Board to offer Espe superintendent post

Princeton interim superintendent Julia Espe is pictured here at a January 2013 school board meeting.

Princeton interim superintendent Julia Espe is pictured here at a January 2013 school board meeting.

The Princeton School District’s newest superintendent will have a familiar face.
The school board voted Tuesday, March 5 to offer its superintendent position to Dr. Julia Espe, the district’s current interim superintendent. Espe joined the district in January after the resignation of Richard Lahn, who took a similar job in Alexandria.
The offer came a week after the board failed to invite Espe to interview for the superintendent position at a February 26 meeting that included seven different motions — two failed, three were withdrawn by the board member making the motion, and two motions died for the lack of a second.
On February 26, board members Chuck Nagle, Jeremy Miller and Chad Young took a stand against abandoning the district’s superintendent search plan that was to include interviewing candidates for the position on Tuesday, March 5. The district then canceled the interviews. The board then set a special meeting to discuss offering Espe the permanent position for the night of March 5 — the same date on which the board was to interview its superintendent candidates.
The Tuesday, March 5 meeting came with its own drama. Two motions were made, one motion was tabled, and tempers flared among some school board members.
The meeting opened with Espe receiving glowing reviews for the work she has done in the district since January 4.
“I feel very comfortable having Julia as our superintendent. She brings some rare qualities to the table,” said Deb Ulm, school board chair.
Ulm shared how, as a long time school board member, she has worked with every superintendent since the 1990s and Espe ranked among the best.
Nagle said he thinks highly of the interim superintendent.
“It’s clear she makes decisions based on fact,” Nagle said.
Added Chad Young, “She has done quite a job and continues to show us what a good, quality candidate she is.”
“I think she’s top notch,” Young said.
Howard Vaillancourt, another longtime school board member, said over the years he has seen some superintendents who are good and others who were encouraged to move on.
“I’m very much pleased at this point with who’s running our ship,” Vaillancourt said of Espe.
With that, Nagle made a motion to enter into negotiations with Espe on a three year contract. Vaillancourt seconded the motion.
Jeremy Miller then questioned why the school board would offer Espe a contract after nine weeks on the job instead near the end of her six-month contract when the board could evaluate her performance for at least another three months. Other board members didn’t appear in favor of dragging the process out until summer.
“We have a gem right here and we should move in the right direction. I recommend offering (Espe) the permanent position,” Vaillancourt said.
Ulm then called for a vote. Vaillancourt went first and cast a vote in favor of entering into contract negotiations with Espe.
But when it came time for Craig Johnson to vote, he moved to table the motion. Johnson said he wanted the motion tabled because Nagle was changing the wording of his motion and it was beginning to not make sense. Nagle, Johnson said, changed the wording of his motion to fit the discussion of the board members. By a 4-3 vote, the motion to negotiate a contract with Espe was tabled. Vaillancourt, Johnson, Ulm and Young voted to table the measure, Nagle and Miller opposed the tabling and Eric Minks abstained.
Johnson then made a motion to offer the permanent superintendent position to Espe. That motion passed with Young, Ulm, Vaillancourt and Johnson voting in favor of the motion.

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