As expected last Thursday, the Upper Perkiomen School Board voted to hire former Superintendent Dr. Timothy Kirby to serve as interim superintendent and advise the district in its search for a permanent replacement.
Kirby served as superintendent from August 2004 until his retirement in February 2012. He has more than 39 years of experience in public education.
The sole dissenting voter was newly elected board member Mike Elliot, who questioned how long the search would take.
"We don't know how long it's going to take to find a new superintendent, so there's no defined, definite time limit. I think the board has been clear through this whole process [that] we're going to take our time, make sure we've done it thoroughly and got it right this time. And we believe we'll be done by December," Board President Bill Scott said.
The school district is required to have a designated superintendent. Dr. Francis Leskowicz was named substitute superintendent when Dr. Beth Yonson resigned last December due to an unspecified medical condition. She is on medical leave until June 30. Yonson was two years into a five-year contract with the district.
However, the board decided that "Dr. Leskowicz would not be considered for the interim or long-term position of superintendent" and the decision was made to re-hire Kirby, Scott said.
Under the agreement approved by the board on Thursday, Kirby's term as acting superintendent will begin July 1 and end when a suitable, permanent replacement is found. The contract states that Kirby will serve as acting superintendent no later than Feb. 3, 2015, unless "mutually agreed upon by the board and Dr. Kirby"; however, the agreement will terminate fully on June 30, 2015.
Kirby, who will still receive benefits under his retirement agreement with the district, will be paid $335 per day worked from July 1 through Dec. 31. After Dec. 31, he will be paid $735 per day worked. In addition, the district will provide health coverage for Kirby's wife until she reaches her 65th birthday, approximately six years from now. Health insurance benefits for his wife are capped at $55,000.
Although few public comments were made about the agreement prior to the vote, several audience members voiced their concerns about the matter toward the end of the meeting, particularly about the spousal benefits and salary.
"I will point out, since I know there's some rumblings" about Kirby's salary after Dec. 31, that the per diem rate of $735 "is below his per diem rate when he left the district," Scott said.
"It is our intention and Dr. Kirby's intention for this search to be completed by December...Dr. Kirby does not want to stay up to December, but he is not going to leave until we have a superintendent in place," Scott continued. "You're worried about him staying for half a year at that rate – I can almost guarantee he will not be here that long."
Board Secretary Sandy Kassel also noted that spousal health insurance costs were taken into consideration in setting Kirby's daily rate.
Marlborough resident John Farris questioned why Kirby wasn't brought in to consult the district on its initial superintendent search and suggested that the board did not fully vet Yonson before she was hired. His statements were met with applause from the audience.
Scott said the district had asked Kirby to assist with the earlier search but he refused, believing that it was "not his place" to be involved in the selection process.
"Sometimes you make bad choices," Scott said about the board's decision to hire an outside firm to find the last superintendent. He refused to go into more detail about the hiring of Yonson, saying only that "this board did what it thought was right at the time. That's all you can ask of a board to do."