Belding school board mulls options on finding new superintendent

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 11:23 am on Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tom Humphreys

BELDING — After making a request last week to step down as superintendent of Belding Area Schools, members of the Board of Education voted unanimously to approve Leslie Mount’s request to transfer administrative roles from superintendent to assistant high school principal Tuesday evening.

Negotiating with the school board, Mount accepted the transfer on agreement that a reduction in the annual salary of the assistant principal position from $80,000 per year to $70,000 per year take place. Mount previously earned $113,000 per year serving as superintendent.

She will continue to serve as superintendent until July 31.

Mount announced her decision to step down in an email last week and asked to be moved to a new position so she can have more time with her family.

Board President Tom Humphreys said each board member had taken time to speak with Mount privately, but board member Timothy Flynn took the opportunity to thank Mount once again for her time served as superintendent of the school district.

“I’d just like to thank you for your vigilance in your position and I think the high school will benefit much from your experience and expertise,” he said.

Flynn took a moment to clarify to those in attendance any rumors that had surfaced about reasons for Mount’s departure.

“This has been purely (Mount’s) decision and was not something that came at the behest of the board,” he said. “These are difficult times in education in finance as well as the academic area and we understand and her decision to step down.”

Humphreys said that while Mount’s decision is saddening, he understands and respects her decision completely.

“You have taken a lot of time away from family and I completely respect  that decision,” he said speaking to Mount. “You’ve done great things for us over the last two years and we’re glad you’re going to be able to stay here (in the district) and continue to do great things for us in the future at the high school.”
Board members spent the next 20 minutes discussing possible options for replacing Mount’s position entering the 2012-2013 school year.

Options discussed ranged from sharing a superintendent with another nearby school district, sharing with the Ionia County Intermediate School District, hiring a firm to search for ideal candidates or looking at hiring an interim superintendent in a bid for more time in the search process.

Humphreys said he had spoken to other area superintendents and there was little to no interest from those individuals on the idea of sharing superintendents between districts.

“Personally, I think we know the duties of what a superintendent has to take on and I think it would be difficult for someone to split their time,” he said.

Without making a formal decision via a vote, the board agreed to let Humphreys explore the idea of hiring an interim candidate before the start of the next school year, allowing board members more time to search for a permanent candidate as opposed to filling the position before July 31.

“The primary function of this school board is to hire a superintendent, so we aren’t going to take this decision lightly,” Humphreys said. “The timing of this decision puts us in an awkward place, as we have little time to fill the position and many ideal candidates have already accepted positions elsewhere.”
Humphreys said he hopes for an official decision to be made on what path to travel on hiring a superintendent by the next school board meeting.

“Depending on how quickly I can gather a list, we’ll get that out to the board as early as possible to discuss formally no which route we’d like to take,” he said. “My goal, however, would be for this interim position to be a short term solution, allowing us time to properly search for a permanent replacement.”

The board decided against, though didn’t rule out entirely, hiring a firm to search for a candidate, as Humphreys said that process can range anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 in costs out of the district’s operations budget.

Humphreys said there is a good chance an interim candidate would be a cost savings for the district as interim candidates are typically retired individuals who do not need to be paid retirement.

“Everything is on the table,” Humphreys said. “We are looking at every way to save money. I would love it if we had a room full of people here giving their comments on this issue and I hope that’s the case in the future.”

The next school board meeting will be 7 p.m. June 18.

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