SHERIDAN — Big Horn High School principal Ben Smith resigned from his position last week after accepting a job as superintendent of Big Horn County School District 1 in Cowley. The Sheridan County School District 1 board of trustees approved the change during its meeting Tuesday evening, and the resignation is effective June 30.
Smith applied for the position when it opened about a month ago.
He interviewed June 11 and was officially approved as new superintendent by the Big Horn County School District 1 board of trustees June 14.
“It wasn’t on my radar up until about four weeks ago,” Smith said.
Smith was raised in Greybull, about 40 miles from Cowley and his new job.
He taught in BHCSD1 for the first 15 years of his career, spending 11 years as a teacher and four as an elementary school principal.
“This was just kind of the right fit for me to go back where I started my career,” Smith said. “A good opportunity to go back to an area I’m very familiar with.”
Smith spent three years in Big Horn and will bring some lessons he learned from SCSD1 to the new job, specifically standards-referenced grading and postsecondary readiness. “It’s been a great experience,” Smith said of his time in Big Horn.
“Great students and a tremendous staff and just a great school community here that’s been a real pleasure to be able to work with.”
Smith acknowledged that the timing for the change — about two months before the 2018-19 school year begins — was not ideal but largely out of his control.
Smith said it was tough to submit his letter of resignation.
“I have a lot of respect for superintendent Kilbride and for our board and the things that have been done here,” Smith said. “It’s just been a real privilege for me and my career to be here for these past three years.”
The SCSD1 board will oversee the hiring process for Smith’s replacement and discussed its options Tuesday evening. Ultimately, the board approved a motion to advertise the opening for the next two weeks, effective immediately.
SCSD1 superintendent Marty Kobza — whose last official day with SCSD1 is June 30 — said if no suitable candidates are found after two weeks, the board could appoint Big Horn Middle School principal Richard Welch as BHHS principal as well — the two schools share a building — and then hire a dean of students or assistant principal to work under Welch and handle other administrative responsibilities. BHHS and BHMS have had separate principals for the past six years. The few years prior, there was a BHHS/BHMS principal and assistant principal.
Trustee Karen Walters said she would prefer two separate principals. Trustee Penny Barkan said she would only want to hire a BHHS principal with the necessary administrative experience.
“Whatever we’re doing, I want the person to have the credentials, not be working toward the credentials,” Barkan said.
If Smith’s successor is hired, he or she will be the fourth new person in SCSD1 to start the 2018-19 school year in a key administrative position. Pete Kilbride will begin his tenure as superintendent, while Jeff Jones will replace Kilbride as principal at Tongue River Middle School. Colby Lynch will also embark on his first year as Tongue River High School principal.
• The board tabled the consideration of a decision about interest-based negotiation with district employees and will have a special meeting on or before July 10 to make a decision. The board discussed the topic for about an hour in executive session before the regular meeting but took no action.
• The board approved the superintendent’s salary and benefits package. Kilbride will receive a salary of $125,000 — which was agreed on during the interview process in March — and a benefit package that will match that of other 12-month employees.
• The board tabled the approval of the 2018-19 district employee handbook to next month’s meeting.
• The next regular board meeting is scheduled for July 11 and will be a joint meeting with the SCSD1 recreation district board.