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Culver Comm. Schools on verge of hiring new superintendent

November 8, 2013

PUBLIC HEARING SET FOR NOV. 18

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This January, Culver Community Schools will have a new superintendent for the first time since 1995, and while the school board isn't at liberty to divulge any names, board president Ryan Sieber acknowledges board members spent three nights interviewing candidates. And he's happy to report there were many great ones to choose from.

"The board did reference checks and did our homework...we felt we had great pool of candidates. It was very reassuring being on the board and knowing we had great choices."

Sieber says he, at least, was prepared to go with an interim superintendent, should not enough solid candidates for the position present themselves, but he was pleased and "honored" at the quality of applicants.

A public hearing on the new superintendent's contract will take place at the Monday, Nov. 18 school board meeting at 6:30 p.m., during which the public will have an opportunity to be heard. The board must then wait seven days to take action on what was discussed at that hearing, Sieber explains.

He says he expects -- though he can't be certain -- the individual chosen for the position will likely to be present for the announcement of who has filled the position, which will likely take place at the Nov. 25 meeting.

Whoever is chosen to fill the position will step into a challenging situation on a number of fronts. Aside from whatever challenges may face Culver specifically, public education statewide and nationally has become an increasingly complex matter on a number of fronts, from controversies regarding "grading systems" used to evaluate each school's performance, to legislation allowing parents to choose which public school they wish their child to attend or vouchers allowing them to use public funds for private schools, standardized testing, and more.

"I feel and a lot of people feel that a lot of things are challenging public education today," Sieber says. "It comes down to budgeting...funding. That's one of the biggest challenges in public education today. We looked at many different things as we figured out what direction to go. We're the governing body, but we only have one employee we evaluate, and that's the superintendent. We didn't take this lightly; we had a lot of discussion and reasoning to come to a board consensus.

"We're a very broad, diverse board. We were trying to understand who's the person who can try to help mainstay enrollment and work on budgeting issues. We know what cuts will come - a lot of those the state has relayed to us, and (corporation accountant) Tom Bendy is aware of them and is working on it, but the big magic one is school count. That's the one you can't predict."

Here Sieber refers to school funding based upon number of students attending. Thus, as student population goes, so goes school funding.
"That's nothing the school board necessarily does, or teachers or administrators," he points out. "(Culver Comm. High School principal Albert Hanselman) has a very good handle on the economics; he has worked to keep himself educated. But there are challenges in the town of Culver, and those are the challenges we face."

As was discussed during a recent talk by Hanselman before Culver's Kiwanis Club (featured elsewhere in this issue), Culver’s demographics have shifted in the recent decade such that a substantial number of students have left the school corporation over the years, all to the detriment of the corporation's pocket book.

Not helping matters is ambiguity at the state level regarding public education at the moment.

"Right now down at the state Department of Education, the (former state superintendent of education) Tony Bennett era is still being re-evaluated," says Sieber. "There's so many things up the in air. It's very frustrating to teachers' associations and administrators; we can't move forward. When we speak with people from other school boards and other administrators when we go to conferences, there's a general level of frustration at all the public schools, though they all have their own hot button issues."

Current superintendent Brad Schuldt has been at the helm nearly 20 years, Sieber points out, and is a direct link to the days of his also longtime predecessor, William Mills.

"So we're not a school corporation with a huge amount of turnover in the administration side. We wanted to make sure, as we move forward, that there's a chance for the board to strengthen its relationships with the new superintendent, and that we can really reassess where we've been, where we're at, and where we need to go."

Sieber added there are "a lot of options" in collaborating with other entities, be they businesses or other educational programs.

One of the school board's assets in assessing "then and now" may be the fact that one current school board member was present when Schuldt was appointed, back in 1995.

"That individual was able to reflect a little from the experience of several years ago," Sieber notes.

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