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Residents, School Board Member Express Support For Porter

South Washington County School Board starts search process for new superintendent.

The South Washington County School Board decided last month to not renew Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract, which came as a surprise to some in the school district and community who support him.

At the school board workshop meeting Thursday, some in the audience expressed support for the soon-to-be former superintendent.

About a dozen people attended the meeting. Board chair Leslee Boyd recognized members of the public to speak, which is not common practice at workshop meetings.

Resident Richard Kveton said he would have liked the superintendent review process to be more transparent.

“I’d like to express my severe displeasure with the way this whole situation has been handled with Mark Porter,” he said. “There’s got to be something you should be able to tell us about this firing. It’s shameful the way this whole thing has been handled.”

Lois Williams, a reading specialist at and Woodbury resident, echoed Kveton’s sentiments.

“I want to say that I feel that even in the lowest position in our district, people get the opportunity to be reviewed and they get the opportunity to repair whatever the problem is,” she told the board. “In this situation, I don’t feel that it happened. I think Mark Porter is a man of high integrity and I just ask that he be given the same opportunity as the lowest positions in our district.”

Boyd defended the board’s decision to not renew Porter’s contract for another year.

“The decision regarding Superintendent Porter’s contract was made after very careful consideration,” she said. “Personal friendships and appreciation for Mr. Porter’s contributions during his career made this a difficult choice, even for those who agree with it.”

She added: “While the steps that we have taken might not be understood by everyone in our district or unanimously agreed upon, I believe all the members of the board voted in the way they thought was best for the district’s future.”

Board member Jim Gelbmann, who said he did not have a prepared statement but wanted to respond to Boyd’s comments, about Porter’s contract not being renewed.

“I think this situation was handled very poorly,” he said. “The statistics of this district over the past three years are incredible, we’ve made incredible progress … and I believe Mark Porter deserves at least partial credit for that success.”

Superintendent Search

Toward the end of the meeting, the board briefly discussed the first steps in finding Porter’s replacement.

Boyd presented two options: hiring a consulting firm to conduct the search, or do the process in-house.

“An in-house process has the benefit of reducing costs, however, it is incredibly time intensive, so it would be pulling staff away from other parts of doing their jobs,” she said.

The board later agreed to review a proposal from a consulting firm, Dragseth Consulting, to conduct the search process.

The board will discuss the proposal and make a decision on how to move forward at a workshop session prior to the Jan. 26 regular school board meeting. 

Kathryn Z Berg, MA, CCH January 14, 2012 at 03:54 AM
In the recent school board election, the incumbents were re-elected. This indicates that the people liked what they had done. Mark Porter's appointment to this position is one of the actions they had taken in the last four years. If they had run on a platform to dismiss him, I do not believe they would have been re-elected.
Kathryn Z Berg, MA, CCH January 14, 2012 at 04:03 AM
I would also add that I am astounded that 100 people showed up at a city council meeting about a cat and only a dozen about the superintendent. Wow!
Eric Berg January 15, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Couldn't agree more. I know that when I marked in the ovals on the ballot, it was because I was generally pleased with the direction that the district was heading ...that it was capable of addressing any shortcomings or issues. The most disturbing aspects of this to me seem to be the lack of rationale for the non-renewal and the e-mail contacts between the board, which seem to be rather close to violating Open Meeting laws. This development doesn't inspire confidence. Just a note to the board...I remember things AND I vote.
Vicki Strong May 05, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Kathryn: Just read this comment this morning. A dozen were allowed to speak. Well more than 100 people showed up; it was standing room only.

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