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BOLD continues discussing part-time superintendent

Tribune file photo Superintendent John Dotson is completing the final year of his second, three-year contract as superintendent for the BOLD School District.

OLIVIA — The possibility of hiring a part-time superintendent, possibly on an interim basis, was the focus of discussions as BOLD School Board members met for a work session Monday.

Board members did not come to a consensus, but agreed to put the matter back on the agenda for their regular meeting on Jan. 22.

They informally agreed to take advantage of a three-hour work session offered by the Minnesota School Boards Association aimed at helping school boards in the process of selecting a superintendent.

Board members are debating whether to hire one of three firms they have interviewed for a superintendent search, or go it alone by advertising for a part-time superintendent. Board members rejected a one-year extension of Superintendent John Dotson's contract in October.

The superintendent has subsequently proposed returning on a part-time basis, with his salary pro rated to either one-half or three-quarters time.

During the work session Monday, John Desotell urged his fellow board members to take advantage of that offer. Desotell provided board members with calculations showing that the district could save almost $20,000 in the costs of searching for a superintendent, and $40,000 to $70,000 a year if Dotson works on a half-time or three-quarters time contract.

The district is facing financial challenges in the years ahead, Desotell said. Doing what it can now to reduce costs could soften the blow in the years ahead. He pointed to painful cuts to staff with direct student contact that the district had to make in 2006-07.

He also expressed concerns that board members were reluctant to take advantage of the offer from Supt. Dotson for reasons not made clear.

"So I'm going to ask the question: What has Mr. Dotson done so bad that we wouldn't even consider him as a half-time superintendent,'' said Desotell during the discussions.

The question went unanswered, but board members have not ruled out a return of Dotson. Member Brian Boen said that he feels that if the board is looking for a part-time superintendent, it should open it up to all candidates.

Boen said he believes the district should consider a full-time superintendent. The district is at a crossroads, he said. Down the road it will be facing big decisions on whether to replace or remodel facilities, and will need community support to pursue whatever decision is made.

"All big decisions that have things that go 'round the clock. (We) need somebody that is a go to person,'' Boen said.

Board member Jill Hanson said there could be benefits to the possibility of employing a superintendent on an interim basis, possibly part time. The district would have the opportunity to see if a part-time superintendency works, and it would not be locked into a three-year contract, she explained.

In a follow-up to discussion during a December meeting he was unable to attend, 2017 board chairman Russ Lesniak provided board members with copies of email correspondence between himself and Ray and Associates, a superintendent search firm.

Lesniak on Monday provided board members with an email from Kathy Schoefaller of Ray Associates, in response to an Aug. 26 inquiry from him. It indicated the firm would not submit a proposal since the district has fewer than 1,800 students.

At the previous meeting when Lesniak was not in attendance, Dotson had told board members this was inaccurate, and that the founder of Ray and Associates told him the company had not told Lesniak it was unwilling to conduct a search for a district with fewer than 1,800 students.

School board members on Monday also held the annual re-organizational meeting following the work session. The chair and vice chair will change roles for 2018, with Jill Hanson serving as chairwoman and Lesniak as vice chairman.

Tom Cherveny

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

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