The Pasco School Board on Tuesday pushed back some of the deadlines for the transition of Michelle Whitney into the district superintendent’s office.
Board members were supposed to make their first formal evaluation of Whitney’s performance during the first half of the school year before the end of December, according to her contract. That didn’t happen, partly because Whitney was granted emergency medical leave that month and wasn’t available.
The board will now evaluate her no later than Jan. 31, with a second evaluation to follow on or before Feb. 29 as originally scheduled.
Whitney has also taken on more duties more quickly than planned as a result of Superintendent Saundra Hill being on medical leave since early November. That led the board to alter her list of duties in her contract, noting that she’s been working with them on some long-range initiatives she wasn’t originally planned to be part of at this point.
None of the changes will affect Hill’s retirement this summer or the board’s intention to revisit Whitney’s appointment this spring. Neither board President Scott Lehrman nor Whitney said they are concerned the changes to the original transition plans would affect the process.
“We’ve been evaluating her; she’s been keeping the board up to date on what she’s doing,” Lehrman told the Herald.
The board unanimously selected Whitney as Hill’s successor after a two-month search process for the next superintendent. She beat out several other candidates from around the state and nation for the job. The selection process was criticized by some district residents for not being transparent and being biased in favor of Whitney, the lone in-district candidate.
Board members have denied that Whitney’s selection was a foregone conclusion.
Whitney’s contract stipulated she work as a deputy superintendent during a transition year, shadowing Hill and eventually taking on more duties. Whitney is heading up the district’s curriculum and professional development departments, and she’s also been charged with developing a three-year technology plan, coordinating the district’s strategic plan and networking with groups in the schools and community.
Lehrman said none of those duties have changed, but the board wanted to acknowledge that Whitney has stepped in on projects and other obligations sooner than planned because of Hill’s absence.
“She’s reporting more directly to the board at this time,” he said.
When the board will reconsider Whitney’s appointment hasn’t been determined, but Lehrman said it will be this spring and be the culmination of the evaluation process the board is carrying out.
Whitney isn’t concerned by the changes in the transition deadlines or the duties listed in her contract, she said. She’s appreciated being able to have dialogue with the board on a more regular basis and with getting more first-hand experience.
“Any time you have the opportunity to dig in and make a mark is a good thing,” she said.