Nampa schools superintendent to step down

broberts@idahostatesman.comMay 15, 2013 

Nampa School District Superintendent Tom Michaelson said he will step down at the end of the month, amid divided support from trustees who hired him seven months ago to clean up the district’s financial mess.

He made the announcement after trustees rejected parts of a teacher reduction plan he introduced Tuesday to save the district $2.5 million and help reduce spending for next school year by $3 million. His last day as superintendent is May 30, a month before his contract would have ended.

His teacher reduction plan backed by a committee of residents, community leaders and district officials working to solve Nampa Schools' money woes.

“I think he needs more support,” said Scott Kido, board chairman, after the school board meeting late Tuesday. “I personally thought he was doing a good job.”

The board named Pete Koehler, principal at Nampa High School and chief education officer over a cluster of middle, elementary and preschools in the Nampa High area for seven years, as interim superintendent.

Michaelson’s departure comes four weeks before the district must approve a balanced budget following months of financial problems that showed a $5.1 million deficit and a spending pattern that could leave it with a $3 million hole for next year.The district could face more than $1 million in additional cuts to close that gap.

He also leaves as three of the district’s five trustee seats are up for election Tuesday, May 21.

Michaelson announced his decision at the end of the school board meeting. “With the district decision to go with a different direction in leadership I will be stepping back,” he told trustees.

The board was to discuss Michaelson’s contract for next year at the Tuesday, May 14 meeting, Kido said. But in preliminary discussions with other board members, Kido said there were concerns. He declined to be specific.

Kido met with Michaelson on Friday and told him he was “very concerned about the board approving a contract for next year.”

Michaelson, with a record of restoring financial stability in two California districts before moving to Nampa to retire, spearheaded some painful cuts in Nampa. He won approval to close Sunny Ridge Elementary School beginning next year, pushed to outsource the district janitorial service, reduced some busing and cut 4.5 administrators.

But trustees balked at Michaelson’s proposal cutting nearly 18 elementary music and physical education teachers and counselors Tuesday and told the school district to look elsewhere for the money.

Trustees said music and physical education were too important to children’s education to have the staffing reduced by about half. Trustees also directed officials to look at changing high school scheduling, which some educators say could save the district $1.5 million.

Trustees did approve reduction of 12 elementary and 15 secondary teachers through attrition. Included in the reductions will be one teacher each from secondary music, foreign language and art.

Kido, who said he supported Michaelson, voted to keep the music and physical education teachers but backed reducing the other teachers. He said he was undecided about whether he would have sought to continue Michaelson's contract.

Michaelson faced strong criticism and attacks for his work, Kido said. “He would have paid a pretty stiff price for staying around another year,” Kido said.

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