By JACKIE STARK
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE - With a unanimous vote Wednesday evening, the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education appointed current Bothwell Middle School Principal Bill Saunders as the district's interim superintendent.
"I'm very grateful and appreciate the opportunity," Saunders said while addressing the board. "I think you guys all feel like I do. We live in the best community and work for the best school system. I can't be more proud of ... the teachers and support staff, fellow administrators and people I've had a chance to work with in my five years so far as Bothwell principal ... I look forward to carrying on the great traditions that we have here in Marquette Area Public Schools."
Saunders will take the interim position July 1, after current MAPS Superintendent Deb Veiht leaves to take her newest role as the superintendent of the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Services Agency.
A motion was also made to reinstate Saunders as the Bothwell principal upon completion of his one-year appointment as interim superintendent.
Veiht said this morning a one-year interim principal will be selected to fill in during Saunders' absence.
The board also voted 5-1 to accept Veiht's resignation, effective June 30.
In a show of support for Veiht, trustee Jean Hetrick cast the lone dissenting vote.
"I would like to congratulate both of the administrators, Mrs. Veiht as she moves on and I really feel it's a loss to Marquette Public with her knowledge of the curriculum," Hetrick said during board member comments at the end of the meeting. "I think it's a plus for MARESA. And my condolences to the staff at Bothwell, but very happy to have Mr. Saunders move forward."
Board President Rich Rossway also congratulated Veiht on her new position.
"Superintendents' jobs are tough jobs. It's not always smooth sailing, but I think you've done a great job for our school district and I'm glad that at least we'll continue our relationship in your role as the MARESA," Rossway said.
Rossway said after meeting to discuss a superintendent search, the board felt there wasn't enough time to conduct a full search before Veiht left, and that the cost would also be unwelcome.
"We felt we were not able to - or at least not willing to - absorb that cost at this time," Rossway said, adding that the recent MARESA superintendent search likely thinned the pool of applicants if MAPS were to conduct its own search.
"We have some high quality, high level administrators willing to serve on behalf of the board, so we were very fortunate to have high quality candidates like Mr. Saunders step forward, ad we felt that a one year appointment was really appropriate for us so that we could focus on the issues at hand."
Saunders said he will spend his year working on several big issues the district faces, including the district's upcoming operating millage renewal request, which will appear on August's ballot.
"We have got to get the millage passed in August, first and foremost," Saunders said. "It's a key to the success of the district.
"We also have some reconfiguration issues ... I'm in a building that's been highly affected," he added. "When I first got in (as Bothwell principal) it was a 6-8 middle school, then it was a 5-8 middle school, then it was a 4-8 middle school."
Saunders said part of the problem is the district has lost sight of its grade alignment philosophy, and he's hoping to establish a more permanent alignment in the next year as we he works with the district's strategic planning committees.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.