By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspaper
WYANDOTTE — An contract extension caused a split vote Tuesday among Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education members.
When faced with the decision to give Supt. Patricia Cole a “satisfactory evaluation and one-year contract extension” or a “satisfactory evaluation” without an extension, members could not agree on the appropriate action.
Trustees Kathy Bedikian and Michael Swiecki and Secretary Michael Peters voted for the extension. President Robert Kirby, Vice President Kevin Van Boxell and Trustee Dana Browning voted against it. Trustee Jerry Kupser was excused from the meeting.
The members voted 5-1 to give Cole a “satisfactory evaluation,” with Van Boxell voting against.
Cole has two more years left on her contract, and it still can be extended next year.
Originally the motion including the contract extension did not appear on the agenda, because Kirby believed he didn’t need to include it.
“This motion seems incomplete to me because there is no mention of a contract extension,” Peters said about the original motion. “Usually we would approve her evaluation with or without a contract extension, but there is no mention of it.”
Kirby said he had contacted the board’s attorneys, and was told that members are not obligated to offer an extension.
Bedikian asked Kirby why the evaluation and the contract extension were separated, saying they normally appear on the agenda together.
Kirby said they were not separated, and that there was no extension because that was his recommendation. He added that not offering an extension was appropriate in light of the board’s evaluation of Cole in February (see related story).
“I think Dr. Cole has certainly earned more,” Peters said. “Now, more than ever, she has earned that contract extension.
“I think it would be a statement of complete support to offer that contract extension with her satisfactory evaluation.”
Bedikian agreed, and a motion was made to add an extension motion to the agenda. That motion failed in a 3-3 vote, leaving members to vote on the evaluation acceptance without the extension.
“I’m not sure the community knows how lucky we are to have Dr. Cole as our superintendent,” Swiecki said.
“I’m beginning to wonder if we’re taking her for granted.”
Browning wondered if the contract extension would have any financial differences than Cole’s current contract.
“There here would be no financial commitment at this point,” Cole said. “That would be something that you would decide later. The salary, with no motion or recommendation from the board, would stay the same as the year previous.”
Browning said she would not feel comfortable voting for the extension without looking at Cole’s contract to see if anything could be cut.
“We have to cut books out of our budget. That is our kids,” Browning said. “I am very upset by this.
“We have a motion just to give Dr. Cole another year without looking at her contract and seeing what we can save.”
Peters said the terms of her extension would be worked out later, like they normally are. He added that the extension had nothing to do with money and said denying it wouldn’t save anything.
“She’s not asking for money,” Swiecki said. “She hasn’t asked for a dime. She just wants to know that we have the confidence in her to keep her around for another year.”
Kirby said he does not advocate replacing Cole, but believes it was appropriate to not include the extension.
Bedikian said the absence of the extension on the original agenda had nothing to do with saving money by looking for additional cuts.
“You sent you wanted to ‘send a message’ by not including it,” Bedikian told Kirby. “You thought she was doing things wrong, and you wanted to kind of hold it out there.
“By sending that message you are also sending a message to these people in this community that you are not confident in the superintendent of schools.”
Kirby agreed he was trying to send a message to Cole, and that she should be aware of her shortcomings.
“I am evaluating her from her performance from last year to now,” he said. “It was based on what was said during her evaluation by board members.”
Bedikian said she also wanted to sent a message.
“My message is that I hold Dr. Cole in great esteem, and my vote is full of confidence.”
Since the board was split, Cole will not receive the one-year contract extension for now. There will be other opportunities to extend the contract before it expires.