BENTON CITY -- Kiona-Benton City School District's interim superintendent will stay on a year longer than originally planned.
The school board unanimously agreed Monday night to sign Superintendent Wade Haun to a new one-year contract, taking him all the way through the 2014-15 school year. His interim contract originally was set to expire at the end of June.
Haun does not have a background in education and the board originally said it would conduct a search for a permanent superintendent after Rom Castilleja stepped down early this year.
But improved relations between the district and its employee unions, better administrative management and improved communication between the board and superintendent justify the contract extension, said board Chairman Tim Cook.
"Since being thrust into a difficult position due to the resignation of our former superintendent, Wade Haun has exceeded the board's expectations for the position to a tremendous degree," Cook read from a prepared statement.
More than 50 people attended the meeting and several expressed doubts and concerns over the board's decision.
Parent Clark Carlson stood during the board vote and exclaimed "Are you kidding me" before being told he needed to sit down and make a public comment later.
Others said they supported the board's decision, adding they can see the district beginning to turn around.
"I appreciate that you are giving him more time," parent Jesus Alvarado told the board to applause from the audience.
Castilleja stepped down as superintendent in January after seven years leading the district. Numerous labor grievances filed by the district's teachers union and an audit requiring the district repay $169,000 to the state for misreporting enrollment figures rocked his tenure. He will be paid through the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Haun, who formerly worked at a Benton City print shop and has a background in banking, was elected to the school board in November. He resigned from the board to become interim superintendent.
Cook and the rest of the board were so happy with Haun's performance, as were other district administrators, it was agreed to keep him on, Cook told the Herald. Conducting a search could have cost as much as $9,000 and that money can now be used in the schools.
"It comes down to what we think is best for the kids," Cook said.
Carlson has been critical of Haun and the board's process in finding a permanent superintendent. Haun and the board are incapable of running the district, Carlson said during the meeting, especially since the board didn't follow proper procedure in making sure students could count an agricultural science class as a biology credit on their transcripts, Carlson said.
"I'm not sure what the motives of the school board are, but I'm convinced it's not in the best interests of students," Carlson said.
Another parent said she was concerned with Haun's extended contract because of his past role on the board and that there may not be enough separation between him and the board in decisions and issues. Her comments also received some applause.
However, a few teachers said the atmosphere at the district's three schools has improved and student morale is up and their comments were also met with applause. Alvarado said the current board was elected by wide margins and if people disagree with the district's direction, they are free to run for office and institute changes.
Cook said it was never the initial plan to keep Haun on and he only served on the board for two meetings before becoming superintendent. The chairman was noncommittal about whether a full superintendent search will be conducted later.
"We'll see how (Haun) does in a year," Cook said.
Haun said he was excited for the opportunity to remain at the district's helm.
"Give me some time and I'll get things done," he told the Herald.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricity herald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald