FREMONT — More than 150 people have signed a petition demanding the school board appoint a committee to conduct a search for a new school superintendent.
The move followed the board’s announcement last week that it would skip the search and offer a 5-year contract to Betsey Cox-Buteau, who was appointed interim superintendent of the Fremont School District in July.
Parent Jeff Warren submitted the petition to the board at a special meeting Tuesday night. He said it contained the signatures of 157 parents, teachers, school staff and other residents.
About 20 residents attended the meeting, several of whom expressed frustration with the board’s handling of the superintendent’s position.
“The main concern is making sure our school is moving forward with the best leadership,” said Jennifer Brown, a parent and active school and community volunteer.
Many said they were led to believe that the board would perform a full search for the best candidate and were surprised when they learned of the vote to offer the job to Cox after she spent only four months on the job.
“I feel as a community member I was deceived,” said parent Dorine Caswell.
Several residents also said they felt a 5-year offer was too long for someone who’s been with the district for such a short time.
After the public meeting, the board held a closed-door session to discuss the contract offer.
Despite the petition, board Chairman Ida Keane said the board made no change to its original vote to offer the 5-year agreement to Cox, who replaced Michelle Langa after she quit before the end of the last school year.
Keane said the board made the contract offer without a search because members felt Cox “fit the bill.”
“I found her to be an extremely effective superintendent (for) this district,” Keane said.
The decision to offer Cox the job was made after about 80 parents, teachers, staff members and others in the community filled out evaluation forms designed to provide feedback on Cox’s job performance so far.
However, some parents said the board didn’t allow enough time for people to fill out and return the forms, and others complained that they didn’t know enough about Cox yet to evaluate her.
Parent Sue Levine said she understands the need for longevity and continuity by offering a 5-year contract, but insisted that the hire needs to be “done the right way.”
“I worry that we will lose some key people at the school,” she said.
Board member Greg Fraize was the only one to vote against the contract offer. While he said he feels Cox would “do a good job for the district,” Fraize insisted residents were led to believe a search would be done.
Sharon Girardi, another board member, supports Cox and described her as a “mentor” who won’t micromanage.
She also favors a 5-year agreement.
“I think we need a long-term commitment from a superintendent,” Girardi said.