Some members of the Katonah Lewisboro school community—483 and counting— want the school board to know they have chosen a divisive candidate for superintendent in a way that was not transparent enough for their liking and have planned a rally for Tuesday night to present their demands.
Concerned parents, teachers, students and staff members will arrive for a rally at 6:30 p.m. at John Jay High School, just prior to the school board meeting and community forum at which Paul Kretuzer, the Wisconsin superintendent the board of education plans to hire, will speak and answer questions.
The education unions protested Kreutzer’s hire because of his association with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s plans to end collective bargaining rights and cut public funding for education. Another community group, united online through a petition and Facebook page titled SOS, is alarmed over the process by which Kreutzer was selected, said a representative.
“We don’t understand the urgency—why did this get announced during a holiday vacation? Why does he have to be appointed Tuesday?,” asked Rachel Asher, one of the informal group’s members. “We would like more time for reflection and are asking the board to postpone the vote.” The group also cited a lack of involvement from community members in the decision-making process.
It’s a possibility that the board could move to postpone the vote after the agenda has been set, said Mark Lipton, school board vice president.
“It is allowable,” he said. “Is it likely? That’s not for me to say. Anything can happen once the meeting is in public session and we discuss the issue.”
Asher said they were glad that the board conceded they had made errors in announcing their selection of Kreutzer—Lipton said in an open letter to the community that they did “recognize that the communications plan we used to guide us through this process needs to be improved”— but she hoped they would take it a step further and give the community more time to address their concerns.
Among those concerns they list in a document released Monday night were Kreutzer’s lack of experience in the classroom, his priorities around class size, his involvement in a complaint filed by WI education unions and some of Kreutzer’s proposals in his current district of New Berlin, including a pay-to-play for extracurriculars and mandatory drug-testing for student athletes.
Among the petitioners was Emily Diaz, who commented next to her signature: “Allow democracy to be in action and the community to have a solid and valid input on what is going to affect the students and the community for the rest of their lives.”
John Metaxes, district parent, also signed the petition and commented, “The board says it considered 44 “qualified” candidates. Why did board members choose one with such baggage? The board has a lot of explaining to do.”
The board followed the process set out by School Leadership, the consulting firm retained to aid the process, which included a public forum to discuss the search, a community survey, the approval of a list of characteristics sought in a candidate, interviews and a visit to Kreutzer’s district.
“If I were to do it again, would I figure out a way to involve the community more? Yes. But it is our job as the elected board—as representatives of a democracy—to make the ultimate decision. We found out what the community wanted and we went out to find it,” he said.
The board had been reaching out via phone, email and in-person to members of the community “pretty constantly,” said Lipton. The board plans to have Kreutzer meet with various community stakeholders during the day Tuesday, including students.
The public meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.
See previous stories on the search and selection:
Editor’s note: this story originally referred to “Kreutzer’s proposals….” and to clarify that these were proposals made in Wisconsin and not for Katonah Lewisboro, we have added “in his current district of New Berlin.”