The Eau Claire school board announced Friday it has approved a one-year contract with Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck that would extend her tenure in the district’s top job through June 30, 2020, at which time she said she will retire from the district.
Board members approved the contract on Jan. 29, and Hardebeck signed it the following day. It wasn’t until an emergency meeting called Friday that board members announced the decision. The board met in closed session beforehand to add the retirement language to the contract.
Hardebeck was present at Friday’s meeting and declined comment regarding her contract. She said she plans to discuss the matter more at the board’s next scheduled meeting Feb. 18.
“I think I’ll have a lot of things to share later,” she said, “but I don’t think that now is the time.”
Hardebeck’s current two-year contract ends June 30. She was hired as Eau Claire schools superintendent in 2012. She previously worked as assistant superintendent of personnel services at Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia.
Hardebeck said in a news release she will work to help find the district’s next superintendent and ease the transition to a new leader. That process will begin next school year, with the new superintendent taking the position starting July 1, 2020.
“I am proud of the work we are doing,” Hardebeck said in the news release. “We will spend the next year-and-a-half taking that work to the next level.”
In the release, the district highlighted some of its academic achievements under Hardebeck’s tenure, among them its work to promote equity and access to public instruction, advanced placement courses and family-friendly summer school programs.
Board President Joe Luginbill praised Hardebeck for her efforts to improve student achievement, narrow the achievement gap and increase post-secondary opportunities.
“She is known professionally for advancing equity for all students and for building community support for public education,” Luginbill said in the release. “We are grateful for her leadership.”
A decision regarding Hardebeck’s contract was scheduled to be announced during Monday’s school board meeting, but that session was canceled because of heavy snow that prompted the closure of district schools.
The board has attempted to reschedule another board meeting to announce the board’s decision, but cold weather and snow that prompted school to be canceled six days during the past two weeks have gotten in the way, as have board members’ schedules.
Hardebeck’s contract talks have prompted interest in recent months as teachers and other district staff have raised concerns about what they describe as Hardebeck’s top-down management style that has damaged staff morale and prompted some to leave the district.
Many have questioned ongoing funding shortfalls despite the passage of an $87.9 million referendum in November 2016 that included money for staff pay raises and building improvements. At the time, district officials said referendum money would help prevent future budget problems, but the district faces a projected $3 million deficit this school year.
Board members met six times starting Nov. 19 to discuss Hardebeck’s performance evaluation and contract in closed-session meetings. Typically the board meets once or twice to evaluate superintendents before announcing a decision regarding a contract. Details of Hardebeck’s compensation have not been finalized.
Three years ago Hardebeck’s performance evaluation prompted board scrutiny. At that time, board members identified concerns about Hardebeck’s management style and ordered her to work with a Madison-based job coach to improve her performance.