McMillan, school board cite 'philosophical differences'
A 40-year career with Delta County Joint School District #50 came to an abrupt end Thursday, Jan. 19, when superintendent Mike McMillan submitted his resignation just prior to the monthly school board meeting.
McMillan said he would carry out his professional responsibilities until an interim superintendent can be appointed.Board president Tom Mingen said that an interim superintendent could be on the job within two weeks.
"If I had my choice, I would still be working," McMillan said in a prepared statement issued Friday morning. "Those that direct me have indicated they would prefer to go in a different direction. I do regret the board wants to go this route. I do wish the best for this school district. It is about the students, the staff, the parents that support schools."
"I think we're making a big mistake," said school board member Tammy Smith. She was the only board member to vote against accepting McMillan's letter of resignation at the Jan. 19 meeting. School board members Cheryl Hines, Kathy Svenson, Tom Mingen and Pete Blair cast "yes" votes.
"I would like to thank Mr. McMillan," Hines said. "He has done a great job for our school district in the past. But going on in the future, in my opinion it is in the best interest of the district for us to go in a different direction."
Attending the meeting were a couple of hundred staff members who wanted to show their support for a salary increase. Unaware of the unresolved differences between McMillan and the board, they were shocked by McMillan's sudden departure.
The board had met with McMillan privately three times without resolving the differences that cropped up shortly after three new board members were seated in November.
When asked about their unresolved differences, Mingen said it's hard to pinpoint "where it started and where it stopped.
"We've had a ton of meetings over the last couple of months," he said. "The chasm just grew wider."
"We tried awful hard [to resolve those differences]," said school board member Pete Blair. "It just wasn't going to happen."
During the public comment period early in the meeting, six district employees, former staff members and parents spoke in support of McMillan.
Nora O'Brien, former director of special services, said it was disturbing to learn the board was considering terminating McMillan.
"What is also shocking and disturbing is the fact that three of you are brand new to this board. Three of you have not given our superintendent a chance to work with this board on the most important responsibility in our society — the education of our children. If you could each take a deep breath and a step back and allow Mike McMillan to do his work with the children, parents, community members, teachers, principals and support staff of our school district, you would clearly see that you have the right person in the superintendent's position."
On Friday morning, McMillan said it "was a little lonely" to be seated in front of the school board meeting, but he was gratified to see so many good friends in the audience.
He said the future direction of the school board is unclear to him, although he understands there is a desire to "refocus" the school district.
"To refocus means you're out of focus," he said. "I thought we've kept a pretty clear eye on the ball, and the ball is really about student achievement and getting kids ready for the 21st century. That's been my focus for a lot of years, to try and unify this district, to know, regardless of zip code, what education in Delta County looks like. I thought that was our central focus. I'm not sure what refocus means."
Mingen said developing a common vision is a critical step for the school board as a whole to undertake before the superintendent search is launched.
When asked about the short time span between the school board election and the deteriorating relationship with McMillan, Mingen said time would not have helped resolve their differences.
He emphasized that he did not seek office with the intention of replacing McMillan, and he never got the feeling that Kathy Svenson and Pete Blair, the other two new board members, felt any differently.
The school board has set a special meeting Thursday morning for the purpose of discussing the superintendent search. A second meeting will be held Friday morning at the office of Aaron Clay, the school district's attorney, to discuss personnel during an executive session. It is possible the school board will then reconvene in an open session for a vote.blog comments powered by Disqus