The Unit 5 school board approved Kristen Kendrick-Weickle as the new superintendent Monday evening. It was not unanimous.
The vote was 6 to 1 to hire Kendrick-Weickle. Board member Kelly Pyle voted no. Pyle acknowledged she made her vote even knowing she would be alone in dissent based on the district profile.
"I think there were other candidates that more closely matched that profile. And that was also shared in some of the community feedback that we received. And so it was important to reflect that," said Pyle.
When a new superintendent comes in with a mixed vote, some can view that dissent as a magnet for the disaffected. Pyle said she will support Kendrick-Weikle going forward. And Board President Barry Hitchins said he does not think the result weakens Kendrick-Weikle's start.
"No, because she is still the superintendent of the district. It doesn't matter if it was a 6-1 vote. There are districts out there that have 4-3 votes on their superintendents and they can still be successful," said Hitchins.
Kendrick Weickle said she believes her strengths are forming strong relationships with various community and school constituencies and communicating well.
She has been an elementary school principal in Quincy, the head of special education in a large unit district, and comes to Unit 5 in July from the much smaller Warrensburg-Latham district near Decatur. But she said the challenges Unit 5 faces are common to many places in education.
"I think with every district a shortage of qualified educators. That's across the state and the nation really. Finances are a concern in many districts. Transportation, of course. And really build those relationships and trust so we have open and honest communication," said Kendrick-Weickle.
She said she will study district finances before deciding how to address a large structural deficit. Kendrick-Weikle said she has dealt with deficits in two other districts and needs to determine district assets such as property, equipment, people, and services purchased.
"So, I would need to get a good handle on that and then as a group with staff and community members really prioritize and look where can we make cuts. No one wants to make cuts. But unfortunately, at times, sometimes that's required," said Kendrick-Weickle.
The previous Unit 5 administration has said balancing the budget solely through cuts would force a large teacher layoff. Kendrick-Weikle deferred questions about a possible tax referendum until she is more familiar with the community.
She largely did the same with questions about redistricting school boundaries and about Unit 5's problems with on-time bus delivery of students, but she said it might be possible to work with community colleges to train more bus drivers.
She has six children, the youngest a junior in high school, the oldest 26, and has a 1-year-old granddaughter. She said she likes to read mysteries and inspirational stories.
Kendrick-Weickle will be paid $185,000 a year. She succeeds Mark Daniel, who leaves at the end of June.
There were 32 applicants for the top job in Unit 5, and Hitchins said there were six very strong semifinalists.
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