The Douglas County Board of Education has extended the contract of Interim Superintendent Erin Kane through the 2017-18 school year, meaning the school district will continue to hold off on a search for a new permanent leader.
At the beginning of this school year, Kane took over for Elizabeth Fagen, who announced in May she was leaving to lead a school district in Texas after six years in Douglas County.
The board voted 5-2 in favor of the extension during its Jan.17 meeting. Board members David Ray and Anne-Marie Lemieux opposed the extension. Wendy Vogel agreed to vote yes after a 20 percent bonus for Kane was removed from her contract.
Board member James Geddes said given that the board of education election is in November, the board may change its complexion entirely come fall and said it would have been a mistake to try to recruit a new superintendent in that climate. Four seats on the seven-member board are up for election.
"If the board becomes substantially changed, then that board should choose the next superintendent," Geddes said.
A tentative timeline would now have the school board beginning a search for a permanent superintendent after the November election, which would likely include hiring a search firm.
Kane's contract had been set to expire Sept. 1. Her salary is $240,000 per year - more than that of superintendents in two nearby suburban districts. Littleton's superintendent earns $220,000 and Jefferson County's $194,000, not including incentives. But it is less than the leader of the Cherry Creek district, who makes $247,000, according to figures from the Colorado Department of Education.
In a guest column published on Colorado Community Media's websites Jan.11, board member Steven Peck made the case for extending Kane.
"Beginning the search for a new superintendent at this time isn't fair, prudent or judicious," he wrote.
"Selection of a new leader a few months ahead of an election isn't fair to the newly elected board who will assume responsibility following the November 2017 election. The new board should be given an opportunity to shape the trajectory of the district. That may result in a permanent contract for Ms. Kane or it may not, but the voters should have their voices heard."
Ray said he felt "blindsided" by the call for the extension, did not feel there was adequate communication among board members on the issue and felt it should have been addressed earlier in the school year.
"It just didn't evolve the way I thought it should," Ray said.
Lemiux said more input from community and school leaders was needed before making the decision and that she didn't agree with prolonging the interim agreement with Kane.
"You want to know what creates chaos and instability? It's keeping an interim indefinitely," Lemieux said.
Kane was approved as the interim leader by a 4-3 vote of the school board at a special meeting Aug. 2. She had been chosen as the lone finalist as one of two candidates, the other being James Calhoun, who retired as principal of Castle View High School in Castle Rock at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Calhoun was supported by Ray, Vogel and Lemieux.
Fagen officially left in July to take the superintendent position in Humble, Texas, a district of 39,000 students outside Houston. The Douglas County district has more than 67,000 students.
Kane, a Colorado native with an engineering degree in applied mathematics and computer science from the University of Colorado, helped found charter school American Academy. Executive director of the school from 2013 until taking the interim DCSD post, she pointed to her leadership of the school's community in her bid to win the job.
Kane said she never envisioned remaining in the interim position for more than a year, but "if I'm helping in some way to bring some stability, I would like to continue to do that."
When asked if she has plans to apply for the permanent position, she said she "honestly didn't know."
"I can't predict what the district will look like in a year," Kane said.
The board seats held by Meghann Silverthorn, Judith Reynolds, Geddes and Peck will be up for election in November.