Rainier School District Interim Superintendent Joseph Hattrick may soon be dropping ‘interim’ from his title.
The Rainier School Board voted unanimously to move forward with contract negotiations with Hattrick toward a permanent superintendent position at its Monday, Oct. 26, meeting.
The details of the contract have yet to be determined, and negotiations will be fielded by board chair Kari Hollander and board members Darren Vaughn and Rod Harding.
The decision came after a lengthy discussion among the board reviewing the options for the following the school year, including conducting local and national searches using an outside agency. Most agreed that pursuing another national search for a superintendent was both costly and time consuming, but some board members felt rushed by the decision.
“I see absolutely no reason why we would want to invest more money and time in this search when we have a solid candidate to lead us further into the future,” board member Elaine Placido said.
Board member Vaughn said that from a parent and community outlook, the timeline can be perceived as rushed considering the short amount of time Hattrick has been with the district.
Hattrick was hired as interim superintendent in July following a national search. He replaced former Superintendent Michael Carter, who left to take a position in the Lake County School District after 17 years in Rainier.
“I understand it’s a scary and difficult decision, especially given the fact that people in this community and governing board have only known me 110 days,” Hattrick said. “It’s equally scary and takes a lot of thought from me as well. I do thank you for understanding the fact that I uprooted and moved here from Arizona for this purpose: To serve Rainier School District.”
The timeline for coming to a decision on whether or not to negotiate Hattrick’s contract was forced by the length of time the it takes to conduct a national search, which takes multiple months, Hollander said.
“If we are going to do a national search, we have to make a decision tonight,” Hollander said. “That is the reason this is a ‘rushed decision.’ We knew we were going to have to make a decision because that process is lengthy and nobody is trying to push Dr. Hattrick’s permanency in a rush, it’s that we have to decide what direction we’re going.”
Hollander said a three year contract is standard, but the length can be negotiated.
“I feel like jumping into a three year contract at this point where we’ve only had a short amount of time, despite the feedback that’s been amazing, I’m not saying no to Dr. Hattrick, I’m saying pump the brakes a little bit,” board member Elizabeth Richardson said.
The board also discussed what a local search for a superintendent would entail, which could either be conducted through an outside agency or in-house. A motion to forgo a national search and conduct a local search failed by a 4-3 vote of the board.
Rainier School District does not have a human resources department, instead the superintendent assumes that role, which would put the hiring process on Hattrick if they chose to search locally without an outside agency.
“We’re asking this guy to run a district virtually; you’re running a district during a pandemic, nothing is as it should be, and now you have to hire someone who is going to be doing your job,” Placido said. “That’s an awful lot to ask of somebody.”
The board also discussed pushing the topic of the superintendent search to a different meeting to allow for more time to consider alternate ideas.
“I think just taking some time and looking and seeing what shakes down the road is a good strategy and not feel rushed,” board member Rod Harding said.
Ultimately, a motion to enter contract negotiations with Hattrick passed unanimously.
“I’d like to express my gratitude,” Hattrick said. “While deliberating in a lengthy manner, you remained respectful and I appreciate that. I’ve always wanted us to work together with respectful dialogs.”
Other district news
Hattrick reported that 30,197 meals and 1,520 work packets have been delivered since the first day of school, and he estimates around 1,300 hours of tutoring have been provided.
Business Manager Scotti Erickson reported that the district was in a good position financially, with no overspending projected on the budget. She said it is an improvement from this time last year when there was already overspending.
The State School Fund revenue might be affected, however. It was calculated assuming 890 students enrolled in the district, but there are only 870.
“That is a concerning point. We’re lower than what we projected, so that will affect our funding unless that enrollment is down statewide,” Erickson said. More should be known by December, she said.
Follow this developing story here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.