Cowan selected interim superintendent

Robert Smith

The Pawhuska Board of Education voted 4-0, with one member absent, June 27 to name Byron Cowan as interim superintendent.

Cowan is principal of Pawhuska Elementary School. He will handle superintendent duties while the school board evaluates candidates to fill the post left vacant by the recent resignation of Dr. Janet Neufeld, who was superintendent for two years.

“I know there are some things that need to be taken care of right now,” Cowan said, referring to professional development responsibilities that must be carried out before the next academic year begins.

Along with naming Cowan the interim superintendent, the board granted authority for the superintendent position to be advertised.

The board on June 27 also considered but did not adopt a proposal to engage the Oklahoma State School Boards Association to carry out a formal superintendent search. Board Member Mike Tolson made a motion to approve using the school board’s association, but no one offered a second for the motion and it died.

“We, as a board, know what we need here, I believe,” Justin Sellers, board president, said. Pawhuska Public Schools used the OSSBA for its two previous superintendent searches, he said.

Board Member Tom Boone said he had spoken with someone at Ponca City, who didn’t have anything good to say about having the association do a superintendent search. Tolson said that, to be fair to the association, it had responded to what the Pawhuska district said it wanted.

Tolson said, as long as the board is going to conduct the search itself, the Pawhuska community will want to know what the plan and the timetable will be for locating a new superintendent.

Sellers voiced an interest in making sure teachers opinions are solicited during the search process.

Boone said he would like for community members, including parents, to have a say, as well.

Tolson pointed out the board will need to be presented in a meeting with an agenda item that will allow it to form a search committee.

Sellers acknowledged the need for an agenda item, and said another special meeting can be called to make decisions about a search committee and a timeline.

Tolson said he doesn’t think it is in the interest of the board to be rushed during the search process.

Board Member Scott Laird said he thinks the school district needs to do background checks on superintendent candidates at some point.

“I want that to happen during the hiring process,” Laird said.

“That takes liability off of us,” Boone said.

During the board member comment period at the end of the meeting, Laird said he is encouraged by the direction of events.

“I feel good about the direction we’re heading,” he said. “We’re working hard for you. We’re going to do the right thing.”