Research, background factors in Niles superintendent hiring processPublished 11:54pm Friday, February 19, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
With members of the Niles Community Schools Board of Education announcing Wednesday that a visit would be made to Ypsilanti, the home district of superintendent candidate Richard Weigel, the board is one step closer to making a final decision regarding who will replace Doug Law when he retires at the end of the school year.
“I have been incredibly, incredibly impressed with our board,” Trustee Kathy Zeider said.
Zeider said the board, which put into place a committee to handle the search, has been working hard at researching the candidates for the position from the very beginning and that even considering character and experience differences, the board has remained “in sync and unanimous” in their opinions of candidates.
“We have really put the community first,” she said.
At first glance, Weigel may not have seemed like the obvious choice. During his first interview with the board he’d claimed to have little experience managing a district budget, though he had been successful in acquiring various grants for his district and passing bond issues.
“Because of our internal investigations, the questions that we did with the references and different reference checks we found out that he does have a hand in that,” Zeider said, “even though he was humble enough to say that he didn’t.
“We have an excellent financial manager within the district,” she added. “We think with them working together it would be a plus, it would be a positive.”
Trustee Michael Waldron, who plans to visit Weigel’s district Tuesday, said the candidate did explain during his second interview that he had experience running and administering grants for his district and was involved in the decision making process when it came to budgetary issues.
“To be honest, I don’t think he was as strong in the budget as Templin,” Waldron said.
But his “expertise” in curriculum and “savvy” in regard to incorporating technology into schools impressed Waldron.
“One of the things that really impressed us was that Ypsilanti is the No. 1 school of choice,” he said.
Weigel’s experience with technology, creating a new technology school raised interesting questions as well.
With severe budget cuts necessary for the coming school year, would it be realistic to expect Niles to jump into the technological era and virtual classrooms? And what does that mean for teachers?
The opinions seem to differ.
“It all depends on how you do it,” Waldron said. Using technology as a “force multiplier,” he said, “you can get to more students with fewer teachers. That’s obvious.”
Andy Roberts, head of Niles’ teachers union, didn’t seem to see technology as a threat to teaching positions, saying he got the impression Weigel would go after grants to pay for technological upgrades.
“In the interview last night I think he did a pretty good job of outlining what he was going to do,” Roberts said. “He’s written several grants – large grants.”
For his part, Roberts, who will also be traveling to Ypsilanti next week, said he’s been very happy with the board’s search for a new superintendent.
“I have to tell you I was impressed with all five candidates, how really qualified they were,” he said. “The board did really an excellent job of selecting candidates to be interviewed. I thought both candidates were very impressive and each one of them brought different things to the table.”
Following their visit to Ypsilanti next week, board members and Roberts said they were hoping to see the evidence of Weigel’s impact on his district.
“I’m personally hoping to confirm everything he said in his interviews,” Waldron said, adding he hoped to hear responses to questions that would support the accomplishments Weigel has shared with the board.
Zeider has similar hopes.
“We want to see what was spoken put into action,” she said. “Does his schools have what he shared with us? Can we visually see that on this site?
“We just want to visually confirm what we already think,” she said.
Weigel was recently passed over when the Ypsilanti district went in search of its own superintendent, another fact that doesn’t seem to concern board members based on behind-the-scenes research.
“There was grave concern,” Zeider said. “And again that was part of reference checks, backgrounds … without getting personal or political we found that it had nothing to do with Richard.”
Board president Dana Daniels insists no final decision has been made and wouldn’t call Weigel a front runner, but Waldron’s opinion seemed to echo the opinion that he is being seriously considered for the position.
Talking about the visit to Ypsilanti, Waldron said, “I think it’s the final step before we make an offer.”