Photo provided - Nikki Nash

Nash could have interest in TRCS sup't position

Current interim to make decision at next school board meeting

THREE RIVERS — A person once thought to not have interest in the permanent superintendent position for Three Rivers Community Schools may just have interest after all.

TRCS Board of Education President Erin Nowak told her fellow board members during Monday’s school board meeting that current interim superintendent Nikki Nash, after a recent conversation between Nash and Nowak, agreed to think about whether she wants to be considered for the permanent position or not, with a final decision on her interest to be made at the board’s next meeting Feb. 21.

If Nash does indeed express interest in the permanent position, it is unknown whether or not the board will still use a search firm to assist in finding a permanent superintendent. The matter of what would happen if she expresses interest took up the bulk of Monday’s discussion, with the board ultimately concluding they will wait until Nash makes a decision to decide whether to go forward with a search firm and interview process.

Nash potentially being a candidate for the permanent position is a bit of a departure from her original stance on the issue. Back when she was named interim superintendent on Oct. 12 in the wake of former superintendent Ron Moag’s resignation, she indicated she would not be seeking the permanent position, but rather “keep [the district’s] wheels going in the right direction.” That previous indication was brought up by Nowak during the board’s discussion.

“Nikki stepped into the role of interim with no interest in taking over as superintendent, so it wasn’t that these conversations happened and we decided to put her in an interim role to try her out, it didn’t work like that, she wasn’t interested,” Nowak said. “I think she’s starting to realize maybe how amazing she is with the things she’s had to do in the last six months. She’s done a great job.”

Board Treasurer Julia Awe said if Nash does express interest, she would opt to not do a formal interview with Nash, citing her work the last few months as interim.

“If that’s the path she wants to take and we’re going to do that, I think she’s already gone through the interview process for the last six-plus months, and we don’t need to put her through that,” Awe said. A couple of her fellow board members seemed to agree with the sentiment that Nash did not need to do a formal interview if she’s interested.

Board Secretary Ben Karle said he could see both sides of either using a search firm or not, but added that the board has not heard any complaints from the community or district staff on Nash’s conduct so far. He called Nash a “long-term asset” to the district.

“I know interim superintendent Nash is a long-term asset to our community and wants to continue being a part of growing the district,” Karle said. “I don’t have that background of having been through that process, but still it’s our most open and transparent, and part of what we’re doing right now is having that discussion publicly right now about potential options.”

Trustee Kevin Hamilton, while saying he realizes people can change their mind and that Nash is doing a great job, said he wants to “do things right” if Nash expresses interest and still use a search firm.

“I just want to make sure, because Three Rivers has a history of doing things like giving people [positions], I just want to make sure we’re doing things right, not just giving somebody something just because,” Hamilton said. “If we have a book and we’re supposed to follow it, unfortunately we have a history of having things in place but not doing what we say we’re going to do, I want to do what we said we’re going to do. … To me, that looks like, let’s interview candidates, and if Nikki is the best one, then she’s the best one. That’s it.”

Awe challenged Hamilton on his position, asking if he thought the “last six months didn’t prove herself,” and while Hamilton reiterated Nash has done a “great job,” he wants to “be fair about it” and open up the door to other candidates.

“We have a position technically open that she wasn’t interested in at first. Maybe things changed along the way, but if we have this position open, let’s open the door up and make sure we’re doing our due diligence in getting the absolute best candidate,” Hamilton said. “If she’s that person, she’s that person.”

Trustee Linda Baker reminisced a bit on past superintendent searches she either watched as a community member or been a part of, saying later she thought the whole time the interims had a “good connection” with people in the district, including staff. She compared that situation with Nash’s situation.

“For us to be so fortunate to have someone that’s been in this district from kindergarten through a number of administration roles, I don’t know who else we possibly could find that would be better than Nikki,” Baker said. “I hope she decides this is something she’s going to tackle, because we’d be so fortunate to have that lifelong connection with the community.”

Nowak agreed.

“We have not heard complaints from the community, we haven’t heard complaints from teachers, I have direct lines to a lot of the administration staff and I have not heard complaints,” Nowak said. “How do we even replicate that, a person sitting in front of us or on a piece of paper, saying, ‘Outdo what this interim superintendent has done in the last six months,” and try to impress us? I don’t know how anyone would have a shot at doing an interview and trying to top the performance Nikki has shown us the last six months?”

Nowak clarified her position later, saying they weren’t just going to hand the position to Nash if she’s interested.

“We’re not handing this over to her, we’re saying, ‘You’ve been here, you’ve proven yourself. If this is something you’re interested in, the board stands behind you. You have worked and proven yourself, you’re not being given anything,’” Nowak said.

While Nowak said they needed to make a decision that night on whether to pick a search firm, adding that the process would likely take 14 weeks, ultimately the board decided to wait until Nash’s decision.

“Personally, I’d rather wait to hear from Interim Superintendent Nash,” Karle said. “I looked through the proposals and had general thoughts as well, but why get into a discussion about which one we’re going to use if we’re not going to use one at all?”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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