Trustees decide against visits to superintendent candidates’ districts

2010-03-16T00:00:00Z Trustees decide against visits to superintendent candidates’ districtsROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
March 16, 2010 12:00 am  • 

The Billings School District 2 board decided Monday night that visits to the home districts of two of its superintendent candidates won’t be immediately possible.

“It’s a pretty extensive time commitment,” said Malcolm Goodrich, board chairman during the board’s at regular meeting.

Trustees hope to choose a candidate by the end of March or first of April. With spring break approaching, conflicts in many of the trustees’ schedules and the logistics of booking flights coast to coast on short notice, there didn’t seem to be the time needed to make visits, Goodrich said.

The four candidates are Keith Beeman, an associate superintendent from Chino, Calif.; Eric Ely, superintendent from Schenectady, N.Y.; Scott Rogers, superintendent from Rupert, Idaho; and Keith Meyer, assistant superintendent from Helena.

Trustees last week had proposed visiting Schenectady and Chino.

Instead of the visits, trustees voted to have the Montana School Boards Association conduct additional interviews with staff members, community leaders and school administrators in each candidate’s home district.

Trustees will then perform follow-up interviews by video conference with the four individual candidates.

Despite the initial plans to visit just two of the trustees’ home districts, trustees wanted to stress that the board is still interested in each of the candidates, said Joel Guthals, the board’s vice chairman.

“All four candidates are still 100 percent in the mix,” he said.

But, in an effort to reduce that number, Trustee Mary Jo Fox proposed the board eliminate Ely from the group to better concentrate on the others.

Ely, who is also a candidate for superintendent in Erie, Pa., and Arlington, Mass., has worked to distance himself from Steven Raucci, the former Schenectady Schools facilities manager who is on trial for suspicion of arson, vandalism and weapons possession. Raucci is charged with leaving pipe bombs at the home of co-workers in an effort to intimidate them.

Ely has been accused by some in his district of having some knowledge of Raucci’s activities and temperament and not doing enough to oust him.

Fox acknowledged Ely was a qualified candidate but said there were simply too many questions surrounding him for Ely to remain a viable option for Billings.

These “questions can’t be answered in the time frame the board has,” she said. “I think we would serve this district well to focus on the other three candidates.”

Trustee Teresa Stroebe disagreed, saying she believed Ely was their most qualified candidate.

Eliminating him “would really be a shame,” she said.

Trustees voted 4-4 on Fox’s motion, leaving Ely’s candidacy in place.

New Trustee Travis Kemp, who was sworn in at Monday night’s meeting, abstained from voting. Kemp was appointed last week to fill a board vacancy left when Trustee Dawn Achten resigned in January.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or657-1231.

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