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Deputy superintendent tapped as interim leader of Shawnee Mission schools

Jim Hinson, pictured in 2013 after he was named the new superintendent of schools, announced his intention to retire on April 19. On Wednesday, Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick was approved as interim superintendent.
Jim Hinson, pictured in 2013 after he was named the new superintendent of schools, announced his intention to retire on April 19. On Wednesday, Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick was approved as interim superintendent. Special to The Star

The Shawnee Mission school board swiftly tapped Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick to take over duties for outgoing Superintendent Jim Hinson at a special board meeting Wednesday.

Hinson, who became superintendent in 2013, announced his retirement April 19. And for the second time in a week, Hinson, 54, did not show up for a meeting related to his resignation.

Board members did not address his absence during the public meeting. Southwick would not clarify the reason for Hinson’s absence in an interview with reporters.

“He’s our superintendent until June the 30. That’s when he officially retires,” Southwick said. “Until then, I’m there to support him. When he’s gone, I’m kind of the go-to guy. That’s where I’m at tonight.”

The school board, which met in executive session Monday to discuss the process for finding Hinson’s replacement, announced a tentative timeline that seemed to address some community members’ concerns that a newly formed school board determined by the November elections would not get to participate in the selection process if the board moves quickly to determine Hinson’s successor.

Under a proposed timeline, the current school board would appoint a search firm by the August board meeting, host forums and conduct surveys to gather community input in the fall and begin collecting application throughout November and December.

“It’s always been our goal to get as much feedback as we can from the community,” school board member Cindy Neighbor said.

The proposed timeline would mean that any new school board members would be involved in selecting the next superintendent when they take their seats in January, but would not be involved in choosing a search firm or influencing the process used to find candidates. A new superintendent would be chosen by March or April.

“I would not anticipate us having any kind of candidate list before the end of January,” school board president Sara Goodburn said.

A graduate of William Jewell College, Southwick served multiple positions as a teacher and coach before taking the role of a superintendent for the Belton School District for 12 years. He came to the Shawnee Mission School District in 2014, a year after Hinson took charge of the district.

In Shawnee Mission, Southwick was heavily involved in teacher negotiations. Under his new role, Southwick would play a crucial part in creating the budget as the state decides a new funding formula, implementing new assessment programs and evaluating district goals that can be put on the back-burner until a new leader takes charge.

He also said the district would not add positions to administration during his tenure.

“We are going to work through this process with the staff that we got,” Southwick said.

Southwick currently earns an annual salary of $195,000 a year. His latest contract extends through 2020. Hinson, who also extended his contract through 2020 in December, currently makes $254,280.

Southwick’s appointment is pending contract negotiations that will occur before the end of the fiscal year in June.

Katy Bergen: 816-234-4120, @KatyBergen

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