Assistant Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart on Thursday became the third Cabinet-level Lawrence school district official to resign this summer.
Board President Austin Turney said he viewed successive resignations of Supt. Kathleen Williams; Jim Freeman, executive director of facilities; and Collins-Hart as an opportunity rather than a problem.
Turney ad-mitted, though, that so much change wasn't anticipated when he was elected to the board.
"Three years ago, I would have never dreamed things would be this way," he said. "I assume we'd be rocking away with Al Azinger."
Azinger's resignation as superintendent led to Williams' hiring in 1998.
The district remains on solid ground behind the leadership of Interim Supt. Randy Weseman, Turney said.
None of the three Cabinet vacancies will be filled immediately.
Turney said the transition would be marked by changes in administrative philosophy superintendent to principal.
"What we will see is a flatter organizational chart," Turney said. "We have people ready now to take on added responsibilities."
Hiring from within might be the best course given a national shortage of educators willing to become public school administrators.
Collins-Hart, 45, of Kansas City, Kan., joined the Lawrence district in 1994. She serves as assistant superintendent of instruction and curriculum.
She will depart by Aug. 20 to become assistant superintendent for instructional services in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school district in Orange County, N.C. Her salary will be $98,000. That's a raise of about $15,000 annually.
Collins-Hart was not available for comment Thursday.
Her move appears to reflect a desire to return to North Carolina, where she grew up, graduated from college and taught school. The move mirrors a decision by Williams to return to her Illinois home after two years as Lawrence superintendent.
"It's another situation where, basically, Nettie is returning to her home area of the country," Turney said. "She's certainly done a lot for this district."
Turney praised Collins-Hart's commitment to improving student achievement, saying she led efforts to improve reading skills.
School board member Scott Morgan said with the loss of a third top administrator the board might want to rethink its plan to wait until July 2001 to install a permanent superintendent. Weseman has a one-year contract as interim superintendent.
"It strengthens the argument to move beyond the interim situation as rapidly as possible," Morgan said.
Weseman said resignations of three of eight officers offered a chance to shrink the bureaucracy. He said there were limits to what an interim administrator could do but was confident adjustments made this fall would make it "easier for people to know who to talk to."
For example, Williams established a chain of command that required principals to report directly to Collins-Hart or one other central administration staff member. The idea proved faulty because it created another bureaucratic layer between principals and the superintendent, he said.
"I'm confident that is going to go," Turney said.
Turney said the district would probably stick with plans for a national superintendent search. The school board will discuss the situation at its next meeting, 7 p.m. Monday at the district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.
In addition to central administration staffing, the board is reviewing curriculum, revising the board's policy manual and reviewing facility needs at junior highs.
In Chapel Hill, Collins-Hart will replace Ann Hart, who resigned to become superintendent of schools in Catawba County, N.C.