Thomas Michaelson, a man with 30 years of “superintendency” experience moved to Nampa to retire after a career of service that included righting the financial situations of troubled schools in California.
Before he could even stretch out and take a deep breath he was recruited by the Nampa School District to fix a neglected operating mess that literally grew by the millions with every probe he made into the books when he came on in November of 2012.
Though there was plenty of blame to go around involving action and inaction by the previous superintendent and a trustee board that was mostly asleep at the wheel, Michaelson got down to business and began to fix a $5.1 million deficit and reset spending patterns that otherwise would soon create another.
His moves inflicted organizational pain and there was certainly more on order to dig the district out of an overall $8 million hole. Because past administrators and the present trustees had failed to recognize and deal with the disastrous finances, Michaelson persevered doing it for them.
Tuesday some naive members of the Nampa community and the five trustees — two of whom are seeking re-election next Tuesday — found someone new to blame for their ineptness.
Among other issues, perhaps, they could not stomach Michaelson’s teacher reduction plan — which heavily targeted physical education and music teachers — because, well, “trustees said music and physical education were too important to children’s education to have the staffing reduced by about half,” according to the Statesman summation of Tuesday night’s Nampa School District board meeting.
We are not privy to discussions between Michaelson and trustees (Michaelson is not answering his phone or responding to our attempts to reach him) in sessions prior to the board meeting, but we have learned that Michaelson’s last day as Superintendent will be Thursday, May 30.
Brian McGourty, a Nampa optometrist who is a former Nampa Schools trustee and who is running for a seat in next Tuesday’s election, has spoken to Michaelson. Though he declined to share details of their conversation, McGourty did unload on the trustees.
“The Board has trouble stepping up to the plate and making tough decisions. It is why we are in the mess we are in,” said McGourty, who was the chairman of the superintendent search committee that discovered Michaelson and ultimately lured him out of retirement. “The Board failed to recognize the impact of this type of an action. They failed to recognize the message to the community that we’re on the threshold of electing trustees. . . and to not allow a new board to consider leadership of the district — that is an abuse of their authority. ”
Whether Michaelson resigned or whether his contract was simply not renewed will be lost in all the noise that soon will befall the district sans the man who was trying to fix it. We hope a new group of trustees — which includes McGourty — will have the spine to face the music of the hard times to come.
We wish Michaelson the best as he resumes his retirement.