When the Haines School District’s superintendent resigned unexpectedly in 2015, a retired educator stepped in. Now, Rich Carlson is coming back. On Friday, the school board voted to hire Carlson as interim superintendent for the second time. He’ll fill in following the departure of the most recent top administrator, who was on the job one year.
The decision came down to time and money.
The board considered three candidates for interim superintendent. Carlson, Kevin Shipley, and Susan McCauley.
Former superintendent Tony Habra recently left his position after just a year.
McCauley was interim commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development in 2016.
Shipley was most recently superintendent of the Kake City School District.
Carlson served as interim superintendent in Haines during the 2015-2016 school year. He retired a few years ago after a dozen years as superintendent in Klawock. His daughter was recently hired as a kindergarten teacher at the Haines School. This time around, he was the district’s least expensive option.
Carlson will receive the same compensation he did a few years ago — $425 per day or an about $110,000 yearly salary.
McCauley asked to be compensated the same as Habra would have been this year, a little over $114,000 before benefits.
The board said Shipley’s price would be between $118,000 and $125,000.
Principal Rene Martin said between the three candidates, she didn’t think there was a wrong choice. But, she said the district has to be fiscally responsible.
“This might just be my nervousness of moving forward with the budget. It might just be because I’m a little gun-shy,” said Martin. “But personally I feel like Rich might be – while it is definitely the safe choice it might be the fiscally responsible choice while we’re trying to figure out how we make this scale down? This pretty significant scale down that we still didn’t successfully make going into next year that we were hoping for.”
Administrators spent this spring trying to trim down the FY18 budget, facing lower student numbers and reduced state funding. The district downsized by three staff positions, including an assistant principal job.
The budget is taking another hit because the district is paying Habra a $66,000 settlement. The board has not explained why the former superintendent is being paid after resigning. Conversations about the decision were held behind closed doors.
Board member Sara Chapell was also concerned about finances for the interim hire.
“Part of me feels like Dr. McCauley is a really unique opportunity for our district,” said Chapell. “And I want us to be – I don’t know, brave enough to take that opportunity. But like Rene I’m pretty worried about the financial aspect of what we’ve done already and how we’re going to get through this next year.”
Cost wasn’t the only factor for the board. Carlson was also the only candidate who could be in Haines full-time. If she got the job, the board said McCauley wanted to be in Haines half-time.
“It’s hard to build relationships. There’s certain things – there’s transportable work and there’s non-transportable work,” said board president Anne Marie Palmieri. “I just think that’s a lot of time to not be in the district.”
“With Rich, he’s going to be here the whole time. On the weekends, superintendents should be here for events that are going on,” said Gross. “He kind of seems like he’s all-in and the other two are here for the week or here for part of the month – if somebody wants to walk in and talk to them, there not in the office to talk to.”
But Jeanne Kitayama felt strongly about McCauley.
“I just feel like in Haines we have never had a candidate of her caliber available,” said Kitayama. “This is an opportunity, an opportunity for our district.”
Kitayama was the only board member who voted against hiring Carlson.
He’s expected to be back in Haines in August.