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One superintendent or two? Boards yet to decide

January 19, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — Feelings are mixed about how to structure top-tier leadership of two local public school districts.

Each member of the Colorado River Union High School District and Bullhead City Elementary School District governing boards talked Thursday about whether it would be better to have one superintendent for each district or to have one superintendent with an assistant superintendent in charge of the two districts.

Supt. Benje Hookstra will be retiring on June 30 when his current contract with the district runs out. His departure was listed among several “resignations/separations” on the BCESD board’s agenda.

The news of Hookstra’s retirement, said BCESD President Melinda Sobraske, is “absolutely sad.”

A pre-contract evaluation of Hookstra’s job performance already had been placed on the meeting agenda as an executive session item, said Lance Ross, the public information officer for Colorado River Schools.

Hookstra was named in July to lead both school districts, following the reassignment and subsequent resignation of Riley Frei, after serving both as the assistant superintendent for instruction for about five years. He was superintendent of BCESD for a couple of years prior before the two districts entered into a joint-services agreement.

Those advocating retaining the current structure with an overall superintendent and assistant superintendent said it provides consistency. They also noted that the predicted extra cost for two superintendents would take away from money available for other employees.

“Two heads (would) cause problems,” said CRUHSD board member Pat Young.

“The fieldhouse is going to usurp a lot of one superintendent’s time,” said CRUHSD board member Richard Cardone, who wants to see two superintendents hired.

CRUHSD Board member Donna Williamson disagreed, saying that a general manager will handle most fieldhouse matters. However, she hasn’t made a decision about whether Colorado River Schools — the umbrella that covers the two districts — should have one or two superintendents.

Sobraske said she would prefer one superintendent and an assistant superintendent.

“There are two different types of jobs to be done,” she said. “One person can’t do both.”

BCESD board member Diane Beardsley had a third idea: One superintendent and two directors of instruction. The size of the district might make it a viable option, Beardsley noted.

One board member said having separate superintendents might be viable because of concerns voiced by some board members about curriculum and inequities in the distribution of shared labor. During the regular BCESD meeting that also occurred Thursday, some of those board members said they wanted to be sure labor sharing and other mutual arrangements were indeed equitable during a discussion about proposed shared services intergovernmental agreements.

For example, BCESD board member Doug Lutz had asked some questions about the agreements during that board’s regular meeting that occurred before the workshop.

Before moving deeply into the joint workshop, a couple of CRUHSD board members wanted to address such concerns.

CRUHSD board member Kerry Burgess suggested that both boards meet together quarterly to discuss these matters, especially if “one board is unhappy.”

BCESD board member Kory Burgess said the two districts sharing a variety of services has resulted in savings of about $500,000.

“We’re still one community,” Kory Burgess said. “We’re paying tax dollars to both districts.”

Members of one or both school district boards will meet with a executive search specialist from the Arizona School Boards Association to help decide what should be the qualification and characteristics possessed by candidates for the job opening — when the specific opening is defined.

That meeting is scheduled on Jan. 26 at 1 p.m. Members of the two boards will meet jointly one more time before the ASBA representative arrives to complete their discussion and decide what type of job candidates to recruit.

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