Weeping Water has hired a new School Superintendent, but with some controversy. Dr. Ken Heinz will start the $110,000 a year position on July 1st.
The Cassgram reports Dr. Heinz had been at the Centura Public Schools in Cairo, Nebraska. He inherited a “horrible situation” there as superintendent (in 2007), said Weeping Water Board of Education President Alan Horn. There were budget issues and personnel issues, but he resolved them and “became a rising star” in education administration in Nebraska, said Horn. But Heinz resigned from the Centura superintendent’s post within weeks after a second driving under the influence arrest in 2010.
Horn said the Weeping Water school board was fully aware of the DUI convictions and the circumstances surrounding them. “There were medical issues involved,” said Horn, adding that there are signed medical affidavits to that effect. Horn said the board thoroughly investigated, even contacting the Nebraska State Patrol trooper that would have testified in the case who told Weeping Water officials that it’s likely Heinz could have beaten the last charge had he chose not to plead no contest. Horn said Heinz told Weeping Water board members that he was already on probation with the Centura board of education (after the first DUI in 2008) and his reputation was already shot there so he decided not to drag the matter through an expensive and protracted court fight.
Before Centura, Heinz was in Osceola, Nebraska for ten years and guided that district from troubled economic times to a solid financial standing and oversaw improved student testing scores too, said Horn.
“We hired Dr. Heinz on his outstanding references (that included the Centura school board president), his outstanding qualifications and his outstanding work history,” said Horn.
There were about a dozen applicants. The board interviewed its final four choices last Saturday and extended the contract to Heinz at the end of the interview session. The vote was 5 to 1. The finalization occurred at the Weeping Water Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. At that meeting, several members of the public spoke out against the hiring of Heinz because of his DUI convictions. Social online media such as Facebook has been active with comments.
Robyn Larson cast the lone ‘no’ vote among board members. She understands the DUIs are “a passionate issue” with some district patrons but said that wasn’t the main reason for her vote. “I just felt better” about two other candidates, and one in particular, she said. Larson said she weighed the pros and cons of all the candidates and she can’t say the DUIs did not factor in, but they were not the sole basis for her vote.
Heinz will be the top administrator in the district after current superintendent Brian Gegg leaves to be the ESU#5 director in Beatrice. “Dr. Heinz is not on a short leash here at Weeping Water; there is no leash (no room for error) …and he understands that,” said Horn.