Schools Chief Resigns Post

Hitchcock launches changes, but quits after just 18 months

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Barely 18 months into his tenure, Payson Unified School District (PUSD) Super­intendent Ron Hitch­cock will seek approval to resign from the school board tonight at its Nov. 12 meeting.

The PUSD board has three options: accept Hitchcock’s resignation, deny it, or table the action for further discussion.

Hitchcock wrote in his Nov. 6 resignation letter, “Please accept this letter as my formal resignation, effective at the end of my contract, June 30, 2014.”

According to Hitchcock, his resignation should not be a shock to the board.

In a message to the Roundup, Hitchcock said he will wait for the board’s vote to make a formal statement, but wrote, “The actual letter is basically the extent of my perspective, and it was a unilateral decision on my part, although this is not the first the board had heard about my decision.”

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PUSD Superintendent Ron Hitchcock

Hitchcock said he will not remain in Payson after June when his contract expires. “As indicated in my letter of Aug. 26, I intend to honor my current contract but I do not seek to have my contract renewed or extended.”

Board member Jim Quinlan confirmed Hitchcock’s resignation was not a surprise.

“We knew it was coming, now it’s making it official,” he said.

Hitchcock’s short tenure has been rocked with controversies.

He recommended the sale of Frontier Elementary School, demoted or shuffled all the school principals and tried to discipline a school principal for insubordination — an effort that backfired when Hitchcock neglected to follow the proper procedures. He advocated an all-out effort to raise student scores to protect funding from the state and therefore hired student achievement teachers for each school. He also pushed hard to get the district ready for the imposition of Common Core curriculum standards imposed by the state and federal governments.

The school board members who hired Hitchcock said he was the only candidate they felt could lead the district through all of the reforms required to keep state and federal funding.

“Hitchcock got our policies aligned with our practices,” said Quinlan.

Hitchcock also adopted Beyond Textbooks — a program teachers can use to find examples of curriculum and assessment tests, after years of lagging curriculum updates.

The superintendent also overhauled the teacher and principal evaluation system by purchasing the Yavapai evaluation model.

And Hitchcock set up a support net for teachers by creating the student achievement teacher and volunteer coordinator positions.

But the failed discipline attempt of Julia Randall Elementary Principal Will Dunman seemed to have tipped the scales.

The date of Hitchcock’s first letter, Aug. 26, was also the night that supporters of Dunman filled the board chambers to protest a proposed policy that would forbid administrators from coaching or heading up extracurricular activities such as band or drama. The board directed Hitchcock to bar principals from coaching. Dun­man resisted that directive and his supporters angrily confronted the school board at several public meetings.

Hitchcock proposed to suspend Dunman for several days without pay for insubordination, but because he failed to give Dunman the required notices of hearings, the board directed Hitchcock to start over on the discipline.

Quinlan said, “The thing with Will Dunman was the final straw.”

Quinlan went on to say that although losing a superintendent after such a short time is sad for the district, he looks forward to finishing up the year strong.

“We’re trying to finish the year on a strong note,” he said. “We’re going to put more pressure on department heads. We’ll have key people, Kathie Manning in finance and Brenda Case with student achievement, and Asa Hall, who seems to be a fine young principal, and give them an opportunity to prove themselves.”

Quinlan says he looks forward to a bright PUSD future.

So does board member Devin Wala.

“This is chance for new opportunities all around,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I wish Mr. Hitchcock the very best in his pursuits and look forward to PUSD capitalizing on the opportunities ahead.”

Hitchcock, in his resignation letter also looks forward to the future, “I intend to pursue other positions for next school year (2014-15) that are commensurate with my expertise and experience. In the meantime, you can rest assured that I will represent the district and fulfill the duties and responsibilities of my contract ... I wish only the very best for the students, staff and governing board in the future.”

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