Park Hill changes Cowherd's role from acting to interim superintendent

An interim superintendent will take the helm for one year at Park Hill, while a national search for Scott Springston’s permanent replacement ensues. The Park Hill Board of Education voted last week to name Dr. Jeanette Cowherd, already serving as acting superintendent, the interim superintendent for the 2015-16 school year. Jeanette Cowherd

“Dr. Cowherd’s experience, qualifications, familiarity with the district and leadership will allow her to step smoothly into this role during this transition period,” board president Boon Lee said in a news release.

Cowherd became the acting superintendent when the board accepted Springston’s resignation on April 12. Citing health-related matters, the 44-year-old stepped down just weeks after the board of education unanimously voted to extend his contract through 2018.

The board of education held special unscheduled meetings concerning “personnel matters” on April 7, 8 and 9, according to minutes from those sessions. Another meeting held April 13 authorized a confidential resignation agreement with Springston with the board placing him on paid administrative leave through June 30, 2015 when the resignation becomes official.

It is unknown if the meetings and subsequent resignation are related to a February incident where Weatherby Lake Police Department officers were dispatched to Springston’s home in regards to a domestic dispute.

According to a police report, Leah Springston called authorities after a verbal altercation with her husband. She said the argument started after he came home from work intoxicated that afternoon, stating that Scott Springston had been drinking more of late “due to stressors at work and dealing with the school board.”

No charges have been filed in the case. Scott Springston will receive the rest of this year’s salary, totaling about $80,000 along with more than $25,000 in accrued and unused vacation time.

Cowherd, who served as the assistant superintendent for school improvement, said she was pleased to accept the board’s offer and lead in a difficult circumstance.

“I appreciate the confidence that the board has shown in me,” Cowherd said in a release. “It is an honor to have this opportunity to lead the Park Hill School District through this transition, and I look forward to an amazing and successful year in Park Hill.”

Lee said the board will start the superintendent search process in the fall. This will include hiring a firm with expertise in conducting a national search in order to access a wider pool of the best candidates.

Lee said the board will consider an internal candidate, if any apply.

“We will continue to keep the public informed as we make progress in this process,” Lee said. “We will also seek input from our stakeholders about the leadership attributes and personal characteristics they desire in the new superintendent.”

During the second regular open meeting with Cowherd in charge, held last week, the board heard a budget update from assistant superintendent Dr. Paul Kelly. The district’s budgeting process is never-ending with projections for the 2015-16 school year beginning well before the current year ends.

Kelly said using current projections the district will receive more revenue than originally budgeted for the 2014-15 year. Some budgeted expenses were also either mitigated or will be pushed to the next budget year, such as the potential purchase of real estate for new school facilities — funded through a capital projects fund.

It’s not just a potential land purchase on the horizon for next year either. Kelly said a fiber optic technology upgrade and the purchase of high school laptops for the Future Learners Project (FLiP) are also slated for 2015-16.

Existing funds will also be used for the FLiP purchase, which will reduce the district’s cash reserve.

“We will be able to purchase those devices using the reserves, but our problem isn’t solved — we’ve just pushed it back,” Kelly said.

According to state-provided tax estimates, Kelly said at this time he believes no change to the levy will be required.