Perry County schools replace superintendent

Thursday, September 13, 2001

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- The school board of the financially strapped Perry County School District demoted superintendent Stephen Doerr and replaced him with a high school principal.

Carolyn Pontillas, board president, said someone is needed with the skills to lead the district through a campaign to get voters to break a 27-year cycle and approve a tax levy increase Nov. 6.

The school board met in a special session Tuesday to review contract renewals for the superintendent and assistant superintendent. They voted 6-1 not to re-employ Doerr.

Board vice-president Dennis Martin cast the lone dissenting vote.

Doerr could be reached for comment.

School principal Beverly Schonhoff was appointed to serve as interim superintendent, but both Doerr's and Schonhoff's salaries remain the same.

Martin said there had been some questions about financial reporting that Doerr had not been given enough time to answer.

"I was not prepared to offer him another three-year contract, but I felt he should have been given an opportunity to address the concerns of the board," Martin said.

Once the decision was made, Martin said he was fully supportive of Schonhoff's taking over the position.

Doerr was beginning the third year of a three-year contract. He will remain employed by the district as a special project coordinator until his contract expires on June 30.

"We're using Steve's skills in other areas of the district," Pontillas said.

Test scores have improved since Doerr has taken over the district, and Pontillas said he will focus on curriculum progress.

Assistant superintendent Richard Francis said the board's move took the administrative staff by surprise, but Doerr and the rest of the staff is behaving "very professionally."

Schonhoff said the board chose to replace Doerr now because a clause in the superintendent's contract requires the board to let him know by the end of October if he won't be rehired.

Board members didn't want the decision not to rehire the superintendent to overshadow the election.

Schonhoff is a 20-year veteran with the school district, having started as a teacher and working her way through the ranks. Pontillas said the board hopes Schonhoff's relationship with the community will help in persuading voters to approve the tax increase in November.

In August, after a low-key campaign, voters rejected a 25-cent tax hike. At a meeting later, the board decided to put the tax increase back on the ballot as well as a full waiver of the Proposition C rollback. Both issues would be part of the same ballot measure.

If approved, the levy would increase from $2.70 to $3.20 per $100 assessed valuation and generate $984,000 in additional local and state revenue. The district stands to receive more state money if the local levy goes up.

Without a tax hike, the district will be forced to cut all extracurricular activities in Perry County School District No. 32 and eliminate some jobs, officials have said.

Already the district has frozen teacher salaries and expects to dip into its reserves by as much as $300,000 this year. It has cut 17 faculty and staff positions.

335-6611, extension 160

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