B y Krystle S. Morey

The Granville Board of Education voted 5-4 to extend school superintendent Mark Bessen’s contract by one year – moving the expiration date to June 30, 2018.

The vote also approved a 3 percent salary increase.

In favor of renewing the contract Monday night were board members Eric Scribner, John McDermott, Carrie O’Brien-Ambrosi, Molly Celani and Jo-Lynne Bartholomew.

Opposing the renewal were board members Greg Bourn, Nekia Torres and Suzanne McEachron, and board president Audrey Hicks.

“I personally didn’t feel it was warranted, but I support the board’s decision,” Hicks said.

Hicks declined to comment specifically why she voted against the extension, citing discussion that was had behind closed doors.

“We had some discussion in executive session,” Hicks said. “…in the end it was the will of the board.”

Last year the board voted against extending Bessen’s contract. Hicks said that’s because “the board didn’t feel it was warranted last year.” This is Hicks’ first year as board president. She has served 12 (non-consecutive) years on the board.

The board’s decision comes after a months-long evaluation of Bessen’s performance, which looked at aspects including finances and fiscal responsibility, how he works with the rest of the administrative staff and self-improvement.

“We have had several meetings, starting in March, to confirm where we were at and making sure everyone was in the same place,” Hicks said.

McDermott, who voted two years in a row to approve Bessen’s contract renewal and raises, said he wasn’t surprised by the split vote.

“There have been differences of opinion on Mark’s performance,” he said. “The differences stuck out in that vote. Everyone has opinions and experiences with Mark, and admittedly he’s rough around the edges, but when you’ve got nine people, that’s democracy.”

McDermott said Bessen “embodies the values and characteristics that it takes to run a school system,” pointing to his compassion and ability to “get leaders together and create some sort of continuity in our curriculum.”

McDermott was on the board that hired Bessen in 2009, when, he said, the district was in need of improvement. “We were not getting the job done,” McDermott said.

“I was rooting for the extension,” he said. “I do feel he has done a good job for the district.”

McDermott also said he wasn’t looking forward to having to hire another superintendent eventually.

“It’s a risk,” he said. “It will be hard to get someone who will have the same level of commitment as Mark does.”

“The superintendent is basically the CEO of a $26 million corporation, when you really break it down,” McDermott said.

The 3 percent raise for Bessen increases his salary from $144,300 to $148,628.

Bessen, who has served as the superintendent for almost eight years, said he is thrilled with the board’s decision.

“It provides stability to the school district,” he said. “One weakness of school districts is having a topsy-turvy administration.”

Bessen said the extension allows him to do a number of things, including continuing to work with the district’s professional staff to satisfy state standards, working with teachers on Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR), and securing grants for district projects.

“I am always excited to move forward another year,” Bessen said – but his immediate focus, he said,  is on things that need to be accomplished before the end of this school year, including the May 17 budget and school board votes and hiring new teachers.

 

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