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BOLD to consider part time superintendent

OLIVIA - BOLD School Board members are entertaining the possibility of reducing their superintendent search to someone willing to take on the position on a part-time basis.

One interested candidate tossed board members a proposal to do exactly that just as they began discussing the possibility.

Superintendent John Dotson offered school board members a proposal to work at either a one-half or three-quarters work schedule in the coming year, with a salary to be reduced accordingly. Dotson provided the proposal to board members at a special work session held Wednesday in the district office in Olivia.

Dotson said the proposal could save the district as much as $50,000 in administrative expenses. Saving money is driving the interest in a reduced superintendent position. Board members pointed out that they expect to be in a deficit spending position in upcoming years as enrollment declines.

Board members held the special meeting on Wednesday to hear a proposal by Ray and Associates to conduct a superintendent search for the district. One week earlier, board members heard presentations by two other parties interested in conducting the search for the district: School Exec Connect and the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Board members will discuss whether to select one of the three parties, as well as the possibility of looking for a part-time instead of full-time superintendent at their meeting next Monday.

Board Chair Russ Lesniak had previously contacted neighboring schools districts about the possibility of sharing a superintendent. None are interested at this time.

Dotson is completing his sixth and final year of a second, three-year contract with the district. Board members rejected a one-year contract extension on a 2 - 4 vote in October.

There is division in the district over the issue. Last month, citizens presented board members with a 328-signature petition urging them to retain Dotson as superintendent. At a public forum as part of the same meeting, other citizens told board members they favored a search for a new superintendent.

The discussion at Wednesday's work session focused on the financial challenges ahead. After receiving Dotson's offer to work on a part-time basis, board chair Lesniak noted that he was open to the idea of a part-time superintendency. "It's no secret that our student population is getting less and less, as is our bank account. Definitely something we have to look at, have to consider, speaking for myself,'' he said.

During subsequent discussions, board members Jeff Benson and John Desotell said they also believe the option should be considered. Desotell pointed to what he described as painful cuts that were made to teaching positions in 2006-07. He said acting now to reduce administrative costs could avoid some future cuts to teaching positions.

Benson also emphasized the importance of acting sooner rather than later. "We know we are going into deficit spending. We know that if we don't cut somewhere it is going to snowball on us,'' he said.

Board members anticipate that the cost of searching for a full-time superintendent will be around $10,000, and that a salary for a full-time superintendent will be $100,000 plus.

Tom Cherveny

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

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