COLFAX – The Colfax-Mingo School Board discussed the potential of sharing superintendent services with Colo-NESCO CSD at Monday’s special meeting.
Superintendent Jim Verlengia said he and school board president, Mary Poulter met with Colo-NESCO leaders to discuss the potential of operational sharing. Verlengia said the district reached out to Colfax-Mingo to see if C-M was interested in sharing a superintendent.
“Tonight, you are not voting on anything. You are having an open conversation about where you think you might (be),” Verlengia said at the special meeting.
Colo-NESCO approved the resignation of their shared superintendent with Nevada CSD, Steve Gray during a meeting on Oct. 16. At the meeting, Poulter said Gray stepped away from the shared position due to personal obligations.
A Colo-NESCO official said Gray would serve out the school year, but would solely be the superintendent of Nevada CSD the 2018-19 school year.
This means if C-M decides to share a superintendent with Colo-NESCO, the two boards would work together to hire a new superintendent.
According to Verlengia, Colo-NESCO gave C-M a deadline of Dec. 18 to make their decision with July quickly approaching and the “peak season” for superintendent candidates nearing.
“Sometimes, we have to take a risk. I feel like now is the time. We are in a unique situation. I don’t think it will fail, but if we can keep it at two years, I think that gives us a lot,” board member Patrick Utz said. “We got to find the right person.”
Colfax-Mingo has had three superintendents in the last three years.
The previous superintendent, Tracy Hook began as an interim in July 2015 after the resignation of Marty Lucas. The school board then voted to contract Heartland Area Education Agency for part-time superintendent services following their decision to not renew Hook’s contract. This lead to the appointment of Verlengia July 2017.
He is Heartland’s director of leadership supports and will fill the superintendent role until the sharing contract ends July 2018.
“If we went from one superintendent to another to another to another, they are going to take it as (Verlengia) is gone and we got a new one,” Doug Van Dyke said. “Now they are going to say you had five superintendents in the last five years. We are going to have to answer that question with them again.”
At the meeting, the board members requested Verlengia help oversea the transition. Verlengia said due to his position at Heartland, he would be able to be involved in the transition at no additional cost to the district after the superintendent contract expires.
“Because of who the district is, it changes my perspective a lot because of your insight of where they’ve been, where they are going, what they’re strengths are, what they’re weaknesses are,” board vice-president Jan Meyer said. “These are two places (Verlengia) knows intimately. With (him) bringing the two together, it is going to different than if it is going to be another district. If we can get superintendent coverage between the shared person and (Verlengia) being here for $30,000, $40,000 a year, we would be stupid not to do it.”
Verlengia served as Colo-NESCO’s superintendent from 2010 to 2016 after Colo-NESCO contracted Heartland AEA for superintendent services. His tenure at Colo-NESCO ended after the district began operational sharing with Nevada in 2016.
“I have no desire to just walk away and say, ‘It has been fun. Good luck,’” he said. “Heartland is really trying, with the authority I have, to not leave the district in distress.”
According to C-M officials, if the district decides to share the superintendent position with Colo-NESCO, it would generate about eight full-time-equivalent students. They said this will provide about $53,312 in state funding to help fill the position.
“The dollars are huge,” Van Dyke said. “We can tell (Elementary principal Brian) Summy, we can add teachers down there. We got sections in third, fourth period where we can use another teacher there. Those dollars can go toward that.”
In addition to filling the superintendent seat, the district could look into sharing other position with the district. Three other potential sharing positions were discussed at the meeting – curriculum director, human resource and facilities. The district would receive $19,920 in funding for curriculum director, $33,320 for human resource and $33,320 for facilities.
With distance between the two districts about a 30-minute drive, some board members said a potential concern with this option would be the availability of the shared superintendent. They said this availability would add extra responsibility to principals of the schools.
“This puts more pressure on them. They will continue to be the face of our school district when it comes to athletic events,” Utz said. “(Verlengia) at 40 percent managed it, but (he) is not available as much. We would continue to see that. Ideally, we want a full-time superintendent. But all the pros financially, I do think we need to look into it more.”
At the meeting, board secretary Debra Hodgson said if the board decides to use the saved money from sharing to fill other positions, it may force the district to stay in a sharing situation unless enrollment and spending authorities grows in the district.
“We shouldn’t be doing this without (saying) something to the community before we just up and do it. I don’t think we are being fair to our citizens. They are the ones who are going to pass the other things we want to do,” board member Mardell Tomlonovic said. “We just heard about this a week ago ... I don’t like being hasty. We have been chastised before about not involving citizens.”
The district leaders discussed receiving community input, such as an open forum and surveys, at previous meetings in regards to the search.
“(Colo-NESCO) wants another suitor. If we are not interested that is OK, but they need to go down the same process with another district,” Verlengia said. “What do you with the individuals that say, ‘You turned down $100,000 in district that has a history of declining enrollment?’ How will you answer that question? You can play it either way. I’m just playing a devil’s advocate. You got to think of this as board members.”
According to the board president, the board will vote on the potential operation sharing with Colo-NESCO at the regular meeting Dec. 18.
“I think two years isn’t forever. It is a great way I am wanting to see where it goes,” Poulter said. “A year sooner than I would have liked to made this choice, but it is presented to us. It seems like it the perfect one ... The only chance we have to share with Colo is if we bring it up Dec. 18.”
At the meeting the district also discussed the potential of operational sharing and other partnerships with city of Colfax, potential funding options for facility projects, including an athletic complex and approved Dickerson Mechanical, Inc.’s bid for snow removal.
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at email@example.com.