The Las Vegas City Schools board probably made the right move when it gave Sheryl McNellis-Martinez a one-year contract as interim superintendent. The district needs the stability going into the 2011-12 school year, and we’re hopeful that McNellis-Martinez is up to the task.
The board erred, however, in not stipulating that she would be ineligible for the permanent position when the board restores its search for a new superintendent next year. Here’s why: As interim superintendent with a clear interest in getting the permanent position, McNellis-Martinez’s motivations will likely be called into question throughout the coming year — if not by board members, then by skeptical school patrons. In fact, some are already raising questions behind the scenes.
One question: Is this what board members were wanting to do all along — to make McNellis-Martinez their next superintendent? If so, the board should be prepared for perpetual and justified criticism that it manipulated its own process and wasted the citizens-based screening committee’s time. And let’s not forget the tax-payer-provided travel and per-diem expenses for the finalists who came here for interviews in May.
Moreover, another question lingers as to candidate McNellis-Martinez’s motivations: As interim superintendent, will she rise above politics and do what’s best for the classrooms and students, or will she spend the year jockeying for the board’s favor?
Since she’s an interim superintendent seeking a full contract, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if she will put her professional self-interests in front of what’s best for the district.
We don’t begrudge McNellis-Martinez the opportunity to prove herself in the position.
In fact, that’s exactly what she’ll have to do in the coming year to earn the support of the district’s patrons (or at least the majority of parents and teachers who have the best interests of their children and students at heart). Moreover, we hope she does well in the position — her success could mean success for the school district. We are, however, concerned about her dueling interest in doing what’s best for the schools vs. playing politics with the school board.
East’s school board needs to plan now for another superintendent search. Meanwhile, we suggest that McNellis-Martinez consider withdrawing her name from consideration.
We hope her year in the interim will be productive, and by being big enough to bow out of contention for next year’s hiring, she will demonstrate a dedication to the district over her own ambition.