Archive for Thursday, April 13, 2006

Board could decide Hackett’s fate on Monday

Patrons implore board to retain superintendent

April 13, 2006

The saga surrounding the tenure of Basehor-Linwood school Superintendent Jill Hackett continued Tuesday night as the school board met in executive session for 3 1/2 hours.

The board took no action at the meeting. But board president Kerry Mueller said the board is scheduled to meet again on Monday, again in executive session. That meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the district offices.

A vote on Hackett's future with the district, as well as assistant superintendent Bill Hatfield's resignation, could take place Monday, the board president said.

Hackett, who's been on 30 days' administrative leave since March 15, met with board members Tuesday during the executive session. Her attorney, Patricia E. Riley, of Topeka, accompanied Hackett.

The superintendent made no comments Tuesday night. A telephone call to her attorney was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Hackett's supporters rallied around her cause earlier this week. During the audience forum at Monday night's regular school board meeting, several area residents spoke on her behalf and implored board members to reinstate her as district leader.

"It really seems like this is a bad dream," said Debbie Breuer, who a week earlier delivered to the board a petition to reinstate Hackett. "But that bad dream doesn't have to have a bad ending."

Breuer told board members that Hackett "raised the bar for this school district." Breuer lobbied school officials to "find a way to work this out so we don't have to lose her."

Mary Nutter, a former school teacher and current assistant softball coach at Basehor-Linwood High School, told board members she's "never seen anything like this debacle" during her career in education.

"Please bring back Dr. Hackett ... for the good of our students," Nutter said.

Jerry Bailey, a Kansas State professor and a consultant paid by the school district to facilitate meetings of the Hackett-formed District Advisory Council, also spoke on his former student's behalf. Bailey, who began consulting work with the district shortly after Hackett was hired in 2003, has been paid $17,931 over the last three school years, according to the district.

He told the school board that members of the advisory council asked him to speak Monday night.

"We hold Jill up as one of our primary role models at Kansas State," Bailey said. He added, "If she has any faults, it's that she raises the bar of excellence too high."

Bailey also made himself available to speak with the board during executive session.

"I think you have made a grave mistake," he said. Adding, "You are at a critical crossroads of credibility" with the state board of education and "administrators everywhere."

On the opposite side of the Hackett debate was school district patron Jerry Kessee. Kessee, who's been outspoken critic of Hackett's over the last month, thanked board members for their work.

"I'm confident that the work you did will guide you (in) deciding whether the leadership is right," Kessee said. He also criticized Hackett's leadership on the advisory council, essentially alleging that patrons taking part in the board were not given a true chance to discuss issues. Rather, he said, Hackett and Bailey limited a free flow of discussion and bent information to conform with their wish of proposing another school bond issue.

"I'm not sure if that was empowering the community or manipulating the community," he said.

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