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The Bozeman School Board will appoint an internal interim superintendent and delay starting a national search for a new candidate until next year.

The trustees considered launching the process of a nationwide search for a superintendent but there were concerns over the timeline, potential COVID-19 complications and the need for stability within the district during this time.

Bob Connors was placed on paid administrative leave for an alleged policy violation in November. The school board approved a severance package worth over $290,000 on Jan. 20, formally severing his contract effective on Jan. 29. Few details have been shared about the possible policy violation.

Pat Strauss, human resources director with the district, outlined the options for the district during Monday’s school board meeting.

If the board decided to launch a national search for a new superintendent, the first step would be choosing a consulting firm to start the process, Strauss said. He said the process would need to begin immediately, and his timeframe had the board making a decision on a candidate around mid-April.

Strauss said by deciding to appoint an interim superintendent, the board would buy more time and would not have to worry about the tight timeline of a national search.

Throughout the board discussion, trustees expressed concern over the timeframe and potential hurdles due to COVID-19.

“I do agree that there has been a lot of stress on the board, on our district, on our teachers and on the community,” Trustee Douglas Fischer said. “I feel like we’re finally getting our feet under us. Our communication has been greatly improved.”

Fischer said he was worried the trustees would be in a rush to select a permanent superintendent and they would not be able to meet candidates in person due to the pandemic.

“I like the fact that we could take a breath. We’re on a good trajectory,” Fischer said.

Trustee Gary Lusin asked if a superintendent search would consume more energy and focus from central office when they’re already tasked with a lot.

“Looking at the year we’ve been through, to me its important that we have some stability,” he said. “I’m leaning towards having an interim to give us time and really sort through some details and really put us in a position where we have sufficient information about what we want.”

Strauss said people in the district and central office have done the process before and the bulk of the work would be finished by March, when negotiations with the teachers union begin.

“My issue might be that our best laid plans will get waylaid by COVID,” said Trustee Wendy Tage.

Like other trustees, she said the district was headed in the right direction under the leadership of the two interim co-superintendents.

“I’ve seen the two interims step up and do a good job,” said Trustee Andy Willett.

Willett said the district already had “a lot on our plate” and hiring an interim superintendent would give everyone a chance to “catch our breath.”

Trustee Kevin Black was the sole vote against, saying he preferred launching a national search sooner instead of delaying it.

A few members also expressed concerns over what the pool of candidates would look like if they did a national search this year.

“If we have concerns over a quality pool of candidates that’s something we should consider,” said Trustee Greg Neil. “… Bringing a new person into central office, there’s going to be a learning curve.”

The motion passed by the trustees said they would select an internal interim superintendent.

The current interim co-superintendents Marilyn King and Casey Bertram were appointed through June 30. The new interim superintendent would be effective from July 1 through June 30, 2022, with the district beginning the superintendent search in the 2021-2022 school year.

Strauss said the administration would vote to approve an interim superintendent at a future meeting but there was no discussion on who that might be during Monday’s meeting.

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

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