School board approves interim superintendent contract for Southwick, prepares for ‘year of transition’

Dr. Kenny Southwick
Dr. Kenny Southwick

The Shawnee Mission School Board on Monday unanimously approved an addendum to Dr. Kenny Southwick’s contract that provides an additional $34,500 in salary to compensate for his increased responsibilities as interim superintendent heading into the 2017-18 school year.

Southwick will officially assume the title July 1, but has already been playing an increased role in district operations since Dr. Jim Hinson announced his retirement in April. (Hinson, whose last day with the district is Friday, was not present at Monday’s board of education meeting.)

Board president Sara Goodburn characterized the new contract as an overall cost saving to the district because Hinson’s position, with its $290,280 in salary, car allowance and retirement plan contributions, will remain unfilled next year.

“There will be a cost-savings to the district because we will not be back-filling that position,” Goodburn said ahead of Monday’s vote.

Southwick said he was committed to ensuring that the functions needed to keeping the district running smoothly would be carried out with the superintendent’s position unfilled.

“We’re going to cover what needs to be covered so that you have that opportunity to have those dollars available to you spend how you choose this year and also offset the cost of any service fees that you have,” Southwick said.

While the district will be operating with one fewer high-level administrator next school year than it had this school year, the ranks of cabinet-level staff in the district had grown significantly under Hinson’s tenure. In Dr. Gene Johnson’s final year with the district, there were six cabinet-level officials, and 11 employees with the titles superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent, associate superintendent, chief academic officer, director or assistant director. This year, the district had 11 cabinet-level positions and 28 people with those titles.

Southwick is the leader of the district negotiating team working on a new teacher contract with the National Education Association – Shawnee Mission. The negotiating parties will meet in the coming weeks to discuss salary and benefits for teachers for next school year.

At the close of the school board meeting Monday, member Brad Stratton took the opportunity to publicly acknowledge Hinson’s “leadership and the commitment and the influence that he’s had on this district the last three years.”

Stratton said that he looked forward to “turning the page” to a year of transition in 2017-18.

“We’re going to have a year of transition next year,” Stratton said. “I’m excited about the fact that we’re going to have a year of transition — we’re going to have transition in the administrative leadership, board leadership, even board membership, at least in one spot.”