Most Waco Independent School District trustees still plan to hire Belton ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon as the district’s new leader Thursday night, despite concerns by two trustees over her ability to lead a much more diverse district.
The board of trustees voted 5-1, with trustee Stephanie Korteweg absent and trustee Norman Manning dissenting, on Aug. 7 to name Kincannon as the lone finalist for the open superintendent position.
Trustees Allen Sykes, Cary DuPuy, Jose Vidana and board President Angela Tekell all said Wednesday they plan to vote for Kincannon again. Trustee Robin Houston did not return calls for comment.
Since Aug. 7, Manning has explained why he voted against naming Kincannon the lone finalist. He said his main concern is that she does not have experience working with a student population that is mostly Hispanic and black, as well as economically disadvantaged, like Waco’s.
Manning said Wednesday he still plans to vote against Kincannon’s contract.
Korteweg said she missed the Aug. 7 meeting because she was still processing her options, but she also shares Manning’s concern about the stark differences in student demographics between Belton and Waco ISD. She said while Kincannon has experience in “recruiting talent” and “developing people,” Korteweg has not seen evidence Kincannon can “move the needle” academically with student populations like Waco’s.
“It’s not an easy decision,” Korteweg said. “I think everyone has to vote their conscience, and I hope that’s what we’re all going to do. It all boils down to who is the best person for the kids.”
She declined to say whether she would vote for Kincannon’s contract Thursday night.
“Looking at all factors, I do feel comfortable voting tomorrow,” Korteweg said. “It’s not going to be a unanimous vote, and I think that’s OK.”
Manning also voiced concerns over Tekell’s 11-year working history with Kincannon as Belton ISD’s school board attorney and their accompanying friendship. The Tekells and the Kincannons share ownership of a house on the Brazos River with a couple of other people. The group rents out the house on Airbnb for $295 a night, according to the website listing.
Local Texas State Teachers Association President Pam Fischer said it is the school board’s job to pick the superintendent and to do so with integrity and complete transparency.
“That ship has sailed,” Fischer said. “Will they back it up and start over? Will they steam ahead? Bottom line is, we have to trust whoever they hire, and that’s a little wavy right now.”
Regardless of the superintendent situation, school has started, teachers are still doing their jobs and students are still learning, Fischer said.
Tekell has said her working and personal relationship with Kincannon does not present a conflict of interest for the school board president. She said Wednesday she is “absolutely” ready to vote for Kincannon’s contract Thursday night. She listed multiple reasons why Kincannon is right for Waco ISD, including her experience as a superintendent and her expertise in developing curriculum and instruction, in addition to her ability to engage her community.
“We’re lucky to have her,” Tekell said.
Vidana, who joined the Waco ISD board in June along with Houston, said he also plans to vote for Kincannon again. While he respects and understands Manning’s and Korteweg’s concerns, Vidana said he still believes Kincannon is the best fit for superintendent. Vidana has two children currently enrolled in the district.
“We do have a diverse district that is different from Belton,” he said. “But we still have to give her an opportunity because you can’t hold people back from doing a job just because they come from a different background. If you put in the work and the work is good, everything else follows.”
DuPuy said he, too, remains convinced Kincannon is the best choice for the job and plans to vote for her Thursday night. He, Vidana and Sykes visited Belton ISD for a day, talking to staff, parents and community members.
“She is so highly thought of in that community, from all corners,” DuPuy said. “I was tremendously impressed.”
He said he does not share Manning’s and Korteweg’s concerns about Kincannon but that it is not unusual for people to have different views on a situation.
“I have profound respect for both of them, but I also don’t have to agree with them on everything,” he said. “I don’t agree, and I think that’s OK. In the end, what I believe is that Dr. Kincannon would be the best person for the district.”
Sykes said he is even more sure Kincannon is the right person to lead Waco ISD after taking additional time to review her qualifications and speak with Belton ISD community members and staff. What he found only reinforced his decision to vote for her.
“I think she’ll do great things,” he said.