Hinson absent as board votes to accept his resignation, takes first steps to establish process for hiring replacement

Superintendent Jim Hinson was absent from Monday's board of education meeting, where the group formally voted to accept his resignation. No public explanation for Hinson's absence was given to attendees.
Superintendent Jim Hinson was absent from Monday’s meeting, where the board of education formally voted to accept his resignation. No public explanation for Hinson’s absence was given to attendees.

When the Shawnee Mission board of education formally voted to accept Jim Hinson’s letter of resignation Monday, the superintendent was nowhere to be seen.

Hinson, who will leave the district at the end of this school year, was conspicuously absent at the board of education meeting held just five days after he shocked district employees by announcing he would be retiring four years after taking over the leadership role from Gene Johnson.

As the board considered a motion to accept Hinson’s resignation, at-large member Brad Stratton said he was voting to accept Hinson’s departure “regretfully.” Patty Mach, who represents the Shawnee Mission Northwest area on the board, said that discussion about a wide array of new programming in the district earlier in the meeting highlighted the positive changes Hinson had overseen.

“It was sure apparent to me that people took the time to reflect back to see what innovations, what initiatives, that Dr. Hinson has brought to the district,” Mach said. “He has brought incredible, incredible things to our district.”

But it became clear Monday that the timing of Hinson’s departure — too far into the school year to tap a full-time replacement before July 1, and seven months before district patrons will vote for three of the seven board seats — will make the process to replace him contentious.

A handful of patrons used the meeting’s open forum to implore the board to wait until after the November elections to hire Hinson’s replacement. Tiffany Johnson, a parent with students at Briarwood Elementary and Indian Hills, said postponing the search for the next full-time superintendent would ensure parents from across the district have a chance to be involved.

“I would like to urge you to not rush the process, and to please wait until after the November elections to really begin the process,” she said. “The community, as we’ve seen at open forums recently, has significant questions and concerns regarding a number of the decisions that have been made under Dr. Hinson’s tenure. It feels like the trust between the community and the district has been damaged. And I’m hopeful that the upcoming elections will allow us to have a dialogue regarding what we want for the future of our district.”

Following the vote to accept Hinson’s resignation, though, Mach suggested that waiting until after November to begin any facet of the search process could be detrimental.

“I appreciate the comments tonight, Tiffany…, but if you wait that long the candidate pool diminishes,” Mach said.

Board president Sara Goodburn noted that when Johnson announced his retirement in September 2012, the board quickly engaged a firm to begin the search process. They began interviewing candidates in early 2013, and announced the hiring of Hinson in March of that year.

“It’s a process that takes a long time,” Goodburn said.

At the conclusion of the public agenda, the board recessed to a private meeting to begin discussing the process they would employ to conduct the search for a full time replacement and to name an interim to take over for Hinson July 1. Goodburn stressed the board would be sharing the tentative timeline for the hiring process with the public once the board had established it.