Interim Supt. Winslow takes helm in shuffle

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home High School Principal Keith Winslow moved to Central Office Monday to begin work as School District 55 interim superintendent, and retired principal Pat Stineff returned to her old office at SHHS to finish out the school year as principal.

Stineff had been retired and working on a special contract coordinating the Access College Today program, which allows students to delay receiving their diploma and draw state education funds through the district to pay for community college.

Winslow retired this year and was finishing the year on a special contract. He could return next school year if necessary.

The move came after the sudden resignation of Supt. Don Schrader following a special School Board meeting on Dec. 29.

The board agreed to pay a severance package worth eight months of Schrader’s contract and buy out his accrued vacation time.

The actual severance payment was $77,575 with an additional $8,176 for vacation, said Business Manager Kevin Strong. “What it means is we’ll have less funding available as we build next year’s budget.”

The payment will draw down the ending fund balance for the 2014-15 school year.

“It is pretty typical in school districts when someone leaves early on a contract to pay a buyout,” Winslow said.

“The whole contract was worth $200,000,” said Board Chairman Mike Reynolds. “We negotiated a contract and we decided on a fair, mutual buyout.”

The contract expired at the end of the 2015-16 school year. Schrader preferred to resign at the end of his contract.

The severance package was an incentive to resign “sooner, rather than later,” Reynolds said.

Board member Lena Ellis said that, with several big decisions are coming up, the decision

“was to facilitate the direction of our district in an easier manner. It was our choice to end it sooner rather than later.”

Now Winslow, in his 34th year in the district, will work with the board through those upcoming issues.

“I truly am an interim superintendent,” Winslow said. “I’m also a district employee. While I love where I’m at, I’m also willing to do what has to happen to help the district out. In this case, this comes fairly quickly.”

Monday, he met with his administrators, and they had a laugh over two of his previous bosses now working for him.

“If you’re the boss, be careful how you treat your subordinates,” Winslow said.

Retired Supt. Larry Horton is working part-time on special contract as principal at Holley School, and Winslow was Stineff’s assistant principal. He plans to pick both their brains going forward.

“My whole way of leading is collaborative, is to keep good people around me and talk things out,” Winslow said.

Winslow came to Sweet Home in 1982 to take a job as a teacher at Oak Heights.

He remained there for 18 years teaching primarily fourth through sixth grade.

Retired Supt. Bill Hampton hired him as half-time principal and half-time teacher at Crawfordsville School.

From there, he went to Oak Heights as principal for eight years before spending three years as assistant high school principal and two and a half as high school principal.

He and the board will start tackling big issues out of the gate. He met with the board’s executive committee Monday to set the agenda for Monday’s regular School Board meeting.

He anticipates getting information about the four-day school week together this week and presenting it to the board next week.

The district will gather information about the effects of the four-day week on students, he said. Among the information will be test scores, which turned out well overall last year.

“It didn’t look like it’s hurting the kids, academically at least,” Winslow said. Another question is how it helps the budget and what the actual savings were.

The district is in its third year of the four-day school week.

The district will look at the effect on professional development, he said.

Going back to a five-day week, the board will need to decide how to keep providing professional development, which takes place every other Friday now. The district might look at some kind of hybrid calendar.

A five-day week would require bargaining with teachers, Winslow said, and he reminds that “going to the four-day week had a big effect on the classified, the people we live with, work with, care for. It had a big effect financially.”

Winslow will assist the board in searching for a new permanent superintendent as well. He doesn’t know the timing of it yet. He thinks the board might start that search at the beginning of next school year.

“We’ll have a good long time (to search),” Winslow said.

The search for a high school principal is already under way, Winslow said, and with Stineff back, she’ll be involved in the process.

Winslow and Stineff haven’t discussed salary for their new positions yet, Winslow said, but the district won’t need to pay retirement for either, which should help keep costs down.

He will work with board representatives on a contract, he said, and it would nice if they can work it out this week for board approval on Monday.