June 02, 2015ALTON — Alton School Board members, with the exception of Marilyn St. Cyr, who was absent, were gathered on Monday, June 1, in the Alton Central School media center to focus on hiring interim personnel as a temporary solution to the school's need for administration.
The board began with public input and resident Jeffrey Clay spoke.
Clay advised the board their public meeting rules were "incorrect" and they inhibited "freedom of speech."
He also spoke regarding the search committees, which were formed to pick candidates for hiring a new superintendent and a new principal.
"It is unimaginable to me that one of those people could not be superintendent," stated Clay of the many applicants the committee reviewed.
Clay regarded the idea of hiring an interim as "kicking the can down the road" and stated the school district is made up of one school with 500 students, which is not enough work to support hiring a full-time superintendent.
He suggested the school board look to hiring a recent graduate from UNH or elsewhere.
Alton Teacher's Association President Joan Cross also spoke during public input.
Cross stated there were "hard feelings" about the direction the search has taken and the perception that the teachers involved on the committees have wasted their time and efforts.
She also stated she hoped this meeting would answer some questions, such as what information the board could provide regarding the process and the rationale behind the decision to interview for an interim superintendent and what does a "good fit" for the school mean.
School board chairperson Krista Argiropolis addressed the board saying she was "open minded" and willing to do what the rest of the board wanted, before moving on in meeting Bill Compton, a career superintendent and a member of the New Hampshire School Board Association.
Compton shared some of his background with the board stating he has been in education for 43 years and for most of those years has been a superintendent.
In recent years, Compton has come out of retirement for short periods to help New Hampshire districts such as Barnstead and, more recently, Franklin.
"[Franklin] had some rather significant issues to deal with; morale was number one…I believe I had some success in helping Franklin transition," elaborated Compton on his time as interim superintendent in that district.
Compton stated he was not interested in serving for a full year, but that he was willing to help Alton on a temporary basis.
"I would be willing to help you in the transition," stated Compton who offered his services on a per diem basis between July and September 2015.
Board member Steve Miller questioned Compton regarding challenges ACS was currently facing and prioritizing them.
Compton stated filling the administrative vacancies should be the first priority. He spoke regarding the immediate need of hiring a principal, stating a strong leader must be hired before opening the doors for the next school year.
School board member Terri Noyes asked Compton what he knew of the Alton community and its school system. Compton replied that while he was familiar with town and had meetings with former administrators when he served as superintendent in Barnstead, he did not have any personal ties to the town or its residents.
School board member Sandy Wyatt questioned why Compton could only offer his services until September. He answered it was a matter of age.
Compton stated that while he really enjoys the work of superintendent he has no interest in doing it five days a week.
"I'd like to help you get through this transition," said Compton, but he encouraged the board to think of his role as a consultant who would help get staffing in place.
Compton stated he would be willing to help only as a consultant after September.
He shared some advice he had received as a young administrator from a mentor years ago, "The people are the most important thing in your school building, don't forget about the people."
Compton encouraged the board to hire from within and if people wanted to serve as full-time instead of interim, then he thought the board should do that as well.
After meeting with Compton the board took a five-minute recess while Argiropolis checked on the whereabouts of Michael Everngam from MRI, who was also to meet with the board about advisory services.
It was determined Everngam was not available to meet, so the board went into a brief non-public session with Compton.
When back in public session, Noyes stated it was determined in non-public that if Compton was hired he would be an employee of the district and not serve as an LLC, therefore the board would not be able to deliberate hiring him in public.
The board, however, decided to hold off on making any decision and tentatively scheduled another meeting for Wednesday, June 3, in which they hoped to meet with Everngam and make a decision.
The meeting was then opened up for an additional round of public input.
ACS teacher Derek Pappaceno addressed the board, stating outgoing principal Linda Wilman was a first year principal and did a "really good job."
Clay also spoke again, stating he applauded the board for interviewing Compton in a public session.
He asked the board to look again at the original applicants and pick one from that group.
Resident Deanna Guruge, who served on the superintendent search committee, questioned why the board decided not to hire the person the committee found.
Noyes responded the first choice withdrew from the process and the board could not comment on why they did not go with the committee's second choice.
Guruge stated she saw Compton as a very capable, but short term fix and said the town has had too many short term fixes in recent years, which was not productive.
Argiropolis acknowledged Guruge's point, but stated hiring is a very "involved" process, which takes time.
Additionally, Agiropolis stated there were currently 26 interim superintendents serving in New Hampshire school districts.
"Many other districts are going through the same thing," said Argiropolis.
She stated the need was for more than just plugging people into positions.
ACS teacher Liz Lichtenberg stated she has a lot of concerns about having someone come in as superintendent for only a month.
Her husband, Aaron Lichtenberg, also spoke stating he saw Compton's acknowledgement of not knowing anyone in Alton as a liability not an asset.
Argiropolis stated she, personally, was inclined to listen to Clay's suggestion and look again at the pool of applicants the committee had received.
The board restated that no decision would be made on this evening and they would meet again on June 3, hopefully with Everngam.
The board also has meetings scheduled for June 8 and 22 at 5 p.m. in the ACS media center.