Hayden names superintendent finalist

Board OKs Luppes as top candidate for half-time superintendent despite dissent

— The Hayden School Board voted, 3-2, to make Mike Lup­pes a finalist for half-time superintendent in the 2010-11 school year.

The vote came at the end of a more than two-hour meeting Wednesday that was almost entirely devoted to a public discussion with more than 30 district faculty, staff members and parents about the district’s administrative structure and hiring process for next school year.

It also came after a failed motion from board member Kurt Frentress to table naming a finalist for the position until a later meeting, possibly as early as Wednesday.

Before it was approved, parent Ray Mazzola, one of the most vocal audience members, said, “So you guys aren’t going to discuss the part-time, full-time (superintendent) issue?” Whether the district should have a full- or half-time superintendent next school year dominated most of the public discussion.

After Mazzola’s question, another member of the audience yelled, “This isn’t public comment.”

Almost everyone who attended the meeting implored board members to reconsider their March 31 decision to restructure the district’s administration in 2010-11 to a half-time superintendent and full-time secondary principal to oversee the newly formed school for grades six to 12. The elementary school would continue to have its own principal, Rhonda Sweetser.

The motion to name Luppes a finalist for half-time superintendent next year passed with approval from School Board President Brian Hoza and board members Vance Fulton and Sharon Nereson. Kurt Frentress and Tim Frentress voted against it.

The two who opposed it said they think the superintendent position is a full-time job. Kurt Frentress has said he thought Troy Zabel was ready to lead the district.

According to state open meetings law, the district now must wait at least 14 days before it can vote to appoint Luppes to the position.

Luppes was approved March 31 as half-time superintendent, but Hoza said that appointment didn’t comply with open meetings law and was therefore “null and void.”

With the elimination of Gina Zabel’s position next year as Hayden Middle School principal — a responsibility that now falls to Hayden High School Principal Troy Zabel, who was approved March 31 as secondary principal — and the reduction from full- to half-time superintendent, the district is down to 2.5 full-time-equivalent administrators for next school year.

The cuts were made in an effort to address a projected shortfall of $495,000 in the 2010-11 budget. The deficit is based on a decrease in funding from the state and increased costs to the employee health insurance and retirement benefits.

The reduction in administration didn’t sit well with many who attended the meeting, mostly district teachers, who said the three existing administrators already were stretched thin.

“I really think you’re making a bad choice if you stick with that 2 1/2 (administrator) positions,” said Krista Monger, who teaches middle school math.

Many advocated finding a way to keep Gina Zabel. They suggested that she could be secondary principal and Troy Zabel could be superintendent, or vice versa. Some said the district would be making a mistake if it let her go.

In other action, board members unanimously approved appointing Luppes as an “administrative consultant” for the rest of the school year. Hoza said Luppes would help guide the district with the existing administrators.

Hoza said Lup­pes would be paid $10,000 for the rest of the school year. That’s in addition to the more than $29,000 the district owes for­­mer Super­in­­tendent Greg Rock­­hold, who was relieved of his duties for the rest of the school year at the March 31 meeting after his contract wasn’t renewed for 2010-11 two weeks before.

Hoza reminded the audience that additional budget cuts were expected for the 2011-12 school year.

He said despite trying to move forward with planning for next school year, “all the pieces of the puzzle have yet to fall into place.”

Hoza thanked everyone for attending the meeting.

“Personally, I’m sorry that all these decisions aren’t going to feel right for everyone,” he said. “They’re going to feel right for some and not right for others. I feel like that’s the burden we have.”

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com

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