RESP selects interim executive director after former director resigns
The Roughrider Education Services Program unanimously elected governing board member Maurice “Mo” Hardy as its interim director pending approval from his employer after the previous executive director, Amy Axtman, resigned last month. At its regular meeting Wednesday at the Dickinson State University Student Center, the board unanimously accepted Axtman’s resignation, as well as discussed the options it had moving forward, including a possible merger with the Mandan-based Missouri River Educational Cooperative.
“We’re going to have to decide where we go from here,” said Bill Gion, governing board chairman and president of the Mott-Regent Public School Board. “And that’s maybe a bigger question than we can figure out in 10 minutes.”
Hardy works full time at Golden Valley County Social services and serves as the Beach Public School Board vice president. Members of the governing board, including Gion, have agreed to divide the duties of the executive director to take the pressure off Hardy.
Hardy’s role will not be to fill in full time as Axtman’s replacement. The governing board scheduled a special meeting for Dec. 4 to further discuss finding a full-time replacement for Axtman.
Hardy expects to be in the position for six to eight weeks — 12 at the most — giving the governing board a chance to set a new direction for RESP and fill the executive director position.
The board considered several candidates, including retired teachers and administrators, but decided that people retire for a reason.
“Most people, when they have made that declaration of retirement they’re pretty comfortable in that and probably would not want to come back as — even as an interim,” said Gary Wilz, superintendent of Killdeer Public Schools. “I can’t speak on their behalf unless we single someone out.”
One of the consequences of Axtman’s resignation was RESP being put on probation by FHI 360, the organization that manages the Succeed 2020 grant, which provides support for teachers and students in grades seven through 12.
“That is not a disciplinary action, that is a precautionary measure,” Gion said. “It’s not all that uncommon with other grants.”
RESP has faced several changes over the last few years, including the exit of Dickinson Public Schools, which turned in its notice last spring.
“If the impression is that the house is in a mess, who wants to go in and clean it?” Gion asked when addressing the rejection of some candidates of the interim director position. “Not that our house is in a mess — I don’t think it’s as bad as what some people say it is, but I can understand the hesitancy that someone might have.”
Schools can rescind membership in RESP in March, said Lynn Dvorak of New England Public Schools.
“I’m looking for a stabilizing force in rough waters,” Gion said.