WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Additional seats were needed Monday night to make room for those wanting to attend the West Lafayette Community School Corporation board meeting.
The search for a new superintendent appeared on the agenda, and homemade signs with a consistent theme, “Transparency,” served as clues to the increased attendance.
The school board appears to be in the remaining days of the search, kick-started earlier this year when long-serving superintendent Rocky Killion announced his retirement. After a months-long process that included questionnaires and open meetings asking the public what qualities they’d most want in a leader, the board announced key dates leading up to announcing a finalist for the job.
School board President Alan Karpick told the Journal & Courier last week that a level of confidentiality is necessary in order to draw the highest collection of candidates for superintendent.
"We had 17 candidates for superintendent," Karpick told the Journal & Courier Friday, "and half of those, I believe, if not more, are sitting superintendents. We offered on the (application) form a box if they needed confidentiality. Everyone, I believe, checked that box.
"No sitting superintendent in their right mind would choose transparency out of concern for how that knowledge would affect current employment."
Board Vice President Karen Spinger reiterated the need for confidentiality in a prepared statement she read for the record. Springer detailed items posted on the district's website throughout the process.
The list of candidates were whittled down and, on Nov. 15, Springer said, "the final two candidates continued to request confidentiality but agreed to third-round interviews with administration."
Springer repeated that portion of her statement for emphasis. On Nov. 18, she continued, the board reached a consensus on a preferred potential candidate. All seven board members were present, Springer said, for that discussion.
A public hearing on the new superintendent's proposed contract will be held at 5 p.m. Dec. 13, at 1200 N. Salisbury St. The contract to be discussed outlines the superintendent's basic salary and benefits, as well as the contract term, Feb. 1, 2022, to Dec. 24, 2024.
The next week, on Dec. 20, a special meeting will be held to vote on both the proposed contract and the finalist for superintendent.
At that time, the public will learn the name of the finalist, said board member Karen Springer, and not before.
The final reveal created tension within parts of the West Lafayette school community, led by fellow board member Yue Yin, who has insisted on more transparency in the selection process. Yin was not alone in demanding more openness.
Lily Qiao, a West Lafayette mother with two children in the district, pointed to other searches in the state of Indiana where a list of finalists was released to the public prior to a board vote.
"Our schools rank top in the state," said Qiao. "We have parents who are dedicated to the schools ... Can't we do better?"
Qiao, while sitting in the audience, held a sign stating, "Transparency." Near her, another attendee held a sign saying, "Support Dr. Yin."
Erin Moon-Walker, one of a half dozen or so who requested time to speak, expressed her belief that the district has an undercurrent of racism compounded by a collective treatment of Yin. Moon-Walker said that board members often did not look at Yin when she spoke, had continued to mispronounce Yin's name and, in the case of the November meeting specifically, interrupted her when she was speaking.
"I would like to thank our strong and proud Chinese American community for not giving up on us ... and for investing their hearts and thoughts to this district.
"I promise if we can't do better, we will vote in better and I call on (board member) Rachel (Witt) and Alan (Karpick) to publicly apologize to Dr. Yin."
No apology came, following a format where board members did not address any of the public statements.
Deanna Watson is the executive editor at the Journal & Courier. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @deannawatson66.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Process of superintendent search debated at West Lafayette board meeting