Otsego Public Schools has chosen its next superintendent—Jeffery Haase.
Board members selected Haase from among the finalists to replace Dennis Patzer, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
“We’re sure going to miss Mr. Patzer, but I’m positive we’ll make good strides with Mr. Haase,” board president Renny Ransbottom said.
At a Monday, May 5, special meeting board member James Herm started off the discussion by saying he was impressed with all three candidates.
“I saw pluses and minuses for all three,” Herm said. “My personal favorite was Jeffery Haase.”
Along with Haase, the board also brought Alma Public Schools superintendent Sonia Lark and former Pittsford Area Schools superintendent Andrew Shaw back for second interviews last week. Haase is currently the superintendent at Hesperia Community Schools, a Class C school in Newaygo County.
At the meeting, board members Bryon Campbell and Mike Cronen followed Herm by speaking in favor of hiring Haase. Board member Wendy Stafford said she would choose Lark.
“I’ll agree all three had very strong pluses and very few minuses,” Stafford said. “I think the one who’s best placed to keep us moving forward without any need to catch up is Lark.”
Board member Scott Sleeman spoke next and favored Haase.
“I’d feel comfortable with Lark or Haase,” Sleeman said. “I feel most comfortable with Haase.”
Board member Donna Weeldreyer said she leaned toward Lark and so did Ransbottom.
“I tend to lean toward Lark, also,” Ransbottom said. “Especially after speaking to a couple of members of staff today.
“They felt she was someone who could take off running.”
Several board members emphasized it was a tough decision, including Herm.
“I agree with what everyone has said,” Herm said. “It is a very difficult decision.”
Ransbottom suggested board members go around and formally indicate their preferences.
“I think it’s good we’ve got this kind of hard decision to make,” he said.
Sleeman, Campbell, Herm and Cronen picked Haase, while Lark was the choice of Weeldreyer, Stafford and Ransbottom.
Sleeman made a formal motion to hire Haase, which Campbell seconded. The vote was 5-2, with Ransbottom and Stafford voting “no.”
Ransbottom then went into the next room and placed a call to Haase and returned to speak to the board.
“I’ve talked to Mr. Haase and he said he needs to speak to his wife,” Ransbottom said. “They’ll get together and talk it over, but he said he expects to be here.”
Later in the evening, Haase called back and confirmed he would accept the job. He and Ransbottom made plans to meet soon to officially sign the contract.
Board members thanked the interested staff members and citizens of the district who’d attended the meetings all through the process.
“I’d thank everyone that’s here tonight for the support you gave during the process,” Sleeman said. “It’s nice to have an audience.”
Ransbottom said he thought the board had come together well to make the decision.
Before discussing which candidate they’d pick, board members set the salary for the new superintendent at $120,000 per year.
Campbell said it would represent a 12 to 14 percent increase for the candidates from their previous jobs.
“I think we need to consider they have to sell their house and move,” he said.
The $120,000 figure was in-line with the size of the Otsego district, Ransbottom said, and with information from superintendent search consultant Tom White. He said it was about $30,000 in savings from Patzer’s compensation and the other benefits would be the same. Cronen asked if a car allowance was included.
“Car allowances are a thing of the past,” Ransbottom said.