South Putnam's Puckett switches gears

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Current South Putnam Athletic Director Kieth Puckett will take the place of retiring high school principal Robert Smith after a majority of school board members voted for the hire Monday.

Puckett, who is himself a South Putnam graduate, will be offered a two-year contract as administrator for the school, following Smith, who held the position for 12 years.

Three members of the five-person-board voted to hire Puckett, who has led South Putnam High School's athletic department since 1994. However, two board members abstained.

Members Mike Rissler, Dale Mendenhall and Howard Bowen voted yes on hiring Puckett while Nancy Wells and Steven Cash voted in abstention.

Wells and cash would not comment as to the nature of their vote.

Puckett's contract is for 225 days-per-year with a compensation of $80,000, plus a $1,000 professional accreditation stipend.

Puckett, who was not available for comment Tuesday morning, said in an email he sent to the BannerGraphic that he is grateful for his new position.

"We have the teachers and students to accomplish great things, and I'm proud to be their future principal," he said.

Aside from from his position athletic director, Puckett has also served a coach, teacher and school safety specialist at South Putnam. He taught at Cloverdale for four years before coming to South Putnam in 1984. Puckett has a bachelor of arts degree in English education and a secondary administration license.

Meanwhile, on Monday board members voted unanimously not to hire a full-time principal to replace Dan Puckett who will be retiring from the administrative position at Central Elementary at the end of the year.

Instead, current Fillmore principal Brad Hayes will be the head administrator at both buildings.

He will be compensated $5,000 per-year for his additional duties, Supt. Dan Schroeder said.

Some parents raised concerns over whether Hayes would be able to perform duties such as discipline while managing two schools at once.

"This is strictly a trial basis," board member Nancy Wells said. "We are willing to try and willing to give him a chance."

Wells said a comment in Hayes new contract stipulates that if he feels the new system is not running smoothly, he will inform the board.

'Mr. Hayes will know if it is not working out," Wells said.

She also emphasized parents of students at either school would be able to contact the principal by phone.

Schroeder said the elementary administrator has his confidence.

"He's been over at Fillmore for a number of years and he has done a good job," he said. "This will be chartering new waters for him, so he will keep his ear to the ground."

Hayes said while he has given some preliminary consideration to the logistics of running two schools, he has no firm plan yet.

"I will have to meet with (Central Principal Dan Puckett) and see what his school's needs are," he told the BannerGraphic.

Hayes said he is comfortable with the arrangement and that in fact it was he who first approached the school board about combining the positions until the corporation is out of the financial crisis.

"If it is possible to save teaching positions or special programs by doing this on a temporary basis, then I am willing to give it a shot," he said.

After the meeting, board members told the BannerGraphic they hope to combine the duties of assistant principal and athletic director at the high school when they fill the assistant principal position left vacant by Max Dean, who is also retiring at the end of the school year.

While some parents questioned whether this means more call-backs for teachers who had received Reduction In Force (RIF) notices, Schroeder said that may not be the case.

By doing this, the corporation will not have to RIF as many teachers as they might have, he explained."This was already figured in, we talked about it a long time ago," Schroeder said. "We will have to have less reduction in force for our teaching staff."

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