Kyrene board seeking internal Vesely successor The Chandler Arizonan

Kyrene board seeking internal Vesely successor

October 19th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Kyrene board seeking internal Vesely successor
City News
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By PAUL MARYNIAK
Arizonan Executive Editor

The outgoing Kyrene Governing Board hopes to hire an internal replacement for Superintendent Dr. Jan Vesely, who is retiring at the end of December.

The board last week outlined its process for selecting her replacement, stating that it was leaving open the possibility of an external search if its review of internal candidates failed to produce a satisfactory replacement.

The announcement means that even though two current board members – President Michael Myrick and John King – are leaving the board, the four of five candidates for three open seats will not have any say in deciding the district’s next top executive.

Board member and Tempe Union High School District administrator Michelle Fahy is seeking reelection in the race, which also includes four other educators – Ivan Alfaro, Wanda Kolomyjec, Triné Nelson and Margaret Wright.

Since Fahy joined her four board colleagues in signing the announcement of the selection process, The Arizonan asked the four other candidates for their reaction to the board’s intentions on picking Vesely’s replacement.

Before the board last week laid out its timeline, Kolomyjec said, stating: “The current board has the institutional knowledge to know more accurately what the school district needs in a new superintendent. However, the make-up of the new board is changing significantly with possibly three new sitting members.

“It is a hard call,” she said. “I wonder if the answer might be in a compromise. Perhaps the current board narrows the field of choices to two or three candidates and the new board chooses which one they think is best. That would seem to take advantage of the best of both worlds: institutional knowledge, but also agency by the new board to choose a partner who they think will best serve in the leadership position.”

After the board released its timeline Oct. 13, Kolomyjec added, “I am trying to understand the decision. I reviewed the last two board meeting archives to see if the reason was discussed. I couldn’t find it. Not being part of the board nor part of the decision-making and having access to the reasons, it is hard for me to comment or be critical of their decision.

“My inclination is that it makes sense to let the new board – which will have at least two of five new board members and possibly three – have the final say. Perhaps it is simply a timing issue. I will say the board did a great job last time in hiring a quality person like Dr. Vesely. Therefore, I have hope and confidence they will do a good job again.”

Wright said, “I do not have any issues with the Kyrene board moving forward with the superintendent search. I think they are very qualified to do so as they have worked together the last four years to guide Kyrene.”

Kyrene is not the only board facing a possible membership change that is picking a superintendent before the election.

In Higley Unified, Superintendent Dr. Mike Thomason announced his retirement in July and the board within three weeks approved a three-year contact naming his assistant superintendent, Dr. Dawn Foley, as his replacement.

The board said it is choosing an internal search first because “that will provide the most stability for our community.”

“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant implications in both the short and long term for the district budget outlook, as well as enrollment,” it said in a joint statement.

“Staff, students and parents have weathered rapid changes in teaching and learning as a result of the pandemic, and the board is concerned with introducing new leadership at this critical juncture that could result in additional change.”

It also said leadership consistency was a goal, stating it wants “someone with the skills, characteristics and knowledge that would adapt well to the unique culture of the Kyrene district and community.”

“The Board is extremely proud of the work being done in each of our 26 schools, the progress on the Strategic Plan 2022 and the momentum of our equity initiatives. The next superintendent should ensure that work continues.”

Stating it believes “there are individuals within the Kyrene system who possess the skills required to fill this position; individuals who are familiar with the Kyrene vision, mission, culture and community, the board also set a timetable that begins with a community survey and ends with a goal of hiring someone two days before Thanksgiving.”

The board said “community engagement and transparency are critical components” of its process, and created a special page on the district website to update parents and others on its progress at kyrene.org/Page/53792.

Its timeline calls for forums with employees Oct. 20-21 and an application deadline Oct. 25.

The board hopes to pick finalists by Nov. 6 and interview candidates Nov. 10 in  a session closed to the public.

In the survey, people are asked to indicate what’s important to them in terms of district leadership, community relations, management of district operations, management style, experience and skills.

Vesely has been superintendent since mid-2016 and announced her retirement earlier this month.

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