Hays school district Superintendent Michael McKie will resign at the end of the school year after four years in the top post.
The move comes as tensions have been evident between McKie and some trustees during meetings in recent months, with a closed-door session to resolve conflict between McKie and at least one board member in March.
Most recently, a handful of community members publicly called on the board to make a leadership change, complaining about a lack of trust in the administration, and “strong arming” in the district’s approach, including on the $250 million bond package that voters approved over the weekend.
McKie, who was hired in 2013, announced his resignation to his executive Cabinet members Tuesday afternoon. A special school board meeting to accept the resignation is scheduled for Friday evening. Trustees and McKie are expected to issue a joint statement after Friday evening’s meeting. McKie declined an interview with the American-Statesman or to issue a comment until that time.
During a school board meeting two weeks ago, multiple parents and community members during public comments challenged the board to make personnel changes at the top. Three days later, the school board met in closed session regarding McKie’s evaluation, but took no action.
McKie, who earns $215,000, received a raise and contract extension through June 30, 2019, during his annual evaluation in May 2016.
Will McManus, a parent of a student in the district, told trustees the district has “leadership deficit issues” and it is time “to move on from infighting, poor academic results and the strained relationship between the district and our community.”
The Hays school district in January received unacceptable marks of D’s and F’s in certain categories under the state’s newest accountability system, due to roll out next year. The state released preliminary ratings for the A-F system (which lawmakers may change this legislative session) to demonstrate how districts would have performed if the system was already in place. Houston-based nonprofit Children at Risk, which each year ranks schools in Texas’ major metro areas, also gave D’s and F’s last year to more than half of the district’s elementary campuses and one of its high schools.
“At best we have allowed a root of indifference and mediocrity to be planted, and, at worst, we have been deceived into believing it is OK to be that way,” said McManus, who has served on district advisory committees in the past. “I have been here a long time, and I have never seen trust between the community and this district this low.
“How do we become the district that everyone talks about moving to because it’s amazing, not just that it’s close to Austin? We can be that district. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking smaller than that. But it takes visionary and inspirational leadership to make it happen. It is time we reboot, retool and get moving towards a more excellent Hays CISD.”
Several parents said they felt forced to support the recent bond package, though they questioned the accuracy of the numbers or other details about it, because they said the district put forward a message that the students will be hurt by its failure if they did not.
“I believe the best in people, but this administration, and sometimes the board, have really destroyed my faith in people,” said parent Trace Shelton. “I see a culture of strong arming in this administration. … The culture in this district is fear. It’s not creativity, innovation, excellence.”
Others also questioned the closed door meeting between McKie and the board that occurred in March. That agenda said they would consult with district’s attorneys regarding the administrative complaint about the performance and duties of at least one trustee and a trustee’s concerns regarding administrative matters.
“It’s stuff like that that causes people to lose trust in the administration, and it’s a huge problem,” Zak Hall told the school board. “This district used to be awesome. It was great. And it’s not anymore. … What’s going to solve the problem is strong leadership.”