BSD board surprised by Hyde’s decision to return to the helm
December 4, 2008 · Updated 11:14 PM
Members faced tough decisions as a result of the late announcement.
Part I of a two-part series as three Bremerton school board members speak publicly about the superintendent hiring/search process.
To put it simply, the Bremerton School District Board of Directors is ready to move on after the furor created by the now-public dispute between BSD Superintendent Bette Hyde and her former administrative assistant Terri Walker.
At least that’s the word from BSD board members DeWayne Boyd, Pat Jones and Louis Mitchell, who responded to a five-question inquiry submitted by the Bremerton Patriot as part of its investigation into exactly what transpired when Hyde announced her retirement in April and was subsequently rehired by the district as the interim superintendent in August.
In April, Hyde announced her retirement at the end of the 2007-08 school year, which caused the district to begin a hasty search for a new superintendent. In August, the school board interviewed two candidates, but decided not to hire either person and instead chose to find an interim superintendent. Subsequently, Hyde expressed an interest in filling that position and in late August, the school board tendered her a one-year contract.
Upon Hyde’s rehire, her administrative assistant Walker filed a complaint with the district about the use of district personnel and materials for a presentation Hyde gave to a national educators’ conference in Hawaii and the payment of her Rotary Club dues, while Hyde was not on the district’s payroll.
An investigation into the matter resulted in Hyde repaying the district for the staff time used to complete the presentation and partial repayment of her quarterly Rotary dues. During that time, Walker asked to be reassigned due to a hostile work environment as noted by an official reprimand from Hyde for Walker’s use of Hyde’s e-mail to respond to a community member. Walker now works for the district as part of its team coordinating the opening of the Washington Youth Academy next year and under an agreement with the district, Walker will be able to return to her former position once a permanent superintendent is hired.
All parties involved in the situation have offered differing accounts of what actually happened based upon the Patriot’s public records request dated Nov. 10 requesting “all documents, e-mails, memos, meeting minutes and other related communications pertaining to the retirement and subsequent rehiring of Dr. Bette Hyde as superintendent, any materials related to the complaint filed by former administrative assistant Terri Walker including the investigation completed by Valerie Hughes from June 1, 2008 to Nov. 10, 2008.”
BSD Board of Director members Boyd, Mitchell and Jones offered their perspectives which are at times in agreement and other times are seemingly contradictory. Board president Cynthia Galloway called the questions Galloway called the questions “redundant” and offered few answers, while board member Vicki Collins did not respond by Thursday morning.
On Hyde’s plans to retire
Mitchell said Hyde has been talking about retirement since the Olympic View School closure in 2004 (more than four years from the time of her announced retirement in 2008).
“In defense of her request, Hyde stated she has to think about her retirement, which is based on the last three years salary average,” Mitchell said. “Subsequently, Hyde has been talking about her retirement at every evaluation/raise period that I can recall. Talk of her retirement stopped seeming like an impending event and more like a negotiation tactic.”
When the board convened in executive session this spring to receive Hyde’s official resignation, Mitchell said he twice asked her prior to the meeting if this was a “negotiation” telling her that “You’re not really leaving,” believing this was another method to negotiate higher compensation.
“One does not contemplate retirement lightly without planning, nor simply awake one day and decide to give notice,” Mitchell said.
However, Boyd offered a different recollection stating that Hyde had only mentioned retirement once before in passing.
“I don’t think any of us took it seriously,” Boyd said. “We thought maybe she had given it up.”
When Hyde announced her retirement on April 17, Boyd said the first question the board asked was “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Jones said after the birth of Hyde’s grandchild, she mentioned retirement in the past, but added, “I never took anything seriously.”
A question of what to do next
Once it became clear that Hyde was indeed set on retiring, the board began exploring its options and looked at what process it undertook when former Superintendent Carol Whitehead retired before Hyde was hired, Boyd said.
In terms of Hyde’s relationship with the board of directors, Mitchell said the board believed its relationship with Hyde was “exemplary.”
Industry best-practices suggest a superintendent provide at least one-year notice, a common practice in Washington state and suggested by state professional education associations, including Washington State School Administrators Association of which Hyde is a member, he said.
“If one looks at all other public school districts in Kitsap County, you will find every district, except Bremerton, received ample retirement notice from their superintendent,” Mitchell said.
One of the first things the board did was bring in Gay Selby, who worked with the district on its previous superintendent search, to explore the issues surrounding a national search for a permanent superintendent or the selection of an interim superintendent, Boyd said.
Because of the timing of Hyde’s decision to retire, the pool of available candidates wasn’t as large as it would have been had Hyde made her decision at the start of the school year and the existing economic conditions added to the difficulty of finding a suitable candidate, he said.