By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Quincy School Board has cleared the way for its new superintendent, Steve Cobb, to begin work April 15 instead of July 1 as originally planned.
The board approved an amended contract Wednesday night. Joel Murphy, the district's business manager, will relinquish his role as interim superintendent and return full-time to his primary job in the business office. Meanwhile, Rich Royalty, who has been serving as interim business manager, will return to retirement.
Murphy said Cobb has been released early from his contract with the Fort Wayne, Ind., School District.
Board member Melvin "Bud" Niekamp cast the only vote against these contractual arrangements, which passed on a 6-1 vote Wednesday night.
"This is the very first time I can remember something like this happening," said Niekamp, who has served on the School Board since November 1989. He said all new superintendents in the past have waited until the start of the new fiscal year before they arrived for work.
Niekamp said letting Cobb start early isn't fair to Royalty or Murphy, who are earning extra money by serving in their interim positions.
"When Rich Royalty came in, he thought he was going to be here until the end of this school year," Niekamp said. "And we've got Joel Murphy. He thought he was going to be the interim superintendent until the end of this semester. Just because Steve Cobb decides he wants to come to Quincy a little bit early, I just can't see voting to do that. It seems to me like you're going against the people who are already here."
Board member Jeff Mays defended the move.
"Steve's got a lot of energy. He's got a lot of ideas. And we want him to hit the ground running as soon as possible," Mays said.
"I think it's a good idea to get him in here as quick as we can. Certainly we're very appreciative of the folks that did step up and fill in during the interim, but the interim period was extraordinarily difficult. It's going to be nice to have some stability."
Niekamp responded: "But don't you think we should show a little bit of loyalty to the people who are already here?"
Mays answered: "I think they're happy to get back to their original spots. They're happy to get on with their original duties also."
In separate interviews, Murphy and Royalty said they don't mind giving up their interim posts earlier than expected.
"I stepped forward to provide leadership in the district until we could get the permanent person in here. That was always my goal," Murphy said. "I loved doing this (interim superintendent's job) in the short time I had to do it, but I also feel we really need to move on and get Steve in here and get some things going."
Royalty echoed that sentiment.
"When I was hired, it was with the understanding that I'd be here as long as they needed me, but I don't want to be here any longer than that," Royalty said.
"So I don't mind leaving. That doesn't bother me at all."
The new 2013-14 calendar calls for Quincy schools to open Aug. 19 with a teacher institute and end June 3, 2014.