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Jeffco Schools board of education denied the hiring of Executive Employee Relations candidate Nicole Tuescher by a 3-2 vote at the Tuesday, Jan. 16, meeting.
President Ken Witt, First Vice President Julie Williams and Secretary John Newkirk voted against the hiring after a board discussion about philosophical ideals, legal counsel, need and urgency.
“We need to empower the incoming superintendent, to fill key positions that are vacant presently,” Witt said following the meeting. “We have both adequate legal counsel for the district as well as employee relations that can't be covered up by the HR (human resources) department adequately in the interim.”
Prior to the discussion about the executive director appointment, Newkirk made a motion to move the item to an executive session, which was met with disapproval by First Vice President Lesley Dahlkemper and Board Treasurer Jill Fellman, as well as remarks and boos from the audience.
“We have a CEO in our superintendent who leads our organization and identifies the best talent to meet the needs to continue to drive this district forward,” Dahlkemper said. “I would recommend that any conversation that is had, be had publicly, if there are concerns the board has, we address those and are public about it.”
The motion to go to executive session failed 3-2 with Dahlkemper and Fellman opposed. Two-thirds majority approval is required to enter an item into executive session.
“I would also like to remind us all, several hours ago we heard testimony from Lisa Elliot (executive director of the Jefferson County Education Association), saying how important and critical this position is, that we need to act on it and that it is critical that we move now,” Fellman said.
Throughout the discussion, Witt, Williams and Newkirk raised concerns about making key employee decisions without the opinion of a new superintendent expected to be hired later this year and concerns about the need for an urgent, additional aspect of legal counsel in the district.
Resigning Superintendent Cindy Stevenson will complete her tenure with the district June 30, and the process to hire a new superintendent is ongoing.
“We've had excellent representation over the years from Caplan and Earnest,” Williams said. “Why can't we do a temporary hire, with Earnest and Caplan to continue that representation until a new superintendent comes ... and then the new superintendent can choose who she wants.”
Stevenson addressed their concerns and informed the board about the roles of the position and reminded the board this position is a crucial part of the JeffCo school district framework.
“What I can tell you is that I've been doing this job for 12 years, I consider both departments essential,” Stevenson said. “You've heard from our associations earlier, they consider it essential, it really is part of the glue that makes Jeffco a great organization.”
Following the discussion, the board voted to not hire the candidate for the executive director in favor of allowing time for the new superintendent the opportunity to weigh in on the discussion and use existing representation and staff in the interim.
The audience was silent following the vote.
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