Zoellner next superintendent
Long-time administrator will succeed retiring Marilyn Layman July 1
In a move it anticipated will lead to a smooth transition, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education promoted Sharon Zoellner to replace her long-time mentor, retiring Superintendent Marilyn Layman.
Board President Bill Waye ended the Board's two-month search to find Layman's successor with a short statement at Monday's Board meeting.
"As we work through the rest of this school year, Drs. Layman and Zoellner will have an opportunity to make this transition effort as seamless and beneficial to the district as possible," he said after a short executive session near the beginning of the meeting. "It is our sincere desire to continue our efforts to make USD 232 the very best in providing a great education to the students who count on us to get them ready for a future as productive citizens of our country and the world."
Zoellner, who currently serves as deputy superintendent, will take over the district's top job July 1, the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year.
"I'm very excited and honored to be selected to serve in this position," she said. "The opportunity to lead a district into the future and to face challenges is exhilarating.
"I'm excited to work with the excellent staff we have in place to find ways to move forward with increasing student learning."
Waye identified a number of Zoellner's strengths that influenced the Board's decision. She was, he said, a recognized expert on school finance -- she has prepared the district's budget and managed its investment portfolio since 1993 -- she had extensive contacts with other education professionals and policy makers in Kansas, and she has gained a thorough understanding of the district from her 13 years in its employ.
"She just has a lot of different types of experience in a lot of different areas," Waye said. "She's been in the upper administrative environment for a good length of time.
"Her knowledge of the district and its direction, all those factors came together."
Retiring Board member Marsha Bennett concurred with Waye's assessment.
"From working in the district, she's very knowledgeable about us," she said. "I'm sorry I won't get to work with her."
With Zoellner's promotion, the district shouldn't lose time Zoellner's promotion should allow the district to lose no time as it worked to achieve its goals while dealing with ongoing challenges imposed by continuing growth and shortfalls in state aide, Waye said.
"I think more than anything else it gives us the ability to not have to have a period of time where we struggle," he said. "She's not going to come in July 1 new to all this. We have the ability to have a good long transition process with Marilyn. It should be an orderly process."
Zoellner said one of her first priorities would be for her and Layman to schedule meetings with district administrators to start laying the groundwork for the transition.
Layman said she would be pleased to work with her long-time associate in the effort."She's somebody who has been with me every step of the way," she said. "She'll do a very good job.
"I wish for her that the job be every bit as rewarding and fulfilling as it has been for me. And that she gets as much community support as I have received through the years."
Zoellner came to the district in August 1989 as principal of Countryside Intermediate Elementary. In February 1993, she was named district director of finance and student services. Promotions to assistant superintend and to her present position of deputy superintendent followed.
In addition to her financial responsibilities, Zoellner supervises food service, the business office and the district's technology and facilities departments. She serves as the district legislative liaison and negotiation team. She earned her doctorate in educational administration from Kansas University and a masters from Emporia State. Her undergraduate degree is from Central Methodist College in Fayette, Mo.
The Board agreed in December to look to fill the superintendent vacancy from within before starting a nationwide search. Although the Board refused to list either the number for internal candidates or their names, Assistant Superintendent Bill Gilhaus made public his candidacy for the job.
Monday, Zoellner said she didn't anticipate and awkwardness from her promotion over other in-house candidates. She did say she hoped to meet with district teachers and staffers about any concerns.
"There needs to be conversations," she said. "I'm anxious to begin those conversations."
The Board and Zoellner have not yet reached agreement on the details of herl contract.