Board: Time To Prepare For Banditos

School district considers assistant superintendent in case of catastrophe

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Should banditos in Mexico kidnap Payson Unified School District Superintendent Casey O’Brien, the district could falter like a fallen criminal as he runs from the police, school board member Rory Huff worried at Tuesday’s board meeting.

He suggested creating an assistant superintendent position in case of disaster. The board only discussed the topic, and Huff said any decision would be “strictly up to Casey” if O’Brien felt the district needed a subordinate superintendent.

“Say you’re down in Mexico and the banditos take you away,” Huff told O’Brien, wondering what would happen.

“You’d call ASBA (Arizona School Board Association) and ask ‘How much will you give the banditos?’” O’Brien replied.

In reality, he continued, the association has lists of interim superintendents, many of them retired in the field, ready for gaps in leadership.

“I promise to go get Casey,” said Lisa Young, O’Brien’s assistant.

“I promise to go join Casey,” said Bobette Tomerlin, assistant superintendent for business services.

Huff acknowledged Tomerlin’s title, but said she focuses more on finances than on education. He also listed lightening Tomerlin’s workload on a short explanatory sheet as a possible outcropping of creating a new assistant superintendent position. “I’m not trying to make this bureaucratic, top-heavy,” Huff said. However, the existing fuzzy chain of command could prove problematic if catastrophe struck O’Brien.

An assistant superintendent could also help cover for a missing principal. Huff said the district could save money by combining two or three positions instead of hiring a new person.

Board member Viki Holmes said she understood Huff’s point. “I just don’t think it’s something we can immediately afford,” she said. She wondered which positions the district could combine, considering already heavy workloads.

Huff said he worked out several simple combinations, which he didn’t discuss because the topic involved personnel.

On the outline sheet, Huff included four possible job descriptions. One centered on student services and included supervising half of the district’s six principals. Others focused on academic services, human resources, and the last idea created an executive director of business services, which could also help Tomerlin.

Board member Matt Van Camp said the new position could help the district achieve its goals. “If we’re going to hold our superintendent accountable for student achievement, we need to give him the tools.”

O’Brien said the district’s “solid, stable” employees make his job easier. Incompetent people filling the ranks would intensify his supervisory duties.

However, he said Huff’s point about preparation was a good one.

Better watch out for those banditos.

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