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The Bozeman School Board will decide whether to start the process of hiring a new superintendent or appointing an interim in the coming weeks, and the administration anticipates no financial cuts based on the severance payment to Superintendent Bob Connors.

The board, which voted to approve the severance agreement with Connors in a brief special meeting Wednesday evening, will decide whether to appoint an interim superintendent or launch a full superintendent search.

Mike Waterman, the district’s director of business services, said the board is waiting until the severance agreement is final and the seven-day rescission period has passed before beginning those conversations.

He said it would be something trustees will discuss in their board meetings in the coming weeks.

Waterman said there’s typically a “prime time” for hiring superintendents when contracts are ending and that time will be coming up in the next few weeks.

By Montana law, school boards are allowed to give superintendents a one year, two year or three year contract. Trustees are also expected to discuss the length of a possible contract in their conversations about next steps to fill the position.

During Connors’ absence, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Marilyn King and Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Technology Casey Bertram were appointed as interim co-superintendents.

The contract changes for the two were approved during a mid-December board meeting. According to the personnel documents, the changes were effective Oct. 19 and will end no later than June 30. The contract changes added an additional $71 per day for both of them.

In recent weeks, the co-superintendents have put out a weekly newsletter to parents and staff in the district providing COVID-19 updates.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on the communication coming out of the district and the consensus process,” Waterman said.

The agreement reached by the district and Connors includes a severance payment of over $290,000 from the district’s general fund. It includes the money Connors would have made if he had remained employed with the district from Feb. 1 until his contract was scheduled to end on June 30, 2022, and vacation and unused sick leave, according to the agreement.

Waterman said the district’s general fund is similar to how someone would build a home budget and plan for higher utilities in the winter but hope for some slack left over.

“We’re in a good position to be able to absorb that,” he said. “That said, it’s money we would otherwise direct to the classrooms… We’re not planning any cuts as a result of it but it’s more of a long-term issue that we need to address.”

Connors served seven years as the superintendent at Glasgow Public Schools in northeast Montana, before taking Bozeman’s superintendent job in 2019. During the board meeting to confirm his hiring, Trustee Wendy Tage was the lone no vote.

Connors was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 2 after a seven-hour closed board meeting. Trustees cited an alleged policy violation but didn’t provide details.

On Nov. 20, the Chronicle filed a lawsuit in Gallatin County District Court against the school district to try to secure records related to the board’s decision to place Connors on leave.

The lawsuit argues that the public’s right to know exceeds matters of individual privacy included in the documents requested of the district.

The severance agreement between the district and Connors includes language acknowledging that the district’s compliance with any court orders to provide documents is not in violation of the agreement.

The next school board meeting will be Jan. 25.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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