The questions of moral, long term substitutes, moving staff to different locations, experience with grants and grant funding, how will you address academic scores and budgeting were asked by the Mineral County School Board of Trustees at a special meeting on March 18 to hire a new superintendent for the school district.
The position is being filled after the board voted unanimously in January to not renew the contract for Chris Schultz, who currently fills the spot.
The board only had a single applicant for the position. Walt Hackford, current principal of Schurz Elementary School.
School Board President Mark Nixon started off the interview with questioning Hackford regarding the fiscal side of the district. Hackford began the answering process by addressing the question that enrollment is one of the most critical areas which needs to be addressed within the district.
“We need to get kids back into school so we can get our DSA back up,” Hackford stated. “The school district receives approximately $9,500 per student and the legislature can take some of that money away and give it to another district.”
Hackford admitted that budget is his weakest area, but only because he hasn’t worked with a budget of this size, but has worked with the district for eight years on budgets.
In researching grants, Hackford told the board that there are many grants for supplies, programs and such, but not many for salaries for teachers. He had found one that would help supplement the kindergarten position, which would alleviate some of the strain on the general fund, but largely, grants are not used for funding of positions or salaries of teachers.
“Our priority is to get more kids in our schools and get our enrollments up.” Hackford answered.
Nixon gave the scenario that the school district could be facing a shortage of $800,000 in the budget. Hackford answered, “I would go to all those kids within our district, do a home visit. Find out why they aren’t here [at Mineral County Schools] and find out what I can do to get them back. Then I would prioritize from the certified and uncertified as to where they feel they can cut. We need their input. Site to site, school to school, we may have to lose programs, may have to lose some staffing. The cost of an average teacher with salary and PERS is around $75,000 to $80,000 per teacher and that is where we would have to look at to make cuts, if that is where it came down to it…it is not what we want to do is to give up teachers, but when it comes down to it. The decision must be made as a team.”
Teachers need to learn how to teach combination classes. They are struggling to teach three levels of education in one class.
Neville asked Hackford how he would improve the moral in the Mineral County School District. “I must say, happiness is the most productive learning state of mind,” Hackford answered. “Happy staff, is a productive, learning state of mind for kids and teachers. We can longer use fear, intimidation or insults to motivate our teachers. We need to create an atmosphere where the teachers enjoy coming to school so they pass it onto the kids. Stop focusing on the adult issues in this district and refocus on kids educations. Right now we are mired in so much negativism. Change the climate in our schools. Change the climate in our district…we start recognizing people for the efforts they put into it. There is no way you are going to change the culture in this district and there is no way you are going to change the culture in the school until everybody comes together as a team, and focuses on the same goal, which is our children’s educations and their happiness in life. That is our end goal.”
Donna Glazier, board member, made a motion to offer the in-house position to Hackford as superintendent and enter into contract negotiations and bring back a final contract to the board. Barbara Lancaster, board member, seconded it. The board voted unanimously on this motion.
Lancaster stated that expectations are very high for Hackford.
The audience received the news with a round of applause for Hackford’s newly offered position.