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Derby school board extends contracts for superintendent and two assistants

Derby administrators.jpg
Courtesy photo
Derby Public Schools
The Derby Board of Education voted to extend the contracts of three top administrators, from left: Becky Moeder, assistant superintendent of human resources; Heather Bohaty, superintendent; and Holly Putnam-Jackson, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

The Derby school board met in a closed session before voting 5-2 to approve contracts for Superintendent Heather Bohaty and two top administrators. The board had previously rejected the contract extensions.

A week after rejecting contract extensions for three top administrators, Derby Board of Education members voted Monday night to extend the contracts through the 2024-25 school year.

Board members met for nearly three hours in a closed session, according to a statement from the district. Afterward, they voted 5-2 to approve a new contract for Superintendent Heather Bohaty; Becky Moeder, assistant superintendent of human resources, and Holly Putnam-Jackson, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Board president Michael Blankenship and board member Andy Watkins voted against the contract extensions.

“While we all may view different topics with different lenses, it is important to both myself and the board as a whole to provide a strong future for the educational stakeholders and students of Derby public schools,” Blankenship said in a statement.

“The board has confidence that Mrs. Bohaty, Mrs. Moeder and Dr. Putnam-Jackson will lead our staff to make strong overall improvements as a district. At the next regular Board of Education meeting on Feb. 27, we will share a report on some of our academic focus areas over the next few years.”

Conservatives on the board had clashed with Bohaty and other administrators over the past year on several issues, including COVID-19 prevention measures and diversity issues.

Last fall, the Derby board rejected a proposed strategic plan for the district because it called for diversity and a focus on students’ mental health.

A board committee voted a year ago to remove a critically acclaimed novel, Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” from a list of approved classroom materials.

Some board members also raised concerns about a textbook publisher for supporting Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism efforts.

“I don’t think focusing on diversity is going to make up our kids, academically,” Blankenship said at the time. “Rather than trying to point out our differences … we should try to find things that make us unite. We should find similarities.”

On Monday, board members Pamela Doyle, Matthew Joyce and Tina Prunier voted to approve the administrators’ contracts. Board members Jennifer Neel and Robyn Pearman, who had rejected the contracts last week, also voted in favor.

Derby, just south of Wichita, is a district of about 7,300 students.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.