With a merger vote on the horizon, the superintendent of the Northville Central School District announced Tuesday she will retire in October.
Kathy Dougherty will retire Oct. 16, the date of her 58th birthday, after serving 35 years in the field of education and as Northville superintendent for more than five years. She has approximately three years remaining on her contract.
“There is an enormity of change that is taking place in our business and while I still have several years remaining on my contract, I am ready to hand over the reins to a new administration,” she said.
Dougherty said a combination of factors induced her to retire. “My age and my desire to retire with my health, and I want to do things that give me enjoyment and that benefit other people. The changing educational environment was a factor as well,” she said.
Dougherty said she plans to enjoy her free time and travel with her husband, reconnect with friends and serve as a volunteer.
She is the second of the district’s three administrators to leave Northville this school year. Michael Healey resigned Monday as high school principal to take a position at Galway High School. He was in the district 11 years and wanted to be closer to home. The board expects to fill this position by the middle of October.
Elementary Principal William Crankshaw remains, but he had unsuccessfully sought the superintendency of Wheelerville school district recently.
Dougherty did not call the administrative changes a symptom of anything wrong with the district, but said they were part of normal turnover.
School Trustee Dennis E. Poulin said Dougherty had discussed retiring, so her announcement was not unexpected. He said, however, he thought she would remain through the end of the 2012-13 academic year. “She is of the age of retirement and she figured it was time,” he said.
The school board will conduct a search for Dougherty’s replacement, but it will also keep an eye on the Sept. 18 vote to determine whether Northville and the Mayfield school districts should merge. The vote is non-binding but an affirmative vote sets up a binding vote for Oct. 25. If residents of both districts vote yes in the second vote, a new school district would be formed for the 2013-14 school year.
“If we merged, we won’t need as many administrators,” Poulin said. “If there is not a merger, we got to make changes. I don’t think we need three administrators for one building.”
State law requires separate administrators for each school, which is the case for the Northville High School and the Northville Elementary School, even though they occupy the same building. Districts also need superintendents.
Poulin said he thinks the merger has a 50/50 chance of success in Mayfield and no chance in Northville. “For me, it is more of a takeover than a merger. We are assuming their debt and we would have to come up with $500,000 to bring the teaching staff up to pay parity,” he said.
Dougherty said a merger would greatly enhance educational offerings for students. “This is a huge decision for both communities,” she said. “I am confident that with the remaining communication efforts, including a comprehensive merger newsletter that will be mailed this week, we will have done a thorough job of explaining both sides of the issue, and that the voters’ collective decision will reflect the will of our residents who have carefully educated themselves on the details of the merger.”
Should the districts merge, the state would provide the new district with $2 million in incentive aid for each of the first five years and $8 million more over the next 10 years, for a total of $18 million over 15 years. The $500,000 would not come from the incentive payments. “The boards are talking about taking that money and using it to stabilize taxes,” Poulin said.
In a combined district, Mayfield would see its property taxes drop by 20 percent, or $500 for an average homeowner, while Northville would see its school taxes remain unchanged, according to a merger study commissioned by the two districts.
The combined district would have an annual budget of $23.7 million and an estimated tax levy of $9.7 million. It also would have 646 students in grades kindergarten through five; 334 students in grades six through eight; and 409 students in grades nine through 12.
While a newly elected board of education would make the final decision, officials said a merged district would maintain a local elementary school for students in grades pre-K through five in each community. In addition, the current Northville High School would house grades six through eight and the current Mayfield Junior Senior High School would house students in grades nine through 12.
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