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BOLD investigating shared superintendency

TOM CHERVENY | TRIBUNE Superintendent John Dotson is completing the final year of his second, three-year contract as superintendent for the BOLD School District. The school board rejected a one-year contract extension in October.

OLIVIA — Members of the BOLD School Board are asking neighboring school districts whether they are interested in sharing a superintendent position.

"I will reach out tomorrow,'' board chair Russ Lesniak told board members at a special meeting held Monday night in Olivia. Lesniak said he would contact the neighboring districts of Renville County West, Buffalo-Lake Hector-Stewart, Redwood Valley, Willmar and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City to determine their potential interest.

BOLD school board members rejected a one-year contract extension for Superintendent John Dotson on a two-to-four vote at their Oct. 23 meeting. Dotson is completing the final year of his second, three-year contract as superintendent for the district.

Board members have decided they want a fresh start for the district, and are re-evaluating what to do about the superintendent position, the board chair told the Tribune.

Board member John Desotell opened discussions on Monday by suggesting board members explore options to make the superintendent position part-time, or shared with another district. Board members agreed to consider the options, but also agreed to keep open the possibility of maintaining a full-time superintendent position.

They have proposals from two firms to lead a search for a new superintendent. They intend to consider the proposals at their Nov. 27 meeting, depending on the outcome of the inquiries to neighboring districts about a shared position.

Desotell noted that it would be difficult to find candidates for a part-time superintendency. But he said projections for declining enrollments and tighter budgets in the years ahead makes it important for the board to consider its options.

Supt. Dotson attended the meeting seated in the audience. He told board members in response to questions that a part-time or a shared superintendent position were possibilities for the district. "People have to understand it is not going to look the same as having a full-time superintendent. But you're getting into enrollment issues,'' he said.

Audience member Dick Hagen asked board members whether they would consider help from Supt. Dotson going forward. Desotell responded that Dotson's contract will be ended. "He'd have to come back in a certain way, and I don't see the board allowing him or taking him back into a part-time situation,'' said Desotell.

But board chair Lesniak suggested he was open to the possibility. "My personal feelings are if Mr. Dotson chooses to pursue a part-time position and if he is the best candidate for that position, I will be more than willing to welcome him into that role.'' He added that other board members would have to support such a decision as well.

Supt. Dotson told the Tribune he believes personal grudges led to the decision not to extend his contract. He pointed out that board members had given him positive performance evaluations before the action.

Dotson, who is completing his 39th year in education, told the Tribune he is exploring his options. The board's decision not to extend his contract effectively provided him with eight months notice to pursue different options, but he added that he would consider a continued role with the district.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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