March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Caamal Canul to stay on board as Lansing schools superintendent for another year

Friday, April 13 —The Lansing School Board voted 6-2 Thursday night to suspend the search for a new superintendent and work out a one-year contract to move Interim Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul to the full-fledged position.

The unexpected decision came at the recommendation of James Morse of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the Chicago-based superintendent search firm contracted by the board to find suitable candidates.

Morse admitted that it was not in his best interest financially to recommend a suspension of the search, but he said he felt his responsibilities were owed to what’s best for the district. He felt Caamal Canul was the best option, especially in the wake of the district’s new reconfiguration plan.

“I thought bringing in a new person in the middle of the changes would be difficult,” he said, adding that board President Myra Ford shared his feelings.

Caamal Canul spearheaded the Lansing School District reconfiguration plan and Morse said it was important for her to continue her work on the project after hearing positive feedback from board members and the community. Most members of the board had similar feelings about Caamal Canul and her relations with the community — that they’ve been nothing but positive.

Board members Rachel Lewis and Charles Ford voted against the decision, but Ford was more vocal in his opposition. Board member Amy Hodgin was absent from the meeting.

Charles Ford was critical of Morse’s recommendation for several reasons. He said Morse was not contracted to give insight into how the board conducted its business and he was upset that the candidate selection process was “stalled.” Morse was contracted to find several candidates to present to the board by the third week in April and yet there have been no in-depth interviews in the field of 30 or so candidates.

He also believed making the decision on the night of the recommendation was not being transparent with the public — a comment that echoed his remarks made about the restructuring vote.

There is also the issue of Caamal Canul’s contract, Charles Ford said: That there is a piece of her agreement that states she will not apply for the superintendent position. Ford said he believed this could create legal problems. The advising attorney, President Ford said, understood the stipulation in the contract but agreed that the board was allowed to appoint a superintendent. Caamal Canul wouldn’t even have to apply.

Lewis said her vote against the move was because she did not believe it was in the district’s best interest to suspend the search for a long-term superintendent.

The public was receptive to the idea of keeping Caamal Canul on board. Jen Shaw, a Lansing school district teacher and parent said, “My interactions with (Caamal Canul) have been nothing but positive. There are a lot of challenges with this plan and we should extend her time with us at least until the fruition of this plan.”

Tim Russ, a Sexton High School teacher also had good things to say about the superintendent.

“The school board and superintendent are like a married couple,” he said. “Give this one we’ve been courting awhile a chance to do something. We need the leader of the team to be there to see it get started.”

After the decision came down, Caamal Canul received hugs and handshakes in the hall from staff members. “What I’m really happy about is that our team stays together,” she said. “Now we can get down to work. The uncertainty is gone, the tentative nature has evaporated.”

When asked, “What’s next?” Caamal Canul said she’s ready to tackle the upcoming budget.