Jan. 19, 2005 - Bill Kuhn admitted he was caught off guard when incoming board members unanimously selected him as president of the Marana Unified School District governing board at its first meeting of the year.

One of only two incumbents remaining on the board, "I didn't know what to expect," said Kuhn, who was nominated by new board member Albert Siqueiros.

The nomination may have signaled an effort to make amends after a heated and controversial election that many say left the district divided.

Kuhn began the Jan. 11 meeting at Coyote Trail Elementary School, 8000 N. Silverbell Road, by administering the formal oath of office to newcomers Maribel Lopez, Siqueiros, Patricia Teager and incumbent Dan Post, who was elected to his sixth term on the board.

Each of the incoming board members were backed in the November election by the group Take Back Our School District, which set out to replace existing board members following the resignation of the widely popular Superintendent Rick Lesko.

Teager was unanimously elected vice president at the meeting after being nominated by Lopez. No one else was nominated for Teager's and Kuhn's respective positions, which signaled a possible consensus among the board.

"I think it goes a long way toward unifying the board … having the president one of the board members who was already on the board … and having the vice president one of the newly-elected members," said Kuhn, a 10-year veteran of the board who previously served as both president and vice president.

Former Board President Janice Mitich and board member Debbie Schmich sought re-election in November and lost. Siqueiros, one of six write-in candidates, filled the vacancy left by former board member Sandi Nielson.

The newcomers, however, say they're not going to use their power in numbers to act as a voting block. Instead, they say they're going to look out for the best interest of the district.

Siqueiros, former principal of Estes Elementary School and current principal of Tucson Unified School District's Smith Elementary, said he nominated Kuhn because the new board needs his leadership to best serve the district.

"His knowledge level and experience as a board member is going to be very instrumental for new board members, especially, helping us move in the right direction and understanding the whole protocol for the board meetings," he said.

Siqueiros admitted he was nervous heading into his first meeting as a board member. But after he swore his oath to the district, "it felt pretty good," he said.

"I thought it went well. Obviously, I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, but once we got going it felt pretty good," he said. "It was what I thought it would be like."

Lopez said she was overwhelmed with the large crowd that packed Coyote Trail Elementary School, which isn't always the norm with school board meetings. She took it as a sign that everyone is excited about the new board coming on.

She agreed that Kuhn was the right choice to lead the board.

"I feel Bill Kuhn has done a great job in the past and it's his turn to be president," she said, adding that Teager also will be a knowledgeable vice president.

Siqueiros and Teager go back to their days at Estes Elementary School, where Teager helped start the Golf for Kids program, which raised about $38,000 this year for schools with high enrollments of students from moderate to low-income families. The board recognized the program at the meeting for raising about $90,000 since its inception in 2001.

"I've always had a lot of respect for her and I think she'll do an excellent job as vice president," Siqueiros said.

Kuhn said he's confident after the first meeting that new board members are up to speed on issues affecting the district. He expressed optimism having Teager onboard as his vice president.

"She'll do a great job. She has a great background," he said. "She'll represent the people in Marana Unified School District fantastically as will Ms. Lopez and Dr. Siqueiros."

However, though everything ran smoothly, Kuhn admitted the first meeting was a bit quiet.

"Most of the issues we had were very black and white. There wasn't a lot of discussion," he said, adding that meetings in the future will have more agenda items that call for input from board members and the audience.

"We will have discussions on the vision, where we're going from now," Kuhn said. "And as the new board members get up to speed on what we've done, we'll get their views, their opinions, and continue doing the best we can for the taxpayers and for the students in Marana Unified School District."

But the bigger picture looming over the district remains the search for a new superintendent. The application deadline for the position was Jan. 14, said Jane Pryne, who is serving as interim superintendent until June 30.

After an expected meeting Jan. 18 for a special session with consultant Bob Hendricks, the next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at Quail Run Elementary School.

On Jan. 29, the search committee is expected to conduct an all-day blind screening where candidates will be reviewed based on on their qualifications. Hendricks will bring recommendations to the board Jan. 31 and interviews will be conducted by the first week of March, Pryne said.

Siqueiros and Kuhn both agreed that determining the senior management of the district will be the board's main focus during the course of the next few months.

"That's going to be a very important decision for the school board," Siqueiros said. "We have to make sure we're very careful in the process, very thorough in the process, and make sure we hire the right person for the school district."

Under his watch, Kuhn said, others can expect finding a new superintendent to be the board's top priority. But the end to the superintendent search only marks the beginning of the process of finding a new assistant superintendent.

Marana High School Principal Jan Truitt currently is serving as interim assistant superintendent until June 30, while Assistant Principal Jim Doty fills her shoes at the school.

Kuhn said he hopes any issues that divided the district during or before the election will be put to rest now that the new board is in place and is jointly working to seek out new management.

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