Sunday, December 21, 2014

Search team tapped for Ottawa superintendent hunt

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 3/13/2013

The search for a new Ottawa school superintendent officially began Monday night.

But the pool of qualified candidates could be limited this time of year, a Kansas Association of School Boards representative told Ottawa school board members Monday.

The search for a new Ottawa school superintendent officially began Monday night.

But the pool of qualified candidates could be limited this time of year, a Kansas Association of School Boards representative told Ottawa school board members Monday.

The Ottawa school board Monday voted 7-0 to hire nonprofit, Topeka-based KASB to conduct the search to find former superintendent Dean Katt’s successor.

“At this time of year, the candidate pool will be reduced,” KASB representative Doug Moeckel said, adding that most superintendents already will have agreed to contracts for the coming 2013-2014 school year by now. “But we have conducted full searches as late as April in the past.”

Katt stepped down with little explanation March 1, following the school board’s 10-minute executive session to discuss personnel matters. A settlement agreement between the board and Katt prevents either side from discussing the reasons for Katt’s departure. Katt will remain on the school district payroll through Oct. 31 as a consultant.

KASB’s Moeckel told board members the first place to start the search would be to look internally.

“If you have a qualified candidate internally, that’s always a good place to start,” Moeckel said. “At this time of year, you may want to consider bringing in an interim [superintendent]. A quality interim superintendent could come in and do a good job for you for a year, and sometimes those interims work into full-time positions.”

At the March 1 special meeting at which Katt resigned, the school board voted 6-0 to appoint Brian Kraus, assistant superintendent, as interim superintendent.

KASB has conducted 17 superintendent searches this year across the state, Moeckel said.

School board member Bill Allegre asked Moeckel how long it would take to complete the search process.

A routine search typically takes between seven to eight weeks, but a search at this point in the spring is accelerated to four to five weeks because of the time crunch, Moeckel said.

The board set a deadline for all applications to be submitted to KASB by April 15. Moeckel said the position would be posted online Tuesday, and that the listing would go out to its sister organizations in 49 other states as well.

“We will be screening and vetting the candidates and bringing a list [of recommended finalists] to you,” Moeckel said. “At that point, the search will be turned over to you for the interview process.”

In addition to recommended finalists, Moeckel said KASB would provide the board with a list of every person who applied for the position.

Moeckel said it would not be unrealistic to think the board would be in a position to offer a contract to one of the candidates by late April or early May. The search process would include a team from KASB spending a day in Ottawa talking with community members about what characteristics they would like to see in the ideal superintendent candidate, as well as gauge the district’s needs, Moeckel said.

Board member David White asked Moeckel what the search would cost the district.

For a school district of Ottawa’s size, Moeckel said, the search would cost $5,000.

“That includes bringing a list of candidates to the table who are already fully vetted and ready for you to interview,” he said.

The school board voted 5-1 to accept Katt’s resignation March 1. Board members Brian Kane, Marge Stevens, Susan Ward, Allegre and White voted in favor, while Brandon Jones cast the dissenting vote. Board member Dennis George was not at the meeting.

A series of school board executive sessions were called during that week to discuss personnel matters. Discussion of Katt’s departure, however, had been ongoing for a few months, Jones said.

As the dissenting vote on the resignation, Jones said, he did not agree with the board’s direction, but he said he supported the board following the decision. Katt fulfilled his duties well, Jones said, which is why he voted against the resignation.

“I’m finishing up my fourth year on the board, and he’s been the only superintendent I’ve worked with, and I thought that he did a really good job through what’s been some really difficult years with budget cuts,” Jones, who is not seeking re-election in April, said.

As part of the settlement agreement between the district and Katt, the board agreed to pay Katt $87,190.64 in eight monthly installments of $10,898.83, according to a copy of the settlement agreement obtained from the school district. The district also agreed to pay its normal share of Katt’s health insurance premium at $435 per month while he is retained as a consultant, through Oct. 31. The agreement calls for the district to pay Katt $6,287.88 by April 30 for 10 unused vacation days and two unused personal days.

The school board voted in January 2012 to extend Katt’s $130,786 annual contract for an additional two years, which would have taken him through the 2013-2014 school year.

Formerly the superintendent of Scott City schools, Katt was selected in 2006 as Ottawa superintendent from a group of five finalists who visited Ottawa for day-long interviews with administrators, teachers, the school board, staff and members of the community. He took the job in July 2006.

Katt said he plans to retire Nov. 1 but would remain in Ottawa after his consulting duties are completed.

“I just needed to make some changes,” Katt said following his resignation March 1. “I appreciate everything the board’s done. Everything is headed in the right direction, and I’m sure they will be very successful.”

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