The Bath County Board of Education, which has been plagued by internal disputes for the past three years, now faces the task of finding a new superintendent.
Tuesday night, board members named Steve Meadows to serve as interim superintendent until a permanent successor is found for outgoing Superintendent Nancy Hutchinson. She is leaving after about nine years in the job to join an Ashland-based education organization. Meadows has been the district's assistant superintendent.
The board has agreed to create a superintendent search committee as required by state law, but the panel hasn't been formed. The hiring process could be complicated by the November election. With three of the five school board seats up for grabs in November, the outgoing board could grant a new superintendent only a short-term contract.
Hutchinson is leaving the Bath schools to become executive director of the Kentucky Educational Development Corporation, a cooperative that covers about 60 school districts. She assumes her duties next month.
Longtime board member Sandy Crouch said Wednesday that the Bath Schools will feel Hutchinson's loss.
"She is one of the finest, most caring, considerate fans of students I've ever seen," Crouch said. "She did a great job."
Board members, however, have battled frequently over Hutchinson since 2009, with one side backing the superintendent and the other trying to oust her. In spring 2011, one board contingent tried to terminate Hutchinson's contract, only to have the superintendent sue the school board to keep her job. The continuing argument contributed to the state's 90-day suspension of one board member last fall.
The board members who will be up for re-election in November are B.A. Franklin, Bill Boyd and Lisa McFarland. Franklin and Boyd are part of the contingent that opposed Hutchinson, McFarland generally voted with those who backed her.
Crouch said she hopes board members can mend fences and move ahead, but she also said that might require some new faces on the board.
"I've always tried to be about education, but for the past three years we've not been able to do that," Crouch said. "It's been the same old thing over and over at every board meeting."