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McKittrick takes over as St. Louis schools superintendent

By Ralph Echtinaw

Longtime St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kristi Teall resigned in June to take a job supervising virtual learning centers, and her position was quickly filled by Jennifer McKittrick, now the former high school principal.

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Jennifer McKittrick

School board members voted unanimously Monday night to approve a three-year contract for McKittrick, 43, of Mt. Pleasant.

McKittrick graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a teaching certificate in April 2000. She was a catcher for the Wolverines softball team in the 1995-1998 seasons. Her teams won three Big Ten championships, four regional championships and played in the Women’s College World Series four years running.  

“Participating on the softball team and being named team captain my senior year has helped to define me as a leader,” McKittrick said via email. “I began my teaching career at Walled Lake Consolidated Schools in 2000. I was a teacher and coach at Walled Lake Central High School.”

In her final year at Walled Lake Central she was the dean of students and building athletic coordinator.

“In 2012 I wanted to move up north, away from the hustle and bustle of the city,” McKittrick said. “I applied for the athletic director/assistant principal position at St. Louis High School and was hired in July of 2012. I spent two years in the athletic director and assistant principal role, and then I moved into the high school principal role for five years. 

“I feel very honored to have been appointed to the role of superintendent for St. Louis Public Schools. St. Louis Public Schools has amazing staff and students. We will continue our endeavor of preparing literate, career and college-ready graduates.”

McKittrick’s elevation to superintendent leaves a vacancy in the high school principal job as well as the middle school principal job that was recently vacated by Shane Brooks. A committee of teachers and administrators interviewed candidates Monday. It is hoped that both positions will be filled by the end of this week.

The board of education wasted no time identifying and hiring Teall’s replacement, not even advertising the job and interviewing top respondents. Board member Kelly Bebow, who chaired the committee to hire a superintendent, explained the process via email:

“One of the board’s primary roles is the strategic direction of the district including the current and future leadership. The board has been contemplating Mrs. Teall’s pending retirement, which was initially thought to be in 2020, and what direction is in the best interest of the district. Ms. McKittrick had expressed an interest in being considered for superintendent upon Ms. Teall’s retirement, and Ms. Teall had been mentoring her with that goal in mind. Nothing was promised, merely goal setting and career development. When Ms. Teall tendered her resignation in June, the board, through various conversations, discussed all the options, including posting the position and going through an extensive interview process as well as considering what internal candidates had an interest. 

“While we were considering our options, Ms. McKittrick was named interim superintendent at the June board meeting. After much deliberation including discussions with Ms. McKittrick and other stakeholders, the board felt that Ms. McKittrick met all the criteria we were looking for in a superintendent and that it was in the best interest of the district to extend an offer to her rather than posting the position and going through a lengthy and costly search. To my knowledge, the board is not required to advertise the job or to conduct an extensive search, which as I mentioned is timely and very costly to the district.

“A committee of the board consisting of myself, John Pavlik and Carrie Salladay, met with Ms. McKittrick to negotiate a three-year contract which was then reviewed and edited by legal counsel and presented to the board for approval at last night’s meeting.”

It is unknown (by this reporter) at this time what McKittrick’s pay as superintendent is. (Bebow wouldn’t say.) But Teall got more than $100,000 a year with a total compensation of $190,000 in her final year.

Deficit

McKittrick takes over a school district that borrowed $1.3 million to pay the bills in the last fiscal year.

Accountant Stacey Haag told the board Monday that the district must borrow $1.4 million to get through the current fiscal year (July 1 to June 30).

Property owners in the St. Louis school district can expect to pay 18 mills for operations and 8 mills for debt on their next tax bill.

However, Haag said 8 mills won’t cover the whole debt, as there is a $195,000 difference between the debt and what 8 mills will generate.

If that figure was smaller; $50,000 for example, Haag said she would recommend borrowing the money from the general fund. But “I’m not comfortable borrowing $195,000 from the general fund at this point,” she said at the meeting Monday. “I don’t know how long it would take to collect those funds and reimburse the general fund.”

So the board approved borrowing the money from the State Borrowing Loan Fund. “This is borrowing directly from the state of Michigan,” Haag said via email. “We will be borrowing an additional $195,000 for debt payments to be made in November.”

Additions and subtractions

The board accepted the resignations of community education director and varsity baseball coach Jason Luneack, 45, and seventh grade girls basketball coach Ali Serna. The latter is a St. Louis High School graduate and is heading for boot camp.

The board approved the hiring of Maintenance Director Scott Dennison, 45, whose previous job was at Alma College. 

The hiring of high school Spanish teacher Bethany Kisser, 33, was approved as well. She is a Michigan native who taught in Florida for four years.

Meghan Smith, another St. Louis High School graduate, was hired as seventh grade girls basketball coach.

And Elementary music teacher Heidi Lawhorne, 43, was hired to replace a teacher who moved to the high school.

Attendance 

Jeff Baxter, Don Kelley, Greg Walterhouse, Carrie Beeson, John Pavlik and Kelly Bebow were present. Carrie Salladay  was absent.

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