At their regular monthly meeting Wednesday evening, the Ennis School Board discussed its next move in hiring a district superintendent after high school principal John Sullivan offered his name for consideration for the position.
Sullivan explained that he did not apply for the position when the district originally began advertising for applicants more than a month ago because he expected a deeper pool of candidates for the superintendent position.
“I just wanted to give the board an option… to make sure the district moves in the right direction,” Sullivan said during Wednesday’s meeting.
The move comes after Wibaux superintendent Renee Rasmussen, the top candidate selected for the position by the school board during a special meeting Monday night, withdrew her name from consideration after being offered a two-year contract. The three candidates interviewed during that meeting were Rasmussen, Three Forks High School principal Thom Peck and Butte Central Catholic High principal Tim Norbeck.
Sullivan said that while he was comfortable with all three candidates interviewed Monday night, he was surprised the district did not receive a greater number of qualified applicants for the job.
“I’m willing to work with anybody you choose,” he told the board. “The three you chose, I would have hand picked them myself.”
Joe Brott, Director of Policy Services for the Montana School Boards Association, was present at both meetings and explained on Wednesday the board’s options in moving forward with the search for a district superintendent. The MTSBA was hired by the Ennis school district to help facilitate with the applicant screening, selection and hiring process.
From here the board may offer a contract to either Peck or Norbeck, go back and further review the list of applicants or simply re-open the position and essentially start from scratch. Brott cautioned the board that in his experience starting the process over can be complicated and is usually not the best option.
“You may not get any better quality or quantity of applicants doing that,” Brott said.
Discussion from the board indicated that whatever their next move may be, it should be made carefully.
“It’s my opinion that starting over is not an option,” said board member Gary Croy.
“I think time is of the essence, and the longer we wait those people are taking jobs elsewhere,” said vice chairman Jim McNally.
Board member Mike McKitrick agreed with McNally.
“I know time is of the essence, but I also would hate to make a hasty decision and make the wrong decision,” McKitrick said.
Other solutions to the issue include promoting Sullivan to superintendent, or hiring a retired superintendent for an interim position.
Should the board decide to promote Sullivan to the superintendent position, Brott explained there is no legal obligation to advertise the job opening or interview additional applicants. The board may simply discuss the promotion and make the offer.
“If that’s an option and the board wants to do it, that’s fine,” Brott said.
Sullivan further explained the decision to offer his name for consideration, saying that he expected more applicants with multiple years experience as superintendent.
“Hindsight is kind of 20/20. I’m starting to wonder if I could be an option based on what you have,” he said. “Now seeing that you guys might re-open it and go back to that list, I think I can do as good a job as the people remaining on your list.’”
While Sullivan has yet to complete the required classes for a superintendent endorsement, he would be eligible for a three-year provisional certificate issued by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. This would allow Sullivan to serve as superintendent while completes the four classes he would need, which he said would take about a year.
The board also discussed hiring an interim superintendent, but more than one board member argued the district needs to look beyond a temporary “Band-Aid” to resolve the issue.
Chairman Marc Glines requested that Brott contact both Peck and Norbeck to invite them back for a second interview with a new set of questions.
The district will conduct the second round of interviews with Peck, Norbeck and Sullivan at the Ennis Public School on Wednesday evening. For more information contact the school at 682–4258.