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November 18, 2017

To interview or not to interview for a new superintendent


In the end, the Luther School Board voted to pursue the process of finding a new superintendent, instead of outright hiring Barry Gunn, the middle school principal.

The highlight of the February school board meeting, on the night before a school board election, was the agenda item to forego the interview process for a new superintendent and hire Gunn instead of vetting 32 submitted resumes (and counting).

Board members Steven Broudy and Charles DeFuria, who co-sponsored the agenda item to hire Gunn, could not draw one more vote to their side in order to abandon the superintendent search and just hire Gunn.

Every board member spoke on the issue. So did Mr. Gunn.

“I’m genuinely humbled by the proposal to hire me as Luther superintendent without completing the formal interview process. While I do believe I am the best candidate for the job and am confident in my ability to lead Luther, a vote to continue with the process is not necessarily a vote against me … I am confident the board will give thoughtful consideration to the motion, and I will unwaveringly support their decision, regardless of the outcome,” said Mr. Gunn.

He added, “I’m not a Facebooker, I don’t Tweet. I don’t do any of that stuff. I think in my line of work that would be more harmful than beneficial. But it is very much an honor to see the support that has been put out there. I very much appreciate it.”

Broudy continued to advocate for Gunn. “I’m tired of waiting for a process that has not worked for us.  …  if we take action now, we will have better applications to hire a quality new middle school principal.”

“I have a very selfish reason because this is for my children, and all children. I don’t think we’ve been doing right by them,” said Broudy who was elected to the board a year ago.

Sherri Anderson said the board won’t lose a lot of time by doing interviews, indicating a new superintendent could be hired in March possibly.

“I have nothing against Barry Gunn. I admire the guy. I know he can do it. I still believe he has integrity and will make a great interview … but this is what we set in motion, we chose to go this way,” she said.

Ray Stanfield also spoke in favor of interviewing candidates. “In the past when we didn’t go through the process; it was just chaos. We took a lot of heat. We had unhappy citizens. Let’s go through the process and if Mr. Gunn is qualified, we’ll put him in.”

Board President Matt Mohr who is on the ballot tomorrow to retain his board seat, voted with Anderson and Stanfield to continue with the process that was approved at the January meeting following the December 2016 resignation of Dr. Sheldon Buxton.

Mohr said that interviewing Gunn and other qualified candidates will reveal the candidates’ vision for the district, as the board communicates its vision to the candidates.

Broudy disagreed. “This school board does not have common goals. We do not have common vision. We do not have short or long term goals. We do not know where we will be five years from now, ten years from now. That is one thing that is lacking on this board and one I would like to see changed. Hopefully with a change in superintendent, we can set all those things in place.”

There was tension in the room when the board moved to go into executive session to review principal contracts and consider the superintendent candidate list. Charles DeFuria who sparred with Mohr during the discussion declined to participate in the executive session.

Board candidate Tony Rumpl was among those waiting in the lobby during the executive session.  “The exchange showed how divided this board is … they are diametrically opposed, and that reinforces the need for new leadership,” said Rumpl.

After the executive session, the board members seemed more congenial. They accepted Dr. Buxton’s recommendation to rehire each principal: Sheila Wilson in the elementary, Barry Gunn for the middle school and Jerry Martin for the high school. They did not comment or report action on the stack of superintendent candidate resumes. Look for some special meetings to be posted on the matter.

After the meeting, Mohr said he enjoys his service to the school district and hopes to be re-elected. The polls are open from 7am – 7 pm and registered voters should go to their regular polling place.

Election results will be posted on The Luther Register as soon as the unofficial counts are posted.

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