The Danville Schools superintendent is resigning — what happens now?

Published 5:40 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

During a special called board of education meeting on Thursday, the Danville Independent Schools board of education discussed next steps now that Superintendent Tammy McDonald is resigning from her position effective Oct. 10.

The first step will be for the board to select an interim superintendent.

Board chair Steve Becker said as of the time of the meeting, there were five people interested in being interviewed, through recommendations from people in and outside of the district.

“And we have to remember, an interim superintendent is not a babysitter,” he said. “I mean, we have business. We have things that have to take place, and we have to be able to process all this just like we normally have.”

Later, he said, “The needs of the district don’t stop. The idea of community and communication doesn’t stop. The idea of paying our bills does not stop.”

The applicants except for one have all been superintendents before. The exception is one candidate who was an assistant superintendent. Though the identities of those with interest in the position were not discussed, Assistant Superintendent Sherri Satterly said the candidate who was an assistant superintendent is not herself.

Newest board member Jennifer Pusateri said most of the leaders in the district have suggested one person in particular with whom they have worked previously and is interested in the position.

Becker said the board attorney, Vince Pennington, will receive the resumes of those interested in the position and distribute them to the board as needed. The board decided that they will interview candidates on the evenings of Monday, Sept. 27 and Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. both nights, during closed session, and enter regular session to announce a decision if they are ready to arrive at one. However, Becker said the board is not certain when they will come to a vote.

The board discussed what they wanted to see in an interim superintendent. Pusateri said it would be helpful to have someone familiar with the district and its needs. Board member Wade Stanfield said ideally, the person would have experience working with a small school district and have a caring attitude “about some rich traditions and can honor that.”

Becker said, “We need a person that can not only blend and be up and running, but we also know we’re in a healing situation, and we’re looking at possibly — this could be nine months. Generally, the superintendent pool starts becoming available mid-December all the way through to the end of the school year … And I think that’s something we need to realize — this won’t be, like, three weeks” that the district will have an interim.

When the board asked the administrators in the room what they thought, Satterly said “I also think they need to be familiar with our district but maybe not too entrenched in our district.” She said she thinks the person a lot of administrators have recommended would be a good fit.

One concern raised was that the interim superintendent should be a “true interim.” In some cases, interim superintendents can apply for the permanent superintendent position, but the board decided this shouldn’t be the case.

“I would definitely move that the interim is not a person who would apply for the position,” Stanfield said.

Later, he said, “This person needs to be a strong public communicator, someone who can not only speak with our staff and our students but somebody who can go beyond that and have that outreach to our community.”

Becker commented that people realize the district is in an awkward position. However, he said it isn’t totally unusual, as other districts have faced similar issues. However, he said, “It’s a new world for Danville.” He doesn’t recall during his time with the district there ever being an interim superintendent.

He also highlighted the potential financial cost to the district to hire an interim. Generally, the salary can be around $500 a day, plus benefits and potential travel expenses, he said.

“That seems like an exorbitant amount of money, but it’s what it is, and I think to get a quality person in here who’s willing to take the bumps along with the job, as they all know, you make that effort to make sure we’re going to accommodate the salary,” he said.

Something the board also needs to eventually decide on is how to format the contract of the interim superintendent.

When Becker asked about what concerns the board had about a transition to an interim superintendent, Pusateri said one concern she has is making sure the person will know about the people who have left central office.

“They’re essentially walking into an office with multiple holes,” she said, so she believes it’s important to talk about how to support the interim through that knowledge and process.

Stanfield said in the person hired, it’s critical that the “holes” not bother them, or they’ll at least have a plan to fill them, so the board will need to make sure the person can fill those voids.

Board member Esther Rugerio said she doesn’t want anyone else to leave and said to the administrators present that she wanted them to know the board is actively listening to their concerns.

Becker said, “I know this has been extremely hard. There’s been a lot of things said that we also hold to the interim superintendent, that they know a lot of things going on, because I’m really disappointed in folks on the things that were said after Dr. McDonald resigned. I thought it was shameful, and that disturbed me to see some of these awful remarks, and it’s just not called for.”

Later, he said, “There’s still a group out there just chastising her, and it’s just not needed. We are not going to move forward until that stops. And I can’t convey that any more clearly. You’re either for us or you’re against us, and being for us doesn’t mean you have to accept everything, but it means that in your heart that you believe in these schools and our children and our staff and even this board.”

Additionally, he said there was a group of people in the room that has really doubted the board in the past.

“Sorry for that heartache, but we do play different roles, and it’s hard to figure out what our role may be at times,” he said. “But it’s time for us to tell an interim and it’s time for us to tell a permanent superintendent that we’re moving on, and we need the community to move on too.”

Next, the board will need to look for a permanent superintendent.

Becker said the Kentucky School Board Association and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators are the two main organizations that conduct superintendent searches. He said he believes the board should get presentations from both organizations, which will be conducted at a public meeting.

The goal is to have these presentations on Oct. 11 during the board’s working session at Mary G. Hogsett Primary School at 6 p.m. Masks will be required by those who attend. If the representatives from the organizations are unavailable on that date, the board will aim for Oct. 18.

Becker emphasized that the organizations do not choose the superintendents — ultimately, that decision is up to the board of education.