NEW MARKET — It likely will be months before Southmont Schools will have a new, permanent leader at the helm.
However, school board members voted 5-1 Monday to hire Dr. Carrie Milner as the district’s interim superintendent. Board member Jake Watson cast the dissenting vote and board member Kyle Blaydes was absent.
Milner is no stranger to the South district or to the position as interim superintendent. She previously served South schools as interim superintendent after Dr. Shawn Greiner resigned in January 2022 after nine years of service. Greiner resigned to take the superintendent’s position at West Lafayette Schools. Milner served the South district until June 2022 when the school board hired Dr. Chad Cripe. He resigned from his position six weeks ago.
Milner has been serving as interim superintendent at North Putnam Schools since August. However, that school board is expected to name a permanent superintendent this week.
Milner previously served nine-plus years at the helm at Cloverdale. She retired from there in the fall of 2014 and has since served in an interim capacity at several districts.
Prior to the board’s vote on Milner as interim superintendent, retired business teacher Cindy Bannon and board member Jake Watson each shared their concerns about the corporation paying for two superintendents, especially when both believe Mike Tricker, the district’s current operations director, should be considered for the role.
“We have someone in this corporation who carries the credentials, the education, the certification, the experience, a number of years of experience at the administrative level,” Bannon said. “My concern is we have spent so much money already; I do not understand why he was not put in place as our interim superintendent until at least the end of the school year ... We have an asset in place that is proven, effective, loyal, and committed to Southmont students and staff ... I think you should let him prove it.”
Watson also believes Tricker should have been considered as interim superintendent based on his credentials, and added that the move would be fiscally responsible.
Per Cripe’s contract, the South district must pay his $136,000 salary, continue to make contributions to the Indiana State Retirement Fund and provide $6,800 to Cripe’s retirement plan. He also remains eligible on the corporation’s health insurance plan and the corporation continues to pay his health insurance premiums.
“Mr. Tricker has gone above and beyond his current job description,” Watson said. “He’s done these extra duties well and he continues to do so even after the agenda for tonight was posted ... Mr. Tricker has been a part of the Mountie family for a long time, and everything he does, he does for the betterment of the Southmont School Corporation. There is no one who loves South Montgomery as much as Mr. Tricker.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that we would not only have someone who loves our district, but we also would save a lot of money by not paying an outside person. We need to be fiscally responsible as a school board, and paying two superintendents, Dr. Cripe and potentially Dr. Milner the amount we are about to is not prudent. I feel like we should give Mr. Tricker the opportunity to serve as interim and at the same time be fiscally responsible to our community.”
Milner’s contract with the corporation will be a daily rate based on the extent of the work and whether that work was completed in office or done remotely.
The board also voted 6-0 to use Administrative Services to begin its search for a permanent superintendent. Board president Daryl Hutson announced a company representative will meet with board members in December during an executive session.
The official application for the superintendent’s position is expected to be posted Jan. 1, 2024. Hutson added that the process to name a new superintendent will take at least three months.
Board member Julie Hess shared that past boards have used different approaches when hiring a leader. One approach, used when the board hired Greiner, included a series of public meetings to allow for comments and concerns. A second approach involved using guidance from a state doctoral program and surveying multiple community stakeholders.
Hutson stressed the board hasn’t decided which approach they will take moving forward.
Eric Brewer, a retired district administrator who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, encourages the board to seek input from the public, parents and the community in the search.
“It’s not about my kid. It’s not about your kid. It’s about all kids,” Brewer said. “I really believe that if we don’t keep that perspective in mind, we are going to continue with the experiences we’ve had. I look forward to a search committee, the openness and possibility of people being involved in that committee so that it is not just a select group choosing someone. I think it needs to be a community decision.”
In personnel matters, the board:
• Hired Hannah Crosby as an instructional aide at New Market Elementary, and Heather Wilkinson as an instructional assistant at Southmont High School.
• Approved the following stipends: Kayla Datzman, junior high cheerleader sponsor for winter 2022-23, $750, and $1,500 for fall/winter; Kelsey Feese, senior high Royal Ambassadors, $427; Rachel Welliver, varsity assistant wrestling co-coach, $1,000; Laine Frazee, varsity assistant wrestling co-coach and junior high wrestling coach, $1,000; Dan Chadd, freshman boys basketball co-coach, $1,000; Clay Buck, freshman boys basketball co-coach, $1,000; and Kyle Davis, volunteer junior high boys basketball coach.
In other business, the board:
• Voted 6-0 to ratify the 2023-2024 master agreement with the South Montgomery Community Education Association. Hutson and fellow board member Eric Mason offered gratitude to all who were involved in the processs to reach the agreement. The agreement is available for viewing on the corporation’s website.
• Recognized October Students and Staff of the Month from each school. Honorees from Ladoga Elementary are fourth grader Payton (no last name given) and kindergarten teacher Hope Lighty; from New Market Elementary, first grader Jackson Gray and Title 1 teacher Jennifer Jeffers; from Walnut Elementary, student Cate Barry and second grade teacher Erin Barry; from the junior high, sixth grader Allison Largent and special education teacher Taylor Zarse; and from the high school, Jessica Bradley and agriculture teacher Erin Gilley.
• Approved a Girls Who Code Club at the junior high.
• Approved a trip for FFA members to the Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 11-15.
• Appointed Jennifer Gilbert and Trent Smaltz to the Ladoga-Clark Township Public Library Board.
• Approved administrative and non-certified raises.
• Discussed changing fall break on the 2024-25 school calendar. The proposal is to change the break to Oct. 21-25, 2024, so that the corporation calendar aligns with the other two county school districts as well as the career and technical education program. Board members are expected to take action at the December meeting.
The next board meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Dec. 11 in the corporation board room.