The Eureka Springs School District is looking for an assistant superintendent, but the job has not been created yet and has not been budgeted.
An open position notice was posted on the bulletin board at the administration office two weeks ago, said Cathy Martinek, administrative assistant to the superintendent. Also listed as an open position was "high school principal."
"I'm not resigning," said high school principal Kathryn Lavender by phone Friday. "I just took people on a walk-through of the new high school. I'm not going anywhere."
Lavender's renewed contract as principal was approved at the March board meeting. She said she did not know why her position is listed as open.
Neither Superintendent Curtis Turner nor several board members could be reached by phone as of press time on Monday. Board member Sam Kirk said he had talked to Turner about "a variety of challenges administratively, but those are things we talk about from time to time."
Board member Karen Gros said she has been out of the country since May and did not know the position had been advertised. She said although Turner had mentioned adding the new position in early May, he did not poll her for her opinion or an approval on it.
She said, speaking for herself, she thinks it is a good idea.
"It would be a good investment for the district," she said, and added, "It's a key strategic move to put Mrs. Lavender where she is really highly skilled. One thing we're having to look at, too, is creating revenue, so one thing she'll be doing is looking at grants."
The positions were not posted online. Martinek said the district looked at all the legalities of advertising positions, and posting in the district's office "is all we're required to do for openings."
School board president Charles Templeton, questioned following the school board meeting Thursday night, said, "We probably put the cart before the horse," referring to listing the positions.
"We posted the position because (Supt.) Mr. Turner wanted to 'test the waters'. It came up when Dr. Julian was here," Templeton said.
Turner was not at the meeting and was out of town on a personal matter, so he was not available for comment.
Dr. Diana Julian, a consultant with McPherson & Jacobson, was on the team that conducted the superintendent search this year. She came back May 23 to meet with the board and give recommendations on finances and enrollments. She said the board would have to "start watching" the district's finances closely and view the lawsuit with the state over tax revenues "as if you're going to lose it."
The lawsuit involves the state education department, backed by an attorney general's opinion, decreeing that any "excess" revenue beyond the foundation funding established per student for public education belongs to the state for redistribution to poorer school districts that cannot raise enough millage to meeting the minimum per-student funding. As a "rich" district, Eureka Springs stands to lose around $800,000 a year if the state wins a lawsuit contesting this decree.
Julian advised the board the district does not have a lot of flexible money, and she could find little "fat" in the budget. She suggested the district "really watch" NSLA and Title I funds.
She also suggested the district might be able to find money from these funds to pay the salary of someone to take on several roles, such as the annual ACSIP plans and assessment, which she said is "huge" in the state right now.
Last year the former superintendent reduced and eliminated several teachers' stipends, including stipends for doing the ACSIP plan at each of the schools.
"Either we make the cuts or we close the doors," he told attendees at the hearings of two teachers whose stipends were affected.
The board upheld his action. Both teachers later resigned.
The school district's website does not list a salary for an assistant superintendent, and the superintendent's salary is by decision of the board. As of three years ago, assistant superintendents in several other school districts in the state were making between $75,000 and $95,000 a year.