Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hackett out as superintendent

Day after firing, board reconsiders and accepts resignation

April 20, 2006

The outcome's still the same.

Basehor-Linwood school Superintendent Jill Hackett is leaving the district, effective June 30. In the meantime, she is on administrative leave.

In a 15-hour span this week, Basehor-Linwood school board members terminated Hackett's contract and then reversed themselves and accepted her resignation.

This is how the saga played out:

Monday night, school board members voted to terminate Hackett's contract, effective June 30.

The following morning, according to board president Kerry Mueller, the board was notified about a letter of resignation from the superintendent.

"Dr. Hackett's attorney had her letter of resignation, which the board did not receive, because he was not in attendance at the meeting on Monday night," Mueller said.

So Mueller called a special board meeting for Tuesday afternoon -- about 15 hours after Monday's vote --and five board members rescinded Monday night's decision and then accepted Hackett's resignation, effective June 30.

Public notification of Tuesday's 3:30 p.m. meeting was sent in an e-mail at 3:15 p.m.

Bill Hatfield, assistant superintendent, read a statement following Tuesday's meeting that said, in part, that the district has made great progress during Hackett's three-year reign.

"The board thanks Dr. Hackett for her leadership and service to the district," the statement said, in conclusion.

Board member Doug Bittel was unable to attend Tuesday's meeting because of other commitments. And Monday night, board member Danny Dearinger had resigned from the group.

The vote to accept Hackett's resignation was 5-0.

On Monday, the board voted 6-1 -- with Dearinger opposed -- to terminate the superintendent's contract with the district.

The vote was followed by Dearinger's resignation.

The board on Monday also voted, 6-1, with Dearinger again opposed, to accept the resignation of Hatfield, who is taking another job in the Turner school district in Kansas City, Kan.

The action came after the board met for about 2 hours behind closed doors with its attorney. Once the board re-opened its meeting to the public, a crowd of about 40 patrons and staff listened as board member Bittel spoke.

"Before I say anything else, I would like to remind all of you and the rest of the district that this past month has been extremely difficult for all of us up here," Bittel said. "It has been very painful. I would like to say there are no winners here."

And then Bittel made the motion to give Hackett written notice of the board's decision to terminate her employment with the district, effective June 30. That motion was seconded by Dayna Miller.

Before Tuesday's meeting, the board president would say little, referring instead to a statement from the board that was released before Tuesday's vote.

"The board believes it is in the best interest of the students and school district to take this action at this time," the statement said. "A search for a new superintendent will begin as soon as possible."

Attempts to reach Hackett, who has served as superintendent for three years, have been unsuccessful.

The superintendent has been away from her job since March 15, when board members agreed with her request to be placed on 30 days' administrative leave. Before she went on leave, Hackett came under fire after she recommended the board not renew two principals' contracts -- Steve Blankenship of Basehor-Linwood High School, and Teri Holmes of Basehor Elementary School.

An ensuing public outcry forced the board to take a harder look at the two principals' job performances -- and the superintendent's.

Board members met in private sessions for nearly 16 hours during the week of March 13 -- talking among themselves and with district staffers -- before deciding to renew the two principals' contracts and rescind extensions to Hackett's contract that the board had approved.

At that time, the board president said of Blankenship and Holmes: "Our votes to renew these contracts are based on the judgment that, while personnel issues have been identified, they are not sufficient for non-renewal at this time."

Both Blankenship and Holmes spent a few minutes talking in executive session with the board Monday night.

On Tuesday, both principals said they are looking forward to concentrating on students and staffs -- and they appreciate the support they've received.

"There has been an outpouring, and that's one reason I made the decision not to turn in my resignation -- for the kids here and the families," Holmes said. "I don't think my work here is done, and I enjoy what I do. It's been worth the many weeks that we've been through to be able to continue. ... The board has done a thorough investigation, and I do appreciate their efforts in correcting a wrong that was made."

Now, Holmes said, it's time to move forward.

"We have a lot of good staff, and we have awesome families in our district," she said. "We need to work together across the district, not just focusing on Steve Blankenship and myself. We need to talk about where we want to go with all of our kids and all of those new families who are moving in,

"We want to have a positive educational setting for them. And I trust that the board is going to make decisions with the central office leadership that will take us in the right direction as a district."

Blankenship agreed, saying he believes a majority of people in the district support the board's decisions and are ready to move on.

"I think everyone is ready to put this all behind us and work together as a districtwide team," he said.

And he said he has no doubt the district, which has seen great strides in test scores in the past three years, will continue to progress.

"I think the parts are all still in place to do that," Blankenship said. "There are too many good things going on in this district to hold it back very long."

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