The District 833 School Board last week opted not to renew the contract of Superintendent Mark Porter, leaving the administrative leader disappointed with how things turned out.
Porter, who has been with South Washington County Schools in some capacity for most of the past 32 years, said the board had “concerns with certain results,” though he did not elaborate on exactly what those were. He said he felt it was more related to his leadership style than what was accomplished in the district.
Board members Laurie Johnson and Jim Gelbmann opposed the move. Porter has been the superintendent since 2009.
In a statement to Woodbury Patch, Gelbmann said it was “by far the worst decision this board has ever made.”
“I believe Mark Porter has done an excellent job leading our district,” Gelbmann said. “I may not have agreed with all of his recommendations, but well-intentioned, highly committed, people can have differences of opinion on specific policy matters. It is no reason to refuse to renew an employment contract.”
Gelbmann went on to say that the district is in a strong position going forward.
“Our students' academic performance continues to improve. We offer a variety of educational and co-curricular choices for our students. We are the reason many families move into our district,” he said. “Mark deserves credit for all of these positive attributes. I regret a majority of my colleagues do not share my opinion that our district needs Mark's continued leadership if we want to continue on the path we are on.”
Board member Ron Kath told the Pioneer Press that the situation was akin to a coach-player relationship.
"Sometimes, the coach's voice isn't being heard anymore by the players. And it doesn't mean the coach is doing anything wrong, it just means they need a fresh voice," Kath said. "I personally felt like it was time to bring in a fresh voice to the district."
Porter said he hadn’t received any formal feedback from the board until the day after the decision was made. He said there were some issues that are “challenging to resolve.”
Most notably was the timing: The board opted not to renew his contract until after . And while Porter stopped short of saying the outcome may have been different, he said some may have voted differently.
“I think there are many who have expressed that,” Porter said.
Having been with District 833 for more than three decades, Porter said he will be exploring his future options.
“This is not the exist strategy I had anticipated,” he said.
In such a large school district, Porter said it’s difficult to claim success for any one thing, but he did say there were a couple of areas where his impact was felt.
First is employee negotiations. The district’s employee contracts are settled and the groups worked well over the years during those “tough conversations,” he said.
“We brought an added level of respect to the bargaining table that hadn’t been there before,” Porter said.
Second is the district leadership team that has been established, positioning South Washington County Schools well into the future, Porter said.
“Someone is going to reap the benefits,” he said.
Porter’s contract is set to expire June 30.
Board chair Leslee Boyd told the Pioneer Press that the district will start discussing a search for his replacement sometime in January.
"I very much appreciate his service to the school district over the years," Boyd said. "It's a difficult decision."