COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Three Rivers Community Schools Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash gives an answer during an interview for the permanent superintendent position at the district at Monday’s TRCS Board of Education meeting. The board agreed to move into contract talks with Nash following the interview, with a formal contract to be presented at the board’s next meeting on March 21.

TRCS board enters into superintendent contract talks with Nash

Formal contract to be presented March 21

THREE RIVERS — Three Rivers Community Schools appears to be two weeks away from having its next superintendent.

On Monday, the TRCS Board of Education agreed to enter into superintendent contract talks with Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash for the district’s permanent position. The move followed a formal interview the board held with Nash during Monday’s meeting.

Board President Erin Nowak said they would review and present a formal contract for the board to consider at their next meeting Monday, March 21 at 6 p.m. Upon approval of the formal contract, Nash would become the newest superintendent of TRCS.

Prior to the decision, Nash was interviewed by board members with a series of questions written by them and questions submitted by community members from an online form the district provided. When asked about the most significant challenges she foresees if she becomes superintendent, Nash said it would be education, staffing, and burnout.

“There’s a lot of challenges that I’ll be facing, but right now it’s about taking care of the staff and making sure we’re keeping our staff here,” Nash said. “I want to make sure we’re taking care of staff, but also understand that there are state mandates, we understand there’s accountability, there’s all these pieces there, but what I want to do is review that we have the best systems in place right now.”

Related to her last point, Nash added increasing substitute teacher pay will help teachers in the long run, as a way to draw subs into the district.

Next, Nash was asked about her strategy in partnering with the business community in Three Rivers. She said her biggest strategy was being “transparent” and “involved” with that community.

“We have a lot of administration here that lives in our community. We need to listen, be very open, be very frequent in our communication,” Nash said. “Things like work-based study, our CTE program, our K9 group we have going, those are all things that involve our partners in the community, but also, we have parents that work in our community. I want to reach out and involve them in the PTOs or volunteering or career day or whatever it might be, so that we’re getting them into the school.”

Nash was then asked about out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, and her ideas on addressing those punishments. She said while there are times for those kinds of punishments, she wants to look into more restorative practices in some situations.

“What we need to do is revisit that, but I think the biggest thing with restorative practices is getting the proper training, getting the correct implementation, and understanding it’s a strategy,” Nash said. “The strategy is to replace the unwanted behaviors, and it’s a process. It doesn’t happen after one situation and then you come in and have this and you think it’s going to fix the behavior. We need to look at that as a replacement of suspensions. Are there going to be times where we’ll have to do the traditional? Yes, and I’ll be upfront about that, because that is not a strategy that’s going to fix what the behaviors are.”

She added that the number-one thing to avoid “destructive” behaviors is developing positive relationships with students, as well as creating a “positive learning culture” in the schools. In terms of possible disproportionality of discipline between different subgroups of students, Nash said she would look into that to make sure consequences aren’t “unbalanced” with different students.

The next question asked had to do with what her strategy would be for engaging with the district’s strategic plan. Nash said that even though there was a lot of work put into the plan and there were “great things” in it, she believed the plan was “not rolled out very well,” and that, compounded with the COVID-19 pandemic, didn’t work in the plan’s favor.

“It’s got a lot of great things in it that I know that we can take advantage of and do as a district, and we have not,” Nash said. “We had bits of pieces of it, but we haven’t fully gone back and revisited it to say, this is what we need to do, this is where we need to go. My first tackle will be, let’s dig into this, let’s find out what this is about, work with the administrative team, but then take it back to the building with all of our staff.

“Upfront and honest, I think we have to start from the beginning and dig into it,” Nash added.

Nash said she wants to bring in more teachers and interns from outside the area, and open up more relationships with universities in that regard.

Nash was then asked what her role will be for the current bond project if she’s hired officially as the superintendent. She said she would work with the new owner agent, Plante Moran Cresa, to make sure the district is getting what they want from the project, and that she will be involved with figuring out safety, security, and getting things in place regarding the project. She added she is “passionate” about the school district and “wants the best” for it, bringing up the upcoming middle school academic wing rebuild in Phase 2 of the bond project.

She also brought up getting the bond in a good place now so that the district can have a better chance if the opportunity arises for a bond proposal in either 2028 or 2029.

“We have an option in May 2029 or November 2028 to go out for another bond with a no tax rate increase. For me, these next six years, I want to make sure we’re smart, we’re giving what the community voted for, so that if we go and ask for these additional monies, we can show them what we’ve done and this is more we want to do,” Nash said, adding they want to be open, upfront, and transparent about the budget for the bond project.

In the community question portion of the interview, Nash said her top three goals were having safety and social-emotional supports for students, working with administration on the budget annually, and focusing on teaching and learning, adding that she wants to hire a curriculum director for the district.

During board discussion following the interview, board members said Nash did a “good job” answering the board’s questions, with Nowak adding that her answers were tailored to the district and its needs, and Vice President Melissa Bliss calling her answers “well-developed.” Trustee Kevin Hamilton said while Nash did a good job, there was “nothing to gauge it on,” a nod to his preference for hiring a search firm to look for other candidates.

Overall, the board agreed by consent to move forward with contract talks for Nowak. Treasurer Julia Awe commented on Nash and her familiarity with the district with the search process.

“We’ve been given a unique circumstance with her basically being able to interview the last eight months. We don’t normally get that and we get whatever the interviewer decides to give us that day, and, as we’ve seen in the past, that can’t always be trusted,” Awe said. “We interview somebody, they’ll tell you what you want to hear, and they come in and they’re something else.”

In other business…

  • The board held a first reading of a new policy regarding equal access for non-district sponsored student clubs and activities.
  • The board received an update from the district’s curriculum committee on a potential Applied Physics course coming to the high school.

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

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