The search continues for a new superintendent of Spotsylvania County schools, School Board Chair Kirk Twigg said during Monday’s School Board meeting.
Twigg officially introduced new interim superintendent Kelly Guempel to the public early in the meeting. Guempel has been principal of Spotsylvania High School for four years and was appointed interim superintendent June 21.
“[Guempel] has accepted the role of interim superintendent indefinitely, while our search continues,” Twigg said Monday.
According to the timeline approved in May, the board had anticipated naming a new permanent division leader as early as July 7.
The board held a special meeting in closed session on Friday to “discuss the two finalists for the superintendent position,” according to the agenda, but came out of the 90-minute closed session having made no decision.
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“Deliberations are continuing,” Twigg announced Friday. “We did not make an official determination/election regarding the superintendent, but we the School Board are continuing deliberations and a decision remains forthcoming. We made some important progress and it won’t be long.”
At Monday’s meeting, the board heard an update on the number of vacant positions the human resources office is trying to fill in the month before the school year begins.
Human Resources Director Amy Williams said there are 285 vacancies in the division—151 open licensed teacher positions; 100 other classified positions such as paraprofessionals, school nurses and bookkeepers; and 34 openings in the transportation department.
Williams said the areas of greatest need are K–5 classroom teachers, with 58 still needed to fill all vacancies; special education at all levels; and science, math and English secondary teachers.
There is also a recruitment effort for substitute teachers, Williams said.
The division has filled 265 licensed positions so far this year.
In his comments, Guempel acknowledged that “we have a lot of positions to fill,” but said staff are “giving everything they have trying to fill these positions.”
Twigg said during his board member comments that the number of open teaching positions—151—is “a good number” and that the division has “embarked on what I tell myself is a new beginning.”
“We’re getting the backbone restructured in this county,” he said. “People are creeping in wanting to work here.”
He continued to say that, “a new superintendent is just around the corner, and then you will see leadership beyond measure.”
Board members April Gillespie and Rabih Abuismail in their comments also asked the community to focus on the upcoming school year, rather than the tensions that have plagued the board since January.
Those tensions surfaced again during public comments, when Twigg paused the proceedings to ask how many of the speakers who had not yet addressed the board planned to talk about the board’s behavior.
After several people raised their hands, Twigg said he would allow them to speak but “you will not talk about the behavior of the board.”
He then attempted to call for a recess to consult the board’s attorney before permitting the last two speakers who had signed up to address the board.
As some in the audience grew angry, Gillespie cited School Board policy BDDE, which governs public participation at meetings and states, “When there is a topic of great public interest and a large group of citizens desiring to speak on the same topic, the Board Chair may exercise discretion to allow no more than five speakers address the Board on that topic.”
Board members Nicole Cole, Dawn Shelley and Lorita Daniels said the chairman should state before public comments begin that he or she plans to limit the number of speakers on one topic, rather than cutting comments short when speakers have already been acknowledged.
“While that has always been in the policy, it was never used because this board, at least in the past, wanted to allow everyone to have their opportunity to speak,” Shelley said. “I would say at the last [regular] meeting, five or more people spoke about Mrs. Cole, but you didn’t cut it off then. So why now? Mr. Twigg, I’m just going to say it doesn’t look good.”
In the end, Twigg allowed public comments to continue unrestricted.