Palka Hiring Official, District Begins Search for Saline High School Principal

The district hopes to have a recommendation in front of the board by May.

The hiring of a principal for will be a much more open process than was used to hire assistant principal and assistant athletic director Joe Palka, according to human resources director Curt Ellis.

At Tuesday’s meeting, school board officially hired Palka for the new high school post, which will pays an annual salary of $88,000 plus a $3,000 stipend. Palka will also make $10,211 as head coach of the varsity football team.

Ellis said there wasn’t a “very public side” to the process of hiring Palka. He said the district targeted a few individuals based on the set of skills. The joint athletic/administrative post was created when Ben Williams resigned to take the superintendent job at Central Lake Public Schools. Assistant principal Eric Diroff was named interim principal. In an effort to integrate the athletic department with the high school office, athletic director Rob White will spend more time in the high school office, according to Ellis.

“We are constantly evaluating the needs we have in terms of skill sets. We determined this was the best course of action,” Ellis said. “This is kind of an old school move, where we have administrators wearing different hats. I like to think of this as a good school move. He is the right person with the right skill set for the job.”

Palka said he was humbled to join the Saline administrative team.

“I’ve not ever been more excited in my life about an opportunity than I am right now,” Palka said.

Most recently, he was a teacher at Toledo Whitmer High School. Prior to that, he wore many hats as principal at Summerfield High School in Petersburg.

“I wore all the hats at Summerfield. I was responsible for curriculum, safety and security. So I am comfortable with whatever my role will be,” Palka said.

Additionally, dean of students Dana White, who was responsible for student discipline, left the job to become a physical education teacher at Heritage Elementary. It’s not known if the district will keep the post.

Ellis said the process of hiring a permanent principal would be much more public.  The process will begin with the development of a profile by Feb. 1. The job will be posted for six weeks. The district will then begin screening applicants. At some point, students, teachers, administrators and board members would have a chance to interview two or three finalists. The goal is to have a recommendation for the board by May.

Some board members wondered if the district should use a search firm to help the process along.

“I anticipate that we will get hundreds of inquiries. It might be worth it to have a search firm filter the applicants. We have a full plate, with the negotiations with three bargaining units in front of us,” said Trustee David Holden.

Ellis confirmed there is much interest in the position.

“Word is out, I can tell you that. Both (superintendent) Scot (Graden) and I are receiving inquiries,” said Ellis.

Trustee Craig Hoeft asked if searching for a principal has been a burden for administration in the past.

“It’s a big job. One thing we’ve learned is the value of getting the right person. There is also a cost if you don’t get the right person,” said Graden, who suggested starting the process and developing a candidate profile before re-assessing the process.

Holden said the cost of hiring a search firm is typically 10 percent of the post’s salary.

Board president Lisa Slawson said a search firm was not used to hire Williams. She said the process used to identify Williams was very similar to the one outlined by Ellis.



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