March 19, 2014 - The superintendent of Clarkston schools has a new three-year contract after a contentious school board meeting.
Board President Rosalie Lieblang kicked off discussion at the March 10 meeting by reading a June memorandum calling for Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock to resign his position.
"This letter has been a complete distraction from the day I saw it – I for one am tired of dealing with it," Lieblang said. "When people say they support the superintendent but plan to force him to resign, it has bearing on what contract we'd like to have."
The president said she received the document, which details a 14-day process to replace the superintendent (see page 14) from Cheryl McGinnis, trustee and former board president, this past June as they switched office.
The memorandum was a working document and reflected discussion with board members at the time, McGinnis said.
"It's unfortunate Mrs. Lieblang has gone this route," McGinnis said. "Those were my private notes given to her in confidence. This shows she's not worthy of confidence."
The trustee said she fully supports the superintendent.
"In my many workings with Dr. Rock, I have seen tremendous improvement in his ability as superintendent," McGinnis said.
Vice President Susan Boatman, Treasurer Joan Patterson and Trustee Elizabeth Egan said they had nothing to do with the memo.
Trustee Steve Hyer said the document was immaterial to the discussion at hand.
"I don't see the relevance of that to us dealing with the contract today," Hyer said.
"I support the superintendent – I don't understand why you're playing games."
Lieblang said the release was important for full transparency, given recent rumors she has heard about firing the superintendent.
"I felt it was time to be completely open, honest, and transparent," she said.
The contract was not on the agenda as drafted by the board president. Hyer's request to place it on the agenda was approved 6-1, with board Secretary Craig Hamilton voting "no."
Following revelation of the memorandum, Hamilton made a motion to table discussion, which passed 5-2. Hamilton, Patterson, Boatman, McGinnis, and Lieblang voting to table, and Egan and Hyer voted "no."
A motion by McGinnis to take it off the table failed 4-3, with Boatman, Hamilton, Patterson, and Lieblang voting "no." Voting "yes" were Hyer, McGinnis, and Egan.
Later in the meeting, Hyer moved to extend the contract by four years, four months.
"What I'm asking for is open dialogue at this point," Hyer said.
Hyer and Egan asked Rock what he wanted regarding his contract.
"I trust the board of education to do the best they can for the community, school district, and children," Rock said, adding he requested no changes to his contract.
Lieblang said previous discussions with the superintendent included adding funding for Project Zero conference work and elimination of a termination-without-cause clause.
"We haven't had the opportunity to clearly put these issues to rest – the process has not been concluded," she said. "I'm not in favor of voting on the contract when there are still some issues to discuss."
She wanted a more balanced contract with protection for the superintendent.
"I don't want to have action forced when the majority of board desires not have action," she said.
Rock said they discussed changes, but didn't want them to stand in the way of contract renewal.
"If the board feels I deserve a three or four year contract, I'll respect your decision," he said. "If you decide to let me go, you don't owe me anything. I don't need reassurance."
Patterson and Boatman favored two-year contracts with more protection for the superintendent.
Speaking during public comment, several teachers attending the meeting expressed dismay at the discussion. Jill Santola, teacher at Bailey Lake Elementary, said she felt "disappointed and concerned."
"Dr. Rock is a visionary leader – the way he been treated has been terrible," Santola said.
After discussion and public comment, Hyer proposed amending his motion back to three years, three months., which passed 5-2, Patterson and Hamilton voting "no." Then, his motion to add the item back to the agenda for action passed 4-3, with Egan, McGinnis, Hyer, and Lieblang voting "yes." Hamilton, Boatman, and Patterson voted "no."
Finally, Hyer's motion to approve the contract until 2017 was approved 5-2. McGinnis, Hyer, Egan, Boatman, and Lieblang voted "yes." Hamilton and Patterson voted "no."
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.