D161 Board Hires Barb Rains as District's New Superintendent
The board approves the hiring 5-1 amid criticism from the public and some board members that the position should have been posted and other candidates interviewed.
In an almost five-hour standing room-only meeting that included unanimously passing a property tax levy, outlining plans to eliminate inefficiencies in the district and sparring between members of the public and board members, the big news from Wednesday's meeting of the Summit Hill School District 161 board didn't come until the very end after members returned from an hour-and-a-half closed session.
That's when the board voted 5-1 to hire Barb Rains as the district's permanent superintendent, removing the interim label from the title she's held since former Superintendent Keith Pain resigned over the summer. Her contract begins immediately and will run through June 30, 2013, at a salary of $145,000, an increase of about $30,000 from her previous pay. Pain's salary as superintendent a the time he stepped down was $177,000.
"I'm very honored to be in this position," Rains said after the meeting. "We have a lot of decisions ahead of us that need to be made for the district."
Before serving as interim superintendent, Rains had been the district's human resources and public relations director since 2008. She worked in human resources and community relations for Orland School District 135 from 1991 to 2008, and was a high school teacher in Muncie, Ind. Rains earned her bachelor's and Master's degrees from Ball State University, and she has Type 75 Administrative Certificate from DePaul University and a certificate of advanced study in superintendency from Lewis University.
Although praising the work Rains has done as interim superintendent, some community and board members were critical of the hiring process, saying the position should have been posted and other candidates should have been interviewed. These objections were brought up at Tuesday night's board workshop discussing parent and teacher input on the hiring a new superintendent and were echoed Wednesday.
"I have to vote my conscience, I have to vote my heart when I'm up here, and I am disappointed that we are doing the hiring here without a search," said board member Sean William Doyle, who voted against the hiring but emphasized that it was not a reflection on Rains's qualifications.
"I don't know how the board can look the community in the eye and honestly say to them they found the best qualified candidate in the absence of a search," he added, receiving applause from the people still in attendance.
Board Secretary Denise Lenz voted for the hiring, but she voiced her displeasure with not looking for other candidates.
"I don't agree with the process. I'm extremely upset over the process," she said. "If we're ever going to become a unified board it has to start now. ... I will vote with the consensus of the board because I don't have issues with the candidate. I just have issues with the process."
Some members of the public still in attendance at the end of the meeting blasted the board for not conducting a search for other candidates.
"On the Summit Hill website, you have positions posted for substitute lunch supervisors, lunch supervisors, substitute nurses, and yet you're not going to post for a superintendent position? That's ridiculous!" said Val Goetsch, vice president of Rogus Elementary School Community Organization, a parents group representing Dr. Julian Rogus Elementary School.
"That's all (parents) wanted was someone who was the best qualified candidate, and you didn't even give us the opportunity to show you made an effort to show that (Rains) was the best qualified candidate," she added. "And you did her a disservice because by not doing that now she's going to start with a tainted administration, and she's going to have half of the people in this district not support her."
Board President Mary Kenny, Board Vice President Joy Murphy and board member Stacey Borgens defended hiring Rains without interviewing other candidates, saying they strongly believed in Rains's abilities and that the board wouldn't find another candidate who was as qualified and as intimately familiar with the district.
"We as a board have been working with Barb Rains for six months," Kenny said. "She's done a phenomenal job under very tough circumstances. And we have had, truly, input that has told us that she's doing a good job. It has come from the community. It has come from staff and it has come from board members."
Given the issues the district faces, time was of the essence, Kenny said, adding that the soonest a superintendent from outside the district would be July of next year. That loss of time would've been critical to the educational and financial decisions the board needs to make in the upcoming months, Kenny said.
"Barb has been in a six-month interview," Borgens said after the meeting. "You don't get that chance with outside candidates."
The hiring capped off a meeting that was punctuated with board members and the public going toe-to-toe over the superintendent hiring as well as the possibility that the board could shut down a school in order to make up for a $2.5 million shortfall in the 2012-2013 budget. The schools being considered for closing are either Arbury Hills School or Frankfort Square School.
During the meeting, Rains outlined some of the district's enrollment and classroom inefficiencies and discussed a timeline for addressing the budget issues. The board also agreed to form a committee of community members within the next week to help in this area.
What do you think of the hiring of Barb Rains as the new superintendent for D161? Tell us in the comments section.