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Sunset Hill Elementary prospective principal declines position ahead of USD 497 special meeting

USD 497 held a special meeting Wednesday night, to discuss appointing an interim superintendent—and also the new principal for Sunset Hill Elementary School.

The school had selected Andi Stipe for the position. But right before the meeting, 6 News learned that Stipe declined the position.

Prior to Stipe’s turning down the position, parents posted on Facebook that they were unhappy with USD 497’s choice.

Some parents’ concerns seemed to stem from Stipe’s personal life and preferences—as listed on her Facebook page.

Namely, her religious and right-wing political views, in a liberal town like Lawrence caused parents’ concern about whether kids would be treated fairly—regardless of sexual preference and other qualities that might go against Stipe’s views.

On the other hand, parents also posted comments to the same post, expressing the absurdity of judging a principal based on her Facebook profile and preferences.

The school district reached out with the following comments:

“Lawrence Public Schools have an extensive application, screening and interview process for employment vacancies, such as the Sunset Hill principal position. This position became open due to the district’s promotion of Darcy Kraus to director of elementary support, beginning with the 2017-18 school year. The district’s selection process includes in-depth research into a candidate’s background and work history and interviews with human resources staff, the Superintendent’s Leadership Team and a building-level advisory team made up of teachers and parents.

Andi Stipe emerged from all three interviews as the top candidate. She has a solid educational background, impeccable references, 18 years of proven professional experience, including success with diverse student populations, and an educational mindset that aligns with the district’s mission, vision, values and goals. The district offered Andi the position and upon receiving her acceptance, announced in a public release on Monday her selection, pending board approval. The employment action was scheduled for consideration by the school board at its meeting at 5:30 tonight.

Superintendent Kyle Hayden regrets to inform you that Ms. Stipe declined the position today. The district will re-evaluate how to fill the Sunset Hill principal vacancy and keep you informed when additional information is available.”

The special meeting Wednesday night discussed, as planned, appointing an interim superintendent—as current superintendent Kyle Hayden plans to step down and move to the role of chief operations officer—to take on the $87 million school improvements that just passed in the recent bond election.

The Kansas Association of School Boards attended the meeting to help plan out the school’s next steps.

USD 497 board vice president, Shannon Kimball, explained what to expect at the meeting:

“I’ll be speaking and talking about the board’s decision to have that position and what needs it’s gonna fill for the district and what the duties are and why it’s something that, doing these personnel moves to put someone in that position is the right thing to do,” Kimball said.

And as the board works to explain why moving personnel around is the right thing to do, some members of the equity council disagree, saying there’s a need for mentors and faculty of color for the students.

Shannon Kimball replied that the chief operations officer position, that Kyle Hayden will transfer to, would have been created anyway, and that the two types of positions are completely separate.

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