After being rejected by one of their own, the Greenfield School Board will look outside the district to fill its superintendent vacancy, both on an interim and permanent basis.
The board voted unanimously in favor of hiring a search firm to aide in finding a permanent superintendent to replace Conrad Farner, who resigned earlier this month to accept a position in Cedarburg.
“There’s been much discussion amongst board members in regard to the need to go out and see what’s available as far as superintendent position,” board clerk Cathy Walsh said. “We’ve had a tumultuous year. The board itself amongst each other hasn’t always seen eye to eye.
“But I think we have to be sure we involve all the stakeholders in the district: staff, students, citizens, taxpayers, and have them be involved in the decision that is the absolute most important decision that any school board can ever engage in. It is our main purpose as a School Board, choosing a superintendent.”
Walsh said the search firm would not only help the district find candidates, but also help the district determine what type of candidates the district desires.
“I think our board needs that assistance and we owe it to our community to do that,” she said.
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The board offered the position on an interim basis, presumably in closed session Jan. 14, to Director of Educational Services Todd Bugnacki, who declined.
“I want to thank the board for offering me the interim superintendent position,” he said. “After 16 years (with the district), I’ve invested a lot in the district and I’m flattered and honored that you thought I had the competence to fill the role.”
If not Bugnacki, then who?
Bugnacki, who said he would do whatever he could to help during this transitional time, was encouraged by multiple board members to apply for the permanent position.
“I understand and respect Mr. Bugnacki’s decision not to accept the interim position in order to better fulfill the duties he’s actually doing in his role now,” board member Pam Sierzchulski said, “but that won’t be detrimental to him should he apply for the position.”
Said board member Russ Spahn, “It’s important that Todd knows that we believe this is a move that is in the best interest of the district. It is no reflection on (him).”
The board will immediately investigate firms and compare costs between them. Walsh indicated the board hoped the new superintendent would begin July 1, or the beginning of the new fiscal year.
With Bugnacki turning down the offer to become an interim superintendent, the board also decided to act swiftly to fill the role on a fulltime temporary basis.
The position will be posted online, including on the Wisconsin Education Career Access Network, immediately. The board discussed hiring a retired superintendent, but did not discuss any specific candidates.
Interim vs. permanent
Meanwhile, the board was split on the hiring of a director of business services.
With Kristin Kollath’s impending departure next month, some board members wanted to hire her permanent replacement immediately, while others felt hiring an interim business manager now with the idea of allowing the new superintendent to have a say later was the way to go.
“I think postponing (the hire) and having an interim who doesn’t have a vested interest in the district is not in the best interest of the district,” Sierzchulski said. “I think moving ahead with a business person is the utmost priority.”
Kollath, whose last official day is Feb. 22, suggested the board hire a permanent replacement as soon as it can because of the many big decisions on the horizon, including but not limited to those related to employee retirement benefits, next year’s budget, buildings and grounds projects and salary negotiations.
But ultimately, the board voted 4-3 in favor of hiring an interim business director within a few weeks. Sierzchulski, Don Carlson and Len Cich voted against the move.
The position — a fulltime, permanent replacement — was initially posted on WECAN last week, and a handful of candidates expressed an interest, according to Bugnacki, who said he would inform those candidates the opening is now a temporary one. But he warned that the interim candidate pool could be limited.
Still, Walsh and others felt the interim route was the right step as the district tries to move in a new direction.
“The superintendent that we hire, unless that superintendent changes our organization, has to rely 100 percent on the business manager,” Walsh said. “In the ideal world, the superintendent would have some say as to the qualities they are looking for in somebody they have to work so closely with.”
“This is a key person to hire and I don’t want us to proceed as if we’re in crisis mode,” she added. “We have to be thoughtful and make sure we have the ability to hire the best person possible.”