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Bremerton school board delays superintendent decision

Bremerton School District's search for a new superintendent and the future of interim Superintendent Bette Hyde reached a fever pitch Thursday night.

More than 100 community members filled the board room at the district's administrative offices to loudly express their displeasure with the way the board has handled the superintendent issue since Hyde announced her retirement last April. She was rehired on an interim basis in August when the board voted to extend her contract for one year to allow time to conduct a proper search for a new superintendent.

"You need to put it behind you, so we can put it behind us," Bremerton resident Steve Miller told the board as he expressed his support for keeping Hyde as the interim superintendent for another year.

No one argued that Hyde hasn't done an excellent job as superintendent, although some community members expressed opposition to her receiving her retirement pay and current salary at the same time, calling it "double dipping."

"Stop it you guys," former board member Drake Evans said, adding that the rest of the board needs to treat board member Louis Mitchell with more respect even though he is often the lone voice of opposition on the board.

When the board did get around to discussing whether or not to extend Hyde's current contract, which expires in June, Board President Cynthia Galloway opened by apologizing to Hyde for the negative publicity she has received and stated "I have no hidden agendas here."

In responding to the rash of criticism directed at the board, Galloway said there are three sides to the truth: perception, truth and fact, and that for some people their perception of the superintendent's situation has become real.

"It's a pleasure serving with all my colleagues on the board," Galloway said. Mitchell then took the floor and voiced his opposition to extending Hyde's contract and his displeasure about how the board has conducted itself since its Aug. 21 meeting, when the majority of the board promised the public that it would conduct an exhaustive superintendent's search.

"September came and went, October came and went, November came and I finally had to say something," Mitchell said.

In December, the board held a study session on the district's No Child Left Behind compliance before the superintendent search issue was brought up, he noted.

"We are who brought up to this point," he said. "It was act of will, or lack thereof, because we haven't done what we publicly said we would do in August."

Mitchell reminded the board the last time it failed to listen to the public's desires, it resulted in the loss of 300 students from the district as people voted with their feet and their dollars.

Galloway responded that Mitchell was the one who asked if Hyde wanted to stay on longer as the interim superintendent.

"I asked Bette if she was willing to come back," Mitchell said. "If Bette wanted to stay, we needed to know that."

After listening to Galloway and Mitchell trade barbs, board member Pat Jones suggested tabling the decision on extending Hyde's interim superintendent contract and made a motion to do so.

The motion was never seconded, and Galloway turned the meeting over to board member DeWayne Boyd who unveiled his proposal for a leadership criteria committee. It would be comprised of district staff, parents and community members to clearly define what the district wants in its next superintendent before the actual search moves ahead.

"The biggest decision a school board makes is hiring a superintendent," Boyd said, adding that until he's sure the board is going to get it right, he's not willing to move forward.

After the majority of the board, with the exception of Mitchell, voted to move forward with Boyd's committee idea, Galloway finally brought up Jones' earlier motion to table extending Hyde's contract almost an hour later.

When asked by the audience if the motion needed a second in order to go for a vote in keeping with Robert's Rules of Order, board member Pat Jones responded, "I guess that's not how we do things around here."

Without a second, Galloway asked for a voice vote as the board was unanimous in its decision to table extending Hyde's contract to an unspecified later date.

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