Four former Farmington Public Schools Board of Education members spoke during public comment at Tuesday’s school board meeting, urging trustees to keep Dr. George Heitsch employed while looking for his replacement.
However, current officials say there is not – and never has been – a plan to fire Heitsch.
Howard Wallach said he, Sheilah Clay, Priscilla Brouillette, and Frank Reid had concerns about the “possible early release of Dr. Heitsch.” Among them, they’ve worked on six superintendent searches and have a combined 57 years of service, he said.
Wallach and Clay left in 2016; Reid and Brouillette, in 2014.
“I believe you’d be losing an incredibly valuable mentor to anyone currently on staff who might be interested in applying for the position,” Wallach said. Appointing an interim superintendent from among current staff, he said, would diminish the pool of applicants, as others would see that person as “superintendent in waiting.”
Clay said that “discord and disrespect” between the board and superintendent “impacts not only the district, but the community. Potential candidates are looking at how the superintendent is being treated by the board.”
Brouillette said “hiring top talent is absolutely critical to our success as a district and our success as a community.” Reid encouraged trustees to hire a search firm, and said letting Heitsch go would be a waste of talent.
“To sideline this person for half a year makes no sense and will not be viewed kindly by the community,” he said.
‘No discussion of removing this man’
District resident Joe O’Connor said he was made aware before the last board meeting of a vote to remove Dr. Heitsch, but said the vote “never came up.” He accused trustees Terry Johnson, Angie Smith, and Pam Green of trying to oust Heitsch, a charge all three denied.
Smith admitted to saying in the hall outside the board room that “Dr. Heitsch must go.”
“Did that mean tonight? No. Does it mean today? No. Does it mean tomorrow? No. I expect Dr. Heitsch to stay until June and to clean up what’s going on in this community,” she said.
“I don’t know where all of this is coming from,” Johnson said. “There was no discussion of removing this man or kicking him out of office.”
Green was appointed in December to fill a vacant seat, and on Tuesday took her oath of office for the six-year term she won in November. She said she met with Heitsch, but there was no discussion about him leaving.
“I told Dr. Heitsch very frankly that he needed to develop a succession plan that was extremely transparent and open as he turned over responsibilities to other employees, so that our district could function to the betterment of our children and our staff,” she said.
Board president Terri Weems allowed the three to respond to O’Connor’s comments but said officials “generally do not and should not have a direct dialogue with community members.”
“Although it may not feel nice,” she added, “it is very good to hear what’s going on in the community.”