Wichita Superintendent John Allison says he doesn’t plan to hire a new chief operating officer for the school district, a top administrative post that has been vacant nearly a year.
“At this point in time I will not be filling that position and will probably reallocate some of that (salary) for some needs we have,” Allison said. “So I’ll continue to fill both roles.”
Denise Wren, the district’s former chief operating officer, left the district last July to become director of professional and leadership development for AVID – Advancement Via Individual Determination – an international program that prepares at-risk students for college.
As chief operating officer, she supervised building maintenance and construction, transportation, security, energy management, food service, environmental services and purchasing. Her salary was $135,700 a year.
Allison said several administrators, including Darren Muci and Julie Hedrick, have “picked up a huge share of some of those roles.” Muci is director of operations; Hedrick is director of facilities.
Allison said the district conducted a search for Wren’s replacement and held interviews but couldn’t find a qualified candidate who would agree to the salary proposed.
“We had some great candidates, but their salary was beyond anything we could touch,” he said.
“When we have folks coming from outside the education world that apply for positions, we say, ‘This is the salary. This is the maximum. … You don’t get an end-of-year (bonus) if you save $1 million in your department. This is it.’ That’s part of the issue and why (replacing) that COO is tough.”
School board president Lynn Rogers said he expects Allison and board members to discuss the vacancy as part of budget talks this summer. Officials may decide to put more resources toward academic administration rather than operations, he said.
“It is a concern of the board that we are asking a lot out of the superintendent,” Rogers said. “He’s our only employee, and that includes operations and academics, so however he wants to structure that is going to be up to him.”
Allison did not say whether he plans to dissolve the chief operating officer post permanently, but that he does not intend to fill the position for the next six to 12 months.
“As I look at it: Is there a need? Yes. Do we have some needs in some other areas? Yeah,” he said. “I’m going to have to balance that.”