Board hires superintendent

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

The Pawhuska Board of Education voted 4-0 Friday morning to choose David Cash, a former Chickasha school superintendent, to fill the top administrative post for Pawhuska Public Schools. The choice is subject to employment terms being settled upon, board members said.

Cash has a background in the field of personalized learning. He was not present when the board made its decision.

Pawhuska board members did not say what specific issues they questioned Cash about during the interview process last week, but said his answers satisfied them.

“Please know that the board exercised considerable effort to question Mr. Cash on all issues,” Pawhuska board member Mike Tolson said, adding that Cash provided open, thorough and clear answers. “We felt strongly about the decision we made.”

Tolson said Board President Justin Sellers had been absent Friday morning because of illness, but had participated actively in the board’s process of evaluating candidates, and that Sellers had communicated via text message that he stood behind what board members had talked about in an executive session Thursday, following interviews of superintendent candidates.

Pawhuska board members said Friday they were very appreciative of the work of teachers and other school district stakeholders in the selection process. The board also expressed an interest in creating an assistant superintendent position, and in establishing a collaborative school governance approach.

The Board of Education scheduled another meeting for 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 25, to consider the hiring of an assistant superintendent, and to consider commissioning an external audit of the school district.

Board Clerk Scott Laird said Friday he thought the superintendent search had been carried out with a very professional approach, and had benefited from the involvement of teachers and community members.

“It was collaborative effort,” he said. “You all provided valuable insight.”

Board Vice President Tom Boone voiced similar optimism about the outcome of the superintendent search.

“Thank you all for helping us,” he said to teachers in attendance Friday morning. “I’m really excited about what’s about to happen.”

Board member Patricia Counts said she thought the search process had gone well, and she thanked teachers who participated.

The vote late Friday morning to hire Cash followed a busy week of candidate evaluation by search committee members and the Board of Education.

The board heard in a Thursday morning executive session at the school district’s administrative building from Jon Marie Wilson and Carol Kelley, the spokespersons for the two working groups into which the search committee had been divided. The board also heard in that executive session from community member Ladd Drummond, who was a member of the search committee.

After the end of that initial executive session Thursday, the Board of Education reconvened Thursday at Pawhuska High School in a second executive session for the purpose of interviewing superintendent candidates. Board President Sellers said he anticipated five superintendent candidates would receive interviews Thursday at the high school. The interviews were followed by board discussion in executive session.

The Board of Education then met again Friday morning at the district administrative building to continue its executive session discussion of superintendent candidates, and to vote in open session on a hiring choice.

Tolson said the Board of Education made clear to Cash that he will be expected to make an effort to get to know the Pawhuska community in an open and transparent way.

“I’m excited about his ability to get to know this community,” Tolson said of Cash.

The superintendent choice marks a major milestone in a process that has been marked by concerns about whether the Pawhuska community still trusts the leadership of the school district. That concern has been articulated in different ways by teachers and community members who have addressed the Board of Education in recent weeks.

Jake Bruno, director of Osage County Planning and Zoning, commented in one recent Board of Education meetings that he believed the community had become divided in regard to the school district. He used terms such as “dissension,” “turmoil” and “turnover” to describe the existing situation.

Asked Monday morning what he thought of the way in which the superintendent search process had been conducted, Bruno seemed encouraged.

“The school board has actually come together for the first time in a long time,” Bruno said.