Carlisle Area School Board members defended their strategy Thursday of promoting an administrator from within rather than seeking outside applicants for the job of district superintendent.
Seven board members approved a four-year contract that appointed Christina M. Spielbauer permanent superintendent effective March 1. Deborah Sweaney and Linda Manning were absent.
The contract runs through Feb. 28, 2022, with a first-year salary of $153,500. The terms allow for the possibility of an increase each year of the agreement.
The board last June appointed Spielbauer acting superintendent through the current school year, which ends June 30. She was the assistant superintendent under John Friend, who retired last summer.
The appointment Thursday of Spielbauer marks the second time in a row the district has promoted an assistant superintendent to the chief administrator position.
Current president Paula Bussard was on the board when Friend was promoted from assistant superintendent to superintendent in March 2010 to replace Mary Kay Durham. Friend took office on July 1, 2010, under an initial five-year contract and served for seven years. He was with the district a total of 34 years.
“This board takes very seriously its governance responsibilities,” Bussard said Thursday. “For many members of the board, developing leadership from within is something that we had in previous superintendents.”
She said that in recent months, the board has invested a lot of time and effort to research and update the job description for superintendent to include skill sets that are needed at this time.
In January, Bussard announced that the board would interview an internal candidate from the central district office rather than seek outside applicants.
“At this jointure, after having a discussion on what kind of questions we would ask a candidate, we felt we have an individual inside that merited serious consideration,” Bussard said in January.
Since it was a personnel issue, Bussard could not confirm or deny Spielbauer was the candidate. The acting superintendent underwent a job interview that lasted about two hours before the board decided to enter into negotiations that resulted in the four-year contract.
“It has been a pleasure and joy to watch you blossom in your role as acting superintendent,” board member Bruce Clash told Spielbauer Thursday. He said the board talked at length about the potential pitfalls of promoting from within, including the lack of fresh ideas and an emphasis on maintaining the status quo.
“There was no evidence of that,” Clash said of the interview. “I was impressed by your new ideas and your willingness to try new approaches. You are well respected by leaders in the community.”
Board member Rick Coplen, who took a leading role in updating the job description, described encounters he had with senior citizens in the community who wanted the board to seek outside applicants.
“I smiled sweetly, looked at them politely and asked them very simply ‘Have you ever met Christina Spielbauer? Have you talked to her?’” Coplen said. They had no answers, he said.
“The right question to me is not ‘Is Christina Spielbauer up to the task?’” Coplen said. “The right question is “Are we all up to the task?’ because it’s not up to one person. It really does take a village.”
“Everything I have seen and heard says to me that you have earned the trust of this position,” Coplen told Spielbauer. “Congratulations. It’s well-deserved.”
Long-time board member Gerald Eby favored promoting Spielbauer from the beginning. He was not in favor of an outside search for qualified applicants.
“Why do that when we already have the best person around for the job?” Eby asked. “We really did not have to look that far.” Eby supports growing talent from within by offering administrators opportunities at professional development.
“We need to continue to help people that we have in our different positions throughout the school district,” he said.
The board last June put into place an interim management team to oversee the district in 2017-18. That team will stay in place through June 30, the end of the school year, Spielbauer said Thursday. She added, at that time, there may be adjustments to recommend to the board.
For now, former Wilson Middle School principal Colleen Friend will continue to serve as acting assistant superintendent while former assistant principal Walter Bond will serve as acting principal of Wilson. Allison Thumma, a seventh-grade teacher, will continue to serve as acting assistant principal replacing Bond.
Like Friend, Spielbauer spent much of her career in the Carlisle school district. The child of a military family, she first came to the area when her father was a student at the Army War College and continued on as a faculty member.
She earned a bachelor’s of science degree in elementary and special education before becoming a learning support teacher and homebound instructor for the district in 1998.
Spielbauer worked as a teacher for Carlisle for four and a half years before becoming assistant principal at Wilson Middle School for two and a half years. She then worked as the assistant director for special education at Northeastern School District in York County for almost two years before returning to Carlisle as its director of special education for three years.
During that time, Spielbauer earned a master’s degree in educational leadership along with a superintendent’s letter of eligibility from Shippensburg University. She also participated in a doctoral study program at Widener University.