VALPARAISO | Despite a plea from Valparaiso Community Schools board incumbent Brigid McLinn that change for change's sake was not good change, the Valparaiso City Council voted Monday to replace her on the board with retired Principal Paul Knauff.
The council interviewed five finalists for the position, and Councilman Michael Baird said three of them were new and not very experienced for the kind of challenges the board is facing now.
Of the two at the top, Baird said, "Brigid has done a very good job of raising critical issues and handling tough situations" while Knauff has experience in the school system.
Councilman Joey Larr said, "What the public asked us to do was to find someone who is an educator, has knowledge of what the School Board is facing and the ability to work through it."
"I think we should reappoint her," Larr added of McLinn. "She will be the bridge that can get the board through the next few years. Paul could fill the role, but not right away. We can't afford to wait for the others to learn on the job."
"It comes down to who we think is the best person to begin the healing process," Councilwoman Deb Butterfield said.
Councilman Robert Taylor supported McLinn along with Larr.
"She said we need leadership on the board, and it's time she stepped in to lead," Taylor said.
In a straw poll of the council before the official vote, Knauff received 32 of a possible 35 points and McLinn 27. Pam Hood was third with 19. The other candidates were Kevin Hagen and John Novak. All five answered questions for 30 minutes each prior to the vote. The questions were submitted by the public.
Knauff had agreed to withdraw if it was determined his appointment would create a conflict of interest because his daughter teaches in the school system. City Attorney David Hollenbeck said he reviewed all the pertinent ethics ordinances and ruled it was not a conflict. If a situation came before the board involving Knauff's daughter, he could recuse himself, Hollenbeck said.
Knauff's four-year term begins Friday. The City Council appoints one person to the board each year, and the fifth board member is appointed by the Center Township Board.
A petition drive is under way to change to a seven-member elected board.