KATY, Texas – After a heated discussion Monday night, Katy Independent School District board members voted 4-3 to name acting Superintendent Ken Gregorski as the lone finalist for the position of superintendent of schools on a permanent basis.
Gregorski, who was the only applicant, according to board President Courtney Doyle, has 26 years of experience in public education, but despite his background some board members are concerned the process was rushed and wanted a national search.
"This isn't about the board. It isn't about any one candidate. It's about our students, our family, our teachers, our community. They deserve us to do a public, thorough, transparent and inclusive search," board member Rebecca Fox said.
Fox, who has been a board member for more than 15 years, and trustees Dawn Champagne and Susan Gessoff voted against naming a sole finalist.
Fox said she asked the board last Monday for a formal search and public input on the matter.
"They refused to do that and so the only way I have to find out what my community wants is to use the only avenue I have, which is social media to communicate with them," Fox said.
On Dec. 11 Fox posted on Facebook stating she wanted to be "transparent" and asked for feedback on what people wanted in their next superintendent.
But Monday night some board members expressed their opinion and felt that Fox, along with Champagne, shouldn't have brought their concerns to social media and said all board members were aware of the job posting.
"I apologize if there are snowflakes in the audience. This is a time to be straight and candid," board trustee George Scott said.
He continued to express his distaste for how Fox and Champagne used social media to address the topic.
"In doing what they have done in the way they've done it, they have positioned themselves as allies of anarchy and chaos," Scott said.
Scott, along with three other board members who voted for the sole finalist, said they believe Gregorski, who has served as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, is the right person and there is no need for a national search.
"I think there are some board members who feel like the process needed to be done differently and that's OK. We are all entitled to our opinion, and as you saw tonight, the majority of the board felt different," Doyle said.
She stated that they used public input from two years ago when they sent out 89,000 emails and received 2,900 responses.
"We did have focus groups and the characteristics that were asked from the board two years ago remain true in the candidate that we have currently in Mr. Gregorski," Doyle said. "We did do a search. We did an internal search first, which is very common for large corporations of any kind to do an internal search to see if there's somebody within that company to fulfill those needs, and that's exactly what we did. We did an internal search and Mr. Gregorski is the applicant."
Earlier this year, Dr. Lance Hindt resigned as superintendent amid allegations of bullying from school days at a Katy ISD. There were also allegations from the owner of a critical website that Hindt plagiarized his dissertation.
As part of the agreement from when he decided to retire, Hindt will receive about $700,000 in 2019.
In November, the board approved Gregorski, then the deputy superintendent, to serve as the district's interim superintendent starting Dec. 1. He was originally brought in under the leadership of Hindt.
The three board members who voted against naming Gregorski as the sole applicant expressed that they think he's a strong candidate, but they were more upset with the process.
Doyle echoed that she did not think the three who voted against the decision were against the candidate, but rather the process.
"They wanted the search to be different, but not that they were against Mr. Gregorski as a person; they know he is the man for the job and can do the job," Doyle said.
Gregorski will go under a 21-day vetting process, which started on Monday and will end after the two-week winter break.
Before the board meeting, Fox expressed she's concerned people won't be able to share their views.
"That's another concern, that our families and our community will be distracted by holidays," Fox said.
After the board meeting, some parents on both sides of the fence expressed their reactions to the vote.
"It seemed like they had already made a decision that there was not going to be any outside opportunities for anyone else to try for the position," said Susan Wallace, whose children graduated from KISD. "I'm very disappointed. I wish they would have looked externally. I wish they would have looked for the best person for the job and for an 80,000-student school district."
"It seems like they got what they wanted. They didn't really seem too interested in going out and getting out there and if they made it a nationwide search they could still higher from within," Brook Foreman said.
She said she was disappointed at the board in general for how members acted Monday night.
But some parents said they agreed with the four votes and don't think an external search was needed.
"I think it's pretty simple. I mean we have a great guy that's proven himself why would we go elsewhere," James Strickland said. "It's a waste of time and money. I get that would be a great opportunity if in fact we didn't already have somebody already here, but because we do it's definitely a waste of time in my opinion."
"I can see both sides doing an external search and doing an internal search, but given the divide of the district and the turmoil that's been going on for months and months, I think it's time we just focus, put our focus back onto the district and back onto our kids and get together," Melissa Crowder siad. "Mr. Gregorski is going to be an amazing leader. He's been here for two years already. He already knows the plan. I think it will all work out great."