A crowd gathered Thursday afternoon in Olathe to hear Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson explain why the assistant superintendent for the Kansas State School for the Deaf was passed over to become superintendent of that school and the Kansas State School for the Blind.
The town hall crowd, made up mostly of members of the deaf and blind communities, was upset because many think the assistant superintendent, Luanne Barron, was passed over because she is deaf.
“Luanne has fought for the rights of the deaf and fought for our students,” said first-grade teacher Melissa Leitheiser.
Leitheiser said the two schools used to have separate superintendents, but about seven years ago those jobs were merged into one. It’s difficult to find someone who has expertise in both deaf and blind education, she said, and there is talk now of hiring a superintendent for each school.
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Another staffer who attended the meeting said a hiring committee had trimmed a field of six candidates to three, and Barron missed the cut. The staffer, who declined to give her name, said people had assumed that Barron would get the job.
Watson reportedly said during the meeting that none of the candidates would be hired. He said an interim superintendent was being named.
After the meeting, Watson said that people showed up because they are interested in hiring a great superintendent for both the deaf and blind schools.
He declined to comment on Barron.
State education officials had offered the deaf community the town hall meeting on the campus at the School for the Deaf. That community, in turn, invited the blind community.
An advocate for the deaf said Watson’s purpose was to “explain himself or quiet us down.”
The department blocked members of the media from the room, saying it was not a public meeting.
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182