December 20, 2021 Summary

WLCSC Special School Board Meeting Summary

Monday, December 20, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: Re-Hiring Ross Sloat as Interim Superintendent (5:32), Approval of the Superintendent Contract (5:33), Appointment of Shawn Greiner as Superintendent (5:42) 

5:31 – Karpick called the meeting to order. He called for a vote to approve the agenda.

    Voted 7 out of 7

5:32 – Karpick requested approval to re-hire Interim CFO Ross Sloat as Interim Superintendent as of 12/17/21. Austin thanked Sloat for all his work and joked that someday they would let him retire. Yin said she wished they would give this Interim Superintendent opportunity to a more junior administrator like Steve Ohlhaut (Assistant CFO) who could benefit from the experience. I was surprised that the school board cut ties with Michael Pettibone who has been the interim superintendent since July and was scheduled to remain in the position. In my interactions with him, he was always respectful. No one on the board said anything about Pettibone or about his time serving as Interim Superintendent. Perhaps when they realized they had been paying him $1,200 per day, they decided to stop paying him and re-hire Sloat instead. There has been a lot of superintendent movement since Killion unexpectedly announced his retirement in May with the job going from Killion to Sloat to Pettibone to Sloat and then to Greiner.

    Voted 7 out of 7 with roll call vote

5:33 – Karpick requested approval of the superintendent contract effective either 1/31/22 or 2/1/22 (it wasn’t clear why different dates were mentioned). Karpick stated that the contract was finalized after input from school board members, the community, and 2 outside sources. Austin said she appreciated all the work that everyone who was involved did over the past weekend. Yin said that there are still problems with the contract. She said that she was emailed the revised contract less than two hours before the meeting started which limits the amount of time she has to review the contract and solicit public input before needing to vote on it, especially since there were substantial changes. She said that she is still concerned with the wording about how the superintendent is evaluated and she said the language around the renewal process needs clarification. Yin reminded the other board members that 15 years ago our school district was sued by a former superintendent. She said that it is in our best interest to have a superintendent contract with clear language. She proposed to table the contract to leave sufficient time for board members and the community to review the revised contract, ask questions, and provide input. Karpick asked if there was a second for her motion to table the contract. None of the other school board members provided a second and so her motion failed.

Karpick asked the school board to resume discussion of the contract. Austin said the contract contained standard legal language. Reiling said that he went back and forth with Greiner’s attorney all weekend and said that the contract was finalized the morning of the meeting. He said that it meets the state statute and that the thing the public needs to understand is that either party can choose to not extend it after the three-year term; it’s not automatic. They have not changed the financial terms. Reililng said that this contract was scrutinized as much as he has ever seen and declared it to be a good contract. Austin said that how the superintendent is evaluated is specified in school board policies and should not be in the contract. Yin said that a community member had previously shared the superintendent contract used in the Carmel district and it was quite different from ours. Yin said that three-year terms are typical, but not the automatic renewal. Karpick asked Yin if she would like to propose an amendment to the current version of the contract. Yin answered yes, and said that she would like the board to consider the revised version that was circulated after changes were made to the original version presented at the public hearing. She said that the revised version uses clearer language in describing the contract renewal than the current version with the recent edits. Karpick asked if there was a second to her motion to revert to the earlier version of the contract. None of the other school board members provided a second and so her motion failed. Karpick then called for a vote on the superintendent contract. Links to the three versions of the contract are above. What is the point of posting the contract for 10 days before the public hearing and then waiting 7 days before the board can vote to approve the contract if the board is going to change the contract a couple of hours before the vote? Yin seemed frustrated at having not received the revised contract until just before the meeting. It appears that the other board members are excluding Yin from the process.

    Votes 6-1 with roll call vote (Yin opposed) 

5:41 – Several school administrators and union leaders stood together and gave a standing ovation to the school board after their vote to approve the contract. The union leaders and school administrators giving a standing ovation for the vote to approve the contract seemed forced and also very odd. The cosy relationship that union leaders have with school administrators as well as with the school board is a serious concern. For the best school district in the state to have a teacher retention rate that is no better than the state average suggests that many teachers are not happy. Before he retired, a group of teachers asked Killion for a climate audit to address workplace issues. The number of teachers applying per openings in our district had declined dramatically even before the pandemic. Many of the teachers leaving our district are now teaching in a neighboring district. The union leaders’ cosy relationship with the administration is an indication of what labor relations experts call regulatory capture.

5:42 – Kaprick announced the appointment of Shawn Greiner, Superintendent of Southmont Schools in Crawfordsville, as the new WLCSC Superintendent. Austin stated her opinion that the search process was excellent and then emphasized that the school board followed federal and state guidelines in the search. She welcomed the Greiner family to our community and said that Greiner’s enthusiasm for education will serve students, teachers, administrators, and staff well. Marley welcomed Greiner and his family stating that Greiner is the right person at the right time to lead us. He made special note of Greiner’s financial certification in addition to his leadership and teaching experience. Karpick thanked the search firm, Administrator Assistance, for their good leadership and direction throughout the search process. Of the 17 applicants, Karpick said that he was glad to see Greiner rise to the top. He noted that Greiner will have a challenge ahead of him and that Greiner will work with all stakeholders, all teachers, all parents, and all children. Springer also thanked the search firm, Administrator Assistance, for serving well in a professional search. She welcomed Greiner and his family to the community and said that she looks forward to him forging positive relationships with stakeholders. Witt said she is excited that Greiner is starting mid-year because it is a good time to get to know the community without all the beginning of the school year and budget work and she welcomed Greiner and his family. Schott thanked the other school board members for all their work on the search and commented that Greiner would be filling big shoes and noted that he is joining our schools at a challenging time. Schott said that he had a very good first impression of Greiner and that his passion for students and desire to make our school district even better was what he liked best about Greiner. Schott welcomed Greiner and his family. Yin welcomed Greiner and his family and said that his devotion to public education and experience will help our schools improve. She then said she wanted to share how the search could have been improved. Karpick interrupted and said that this is now about the superintendent and not about the search. Karpick said that Yin had already stated her opinion about the search in past meetings and that she needed to restrict her comments to the superintendent. Springer said that there was a motion on the floor to approve Greiner as the superintendent and that Yin could not talk about the process. Karpick said that Yin could continue if she had anything new to say about the superintendent. Yin responded that they are all about to vote and that she wanted to explain her reasons for her vote so that people do not misunderstand. Karpick said okay. Yin said that it took too long to post the superintendent job vacancy, 51 days after they hired the search firm. Austin then interrupted and said that she wanted to use her newly acquired knowledge of Robert’s Rules to call the question in order to force the vote. Springer quickly seconded her and Karpick called for a vote. All the board members other than Yin voted to end discussion. Karpick then asked each member to vote on the superintendent one at a time. Each said yes until Yin was asked for her vote. She again said that she wanted to give her rationale for why she is voting no. Springer told her to send a letter to Greiner to explain her vote. Reiling pointed a finger at her and forcefully said that per Robert’s Rules the discussion is closed. Yin was quiet and then voted no. 

Voted 6 to 1 with roll call vote (Yin opposed)

The other 6 members of the school board seemed very frustrated with Yin. It makes sense; they wanted this meeting to be a celebration. They invited Greiner and his family to attend. They arranged for a band to play and brought gifts to give to Greiner’s family. They didn’t seem to think that this meeting was an appropriate time to talk about the search process and they shut Yin down when she tried to speak about the search (note that Karpick, Springer, Austin, Schott, and Witt all spoke positively about the search while the question to approve the superintendent was on the table). On the other hand, Yin did not want this meeting to be a celebration. She seems to have felt excluded from the search process and clearly disagrees with how the search was handled. I think she saw this vote as a chance to publicly express her concerns. This whole uncomfortable episode is another example of poor leadership by Karpick and Springer. They knew Yin was frustrated with their search process and that she would speak about it at this meeting. They could have waited two weeks and held the celebration at the January meeting instead. 

5:54 – As soon as the vote was finished, union leaders, school administrators, and about two dozen union members gave a standing ovation. Several high school students from the band entered playing the fight song. Other community members joined the standing ovation until about three quarters of the room was standing.

5:55 – Karpick asked Greiner to come forward and speak. In thanking the band that had just played, Greiner said that he sang in the choir and expressed his love of music. He said that all his kids play an instrument, but noted that they did not join the choir or the band and instead followed his wife and all play a sport. He spoke about his desire to be inclusive and understand everyone’s views. He introduced his wife and 4 children who stood next to him. He said that he will start by observing, learning, and listening so he can help our schools become even better. He said that he will lead in an inviting way and then thanked the board. Austin asked some students from WLES and WLIS to come forward to give flowers and gifts to Greiner and his family. 

I’m excited about Greiner being our new superintendent and I want him to be successful. Like Karpick and Schott mentioned in their comments to Greiner, this is a challenging time for our schools. We need Greiner to address the issues that are so important to the future of our schools, including: sharing information with the community, seeking community input, increasing teacher retention, dealing with the excessive school debt (2nd highest debt per student in Indiana), reducing discrimination so all students feel included, reducing class size at WLES and WLIS, and addressing student mental health challenges. Each of these issues have become even more challenging over the past few years and rather than rally the community together to address these issues, our school leaders asserted that nothing was wrong and questioned the motives of those who suggested ways we could improve. I have friends who are teachers and parents in Greiner’s school district in Crawfordsville and they have been happy with his leadership. I hope that Greiner will show our community what inclusive leadership looks like.

5:59 – Karpick adjourned the meeting. 

Location: West Lafayette Intermediate School

Stream: WLCSC YouTube Live Stream

Attendance: 7 of 7 School Board Members (Yue Yin, Alan Karpick, Karen Springer, Bradley Marley, Thomas Schott, Rachel Witt, Amy Austin); Stephen Ohlhaut, Assistant CFO; Robert Reiling, Jr., Lawyer; Ross Sloat, Interim Superintendent

Audience: It was a packed room. School administrators, union leaders, and around two dozen teachers (nearly all from the high school and nearly all union members) were in attendance. There were also many community members, several reporters, and 3 police officers. 

Future Meetings (calendar link)

Monday, January 10th at 6:30pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room  

This is not the official minutes from this school board meeting. I am a parent of WLCSC students and my thoughts are given in italics. The official minutes are released after the approval of those minutes at the next school board meeting (1 month from now). Previous agendas, minutes, and audio recordings can be found at the WLCSC website.

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