Clark-Pleasant hires former member, appoints replacement

A new member has been named to the Clark-Pleasant school board after one left to take a job with the school district.

Last month, John Venter, who has served on the board since 2011, was hired for a newly created position with the school district that will manage both communications and information technology. The elected five-person school board, including Venter, unanimously approved creating the position in May.

At the June meeting, Venter resigned his position with the board, and the school board chose Venter’s replacement after members were asked to bring suggestions of possible candidates.

Residents and taxpayers of the school district were not notified about the opening on the school board, able to become a candidate or question possible new board members about where they stand on issues facing the schools. More than 6,500 children attend Clark-Pleasant schools, and the school board is responsible for the district’s annual $65 million budget, which includes more than 400 teachers.

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The school board followed what the law requires when selecting a new member, and what Clark-Pleasant has done in the past, board president E. Curtis Harris said.

Other school boards have chosen a different method for filling school board vacancies in the past. For example, when Center Grove was seeking a new board member after Susan Mullendore died of cancer in 2013, the board took applications from residents and had interviews with candidates during a public meeting before choosing a new member.

Clark-Pleasant school board members did not publicly ask for applications and instead compiled a list of three or four residents, contacted them and selected one from the list. Jerry Adkins, whose children have attended the schools, is active in the schools and has business experience, was chosen to finish the remainder of Venter’s term, which runs through 2018, Harris said.

That route for selecting a new member was also chosen because it was the fastest, Harris said.

“We didn’t want to drag that process out,” he said.

The school district is approaching the start of the next school year and significant issues in the coming years, including increasing enrollment and the need for a new elementary school. Board members said it was important to have all five members on the board quickly, ensuring they could make decisions for the next school year and the future with a full board, and avoiding tie votes that could happen with a four-member board, Harris said.

Other board members who were contacted for comment about the process and selection of a new school board member were either unavailable or referred questions to Harris as board president.

The school board has been transparent, open and responsive in recent years, and plans to continue that, Harris said.

School board members approved creating the new position in May, a decision Venter voted on as part of the staffing requests the board was asked to consider, according to board minutes.

At the time, he had not applied for the job, but was looking for a job, Venter said.

The new $86,000-per-year position was created to fill several needs for the school district, both in managing communication and public relations and the school district’s student information system, which had been absorbed by the curriculum department and had become larger and needed to be taken on by someone else, Superintendent Patrick Spray said.

Neither the communications or the IT side of the position are full-time work, and officials didn’t want to create two separate positions. So they combined them, with the hope of finding someone qualified in both areas, Spray said.

The job was posted like any other open position at the school district, and about 12 to 15 people applied, including Venter, Spray said.

School officials interviewed five people, and Venter was the best fit for the job, he said. At the time, Venter was still on the school board.

Venter has a background working with schools and in marketing and information technology, and while most candidates had a background in either marketing or IT, Venter had experience in both, Spray said.

“This is going to be a great fit for our school corporation and checks several boxes for us,” Spray said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.