Following a weekend of vocal backlash from patrons, Interim Shawnee Mission Superintendent Kenny Southwick on Monday asked that a proposed contract extension that would have paid him $195,000 in base salary per year through June 2021 be taken off last night’s board of education agenda — and that it it never be brought back for consideration.
“I will tell you tonight that I’m going to ask that it be removed permanently, that there not be consideration for me to move forward past the time that I have with the district,” Southwick, whose current contract as deputy superintendent runs through June 2020, told the board Monday night.
When the agenda for last night’s meeting was posted on the district’s website Friday, it contained a new three year contract for Southwick that would have guaranteed his employment a year past his current contract term. Word that the sitting board was considering extending Southwick’s contract at the final meeting before three new members are seated in January sparked a wave of pushback from patrons and some staff, who argued that it was not appropriate to lock in such a high ranking administrator before the new board members were seated and the district had hired its next full-term superintendent.
Southwick made clear that it had been his decision, and not the decision of outgoing board president Craig Denny, to pull the contract extension offer.
“I just thought that this particular decision and the outcry that cropped up on social media was really not fair for you all [on the board],” he said.
Southwick also took the opportunity Monday to admonish patrons and staff who have contributed to a climate of “ugliness” in recent months, saying that it was hindering the district’s ability to move forward.
“This is troubled time for the district. You know that. I know that. And I guarantee that our staff know,” he said. “I am calling tonight for the end of the divisiveness between administration and our staff and our community. Because it does not serve the good of the Shawnee Mission School District.”
He said he was concerned that tension between factions of the administration, staff and public could drive away talented potential superintendent candidates.
“You all know that the next superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District watches every move we make, and they read every word that is printed,” Southwick said. “This next person, right now, is in tune to what’s going on in the district. Now is the time to stop, or I fear we’ll drive away the next great superintendent for the Shawnee Mission School District.”
In remarks made at the end of the meeting, SM Northwest representative Patty Mach thanked Southwick for making the comments, and said she hoped to keep a positive mindset moving forward.
“What I’ve always tried to keep in mind is that we are a school district and that the children are watching,” she said.