husband have three children attend school in Solomon.
“Our children deserve to have someone in the building more times than not,” she said.
She knows of substitute teachers who refuse to sub because of discipline problems. She asked the board that the district should first fix Solomon’s reputation, she said. She said she has witnessed problems first hand as a substitute teacher.
She said there’s no student discipline, and no support for teachers.
On the other hand, there are long lists of students waiting to get into Ell-Saline and Southeast of Saline, which could be potential students for Solomon, she said.
Randles questioned what the combined position tells surrounding communities.
“What message does it send to the public? It screams that we are losing kids, losing funding and we are on our last legs,” said Randles, whose husband teaches middle school social studies.
A parent and teacher Tim Cross told the board he was confused and concerned.
He said he had talk with Runge and board clerk Dean Ann Zsamba who both said that district budget is in better position that it has been.
“I don’t think it is necessary to combine the positions,” he said.