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Supt. contract extension to be discussed March 26



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March 05, 2014 - Discussion on whether or not to extend Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling's contract to 2019 has been pushed back to the March 26 meeting, according to Board of Education President Colleen Schultz.

"We're not doing anything until the end of this month. We're going to do everybody's contracts, all the administrators' contracts," Schultz told this reporter.

Whether or not Skilling's contract should be extended now is a subject of debate given there's a potential for four new board members to be elected in November.

Schultz, who occupies one of those four seats, announced earlier this year that she has no plans to run again. The other three seats are occupied by Robert Martin, Kim Shumaker and Bill Keenist.

Martin could not be reached for comment.

Due to board policy, Shumaker declined to comment on Skilling's contract and yielded her comments to Keenist, the board's spokesman.

However, she did say she plans to seek re-election.

"When we moved here (from Howell in August 2008) we had the choice of any school district around. We looked at Clarkston, Lake Orion, Rochester and Oxford," Shumaker said. "We chose Oxford because they have so many opportunities for students and I likened it to one-stop shopping. When you have four children, their interests are very diverse, but in Oxford there truly is something for every student."

"I'm really impressed that they don't just focus on sports in Oxford, they focus on academics and they also focus on artistic outlets for kids," she continued. "For me, whether I have students in school or not, which I won't after this year, there is still a district full of kids who deserve those same types of opportunities and I just want to be apart of helping provide that."

Keenist did not indicate whether or not he'll seek re-election.

"I do believe it's incumbent upon every seated board member to make decisions that not only serve the best interest of our district today, but also most-favorably position our district for the future," he said. "Not unlike any public servant or elected government official, it's our duty as board members to make decisions during the entirety of our term that will best serve our constituents, in this case our students and teachers, in the present and for the future."

He was also asked if it was appropriate for possible outgoing board members to vote to extend the superintendent's contract or if it should be left in the hands of the next board?

"I believe experienced board members have a much better perspective on where a district has been, where it is today and where it needs to go tomorrow," Keenist added. "Our district is uniquely positioned for continued growth, especially in key academic areas, and while some current board members may not be seated in a couple years, it should not excuse them from an obligation to make decisions that would positively impact our district in the future." 

However, some of the folks who posted messages to the Oxford Leader's  Facebook page felt differently.

Former Communications Coordinator Linda Lewis "strongly disagreed" with the idea of extending Skilling's contract now as opposed to letting the next board make that decision.

"If the 2016 board members want to renew the contract, let them," Lewis wrote. "Extending the contract now only brings stability to one person when there are very competent professionals on staff who are implementing the initiatives and integrally involved in every partnership."

Another former employee LeeAnne Hicks warned to "beware of what people do on their way out the door."

 "The new board is still free to fire Skilling if they see fit, but this new contract would leave the taxpayers paying him for nothing. Now, why would they do that?" she posted. "Common sense says let the new board renew if they will. Test scores and state ratings may be important to the next board. It almost seems criminal to set the public up in such a way."

"When a board member cannot or will not answer simple questions that should be easily found in the minutes of the board meetings, something stinks," Don Stevens said, referring to Schultz's quote in the Feb. 19 story "School board eyes extending Skilling's contract to 2019" where Schultz said she couldn't remember who brought the contract forward to be discussed.

"Ms. Schultz, (by) claiming not to be running again for the board, must know more than she is willing to let (on), for whatever reason, it just doesn't seem right," Stevens said. "I would hope that this issue would be tabled (until) after the election or at minimum, the truth be fully (disclosed) for all to know."

"No board should ever encumber future boards with a long-term contract," added Steven Allen. "Future boards can fire, but usually there is a golden parachute that the taxpayers get (stuck) paying for."

Board members Jim Reis and Dan D'Alessandro did not return phone calls seeking comment. Board Vice President Carol Mitchell declined comment until she returned from vacation.

The March 26 meeting will be held at Oxford Elementary, located at 107 Pontiac St. beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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