School administrators await board vote on non-renewalPublished 6:54pm Monday, May 31, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Eight Cassopolis Public School administrators sat at a long table alongside the Board of Education, awaiting to hear their fate Wednesday morning.
The administrators were up for non-renewal in an effort trim more than $500,000 from next year’s budget.
The board voted to consider Athletic Director Bob Guse and Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School Principal Tony Habra for non-renewal at the morning meeting at Red Brick School. The board will vote on June 14 whether Guse or Habra will be laid off.
This decision came after more than five hours of closed session discussion by the board Monday night that went into the early morning hours of Tuesday, causing the conclusion of the meeting to be moved to Wednesday. During the closed session, each of the administrators gave presentations on why they should keep their jobs.
The public portion of the board meeting Monday night featured parents and Cassopolis residents offering support for Guse, RBJSHS assistant principal Hiawatha Francisco, Sam Adams Elementary principal Dee Voss and Squires Elementary principal Tracy Hertsel.
There was heated discussion by the board on Wednesday before the vote on whether to consider Habra for non-renewal.
Trustee Scott Ward argued that Habra should be the one to be laid off.
“I have gotten eight phone calls from staff members recently saying they are not happy with their leader,” Ward said, adding that the staff and students feel “intimidated” by Habra.
Ward also said Habra is the highest paid administrator, so it would be most cost effective to not renew his contract.
Trustee George Calvert came to Habra’s defense.
“I believe he is the most intelligent guy in our system,” Calvert said. “You want to get rid of him because he’s not warm and fuzzy. If we vote Tony out, we are voting our high school for mediocrity.”
Secretary Susan Horstmann said there is a “glut of administrators” at the high school and Habra should be the one to go.
Superintendent Gregory Weatherspoon’s recommendation to the board is to keep Habra in his current position and not renew Guse’s contract. He said then Hertsel could move from his position as principal at Squires, which will no longer exist after the renovation of Sam Adams, to the athletic director position.
Several board members said they have been losing sleep over making these tough decisions.
“It’s been gut-wrenching,” Weatherspoon said.
Other business at the Monday board meeting included voting to not sign the Race to the Top Phase II Memo of Understanding. Also Monday, the board voted to lay off one Professional Education Services Group clerical staff member, one Cassopolis Public Schools clerical staff member, two custodial staff members and one elementary school instructional staff member.