BERRIEN SPRINGS — The Berrien RESA board is holding off on selecting its next superintendent, in response to objections from local superintendents that the decision was being made without an open search.
The agenda of Monday’s board meeting had included accepting the resignation of Superintendent Kevin Ivers, who is stepping down June 30, 2020, and an interview and possible hiring of Eric Hoppstock, RESA’s assistant superintendent and chief academic officer.
At the start of the meeting, board President Sharon Kalling announced that the agenda had been amended to remove any action on the superintendent’s search.
“The Berrien RESA Board of Education will not be discussing the replacement of the superintendent nor will we be conducting any interviews today,” Kalling, attending her last meeting after 42 years, read from a statement. “A timeline for the superintendent search will be determined at a later date. Once the timeline has been established, it will be shared on the Berrien RESA website.”
Regional Education Service Agencies and Intermediate School Districts help local school districts provide programs and services, including special education services.
After the meeting, Kalling said the board decided to scratch the superintendent issue “to keep peace in the family, the larger family.”
Over the weekend superintendents from the St. Joseph, Benton Harbor and Bridgman school districts had expressed objections to a selection being made without a public search.
St. Joseph Schools Superintendent Ann Cardon said in an email that she was “tremendously disappointed that the Berrien RESA Board of Education would move forward in hiring the next superintendent lacking a solid (search) process and exhibiting no transparency.”
Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent/CEO Bob Herrera said the timing of the vote “may not be illegal, but it’s certainly poor ethics.”
Superintendents pointed out that with Ivers not leaving for another year, there was time to conduct a thorough search.
At the meeting, St. Joseph school board Vice President Kerry Wright, attending with Cardon and other administrators and board members, thanked the RESA board for amending the agenda.
Kalling noted after the meeting that two superintendents during her tenure were hired from Berrien RESA staff. Ivers, who had been superintendent for Bridgman, was hired in 2010 after a formal search.
Kalling also said that when a good candidate is available within the agency, the board can avoid getting bogged down in the details of a search and focus on other issues. Hoppstock has been with the district for 32 years.
The board did accept Ivers’ retirement, with “mixed emotions and great appreciation,” Kalling said.
She said she had never seen anyone like Ivers, who could juggle so many duties “and wear so many different hats.”
As for her own time on the board, Kalling, whose son was enrolled in hearing programs through RESA, said the agency has been able to grow with the strong relationships with local superintendents. The agency has added an early childhood education program, classes for students with autism and science and math courses at Andrews University recently, she said.
Kalling warned of an “epidemic of illiteracy” that must be confronted.
Momany, a former Benton Harbor school board member appointed to the RESA board last year, said she had learned a lot about RESA that she had not known before.
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