ANDERSON — The Anderson Community Schools board has offered interim Superintendent Joe Cronk the position as permanent instructional leader of the district and is in the process of making the offer official by drawing up a contract.
“I didn’t apply. I was approached several times. It was a process and not an overnight decision,” he said.
The decision has yet to be made official through a board vote. The board will conduct a hearing at 6 p.m. Aug. 11 and is expected to finalize the decision at the following meeting 6 p.m. Sept. 8.
Cronk, who has been with the district for more than 30 years and also has remained in charge of operations since he took over in March, originally said he was not interested in serving permanently as superintendent.
“When I retire, if nothing changed, the district would have no one with long-standing central office experience. My own mission is to build that capability internally,” he said about why he changed his mind.
ACS board President Patrick Hill confirmed that Cronk was asked about two weeks ago whether he would be willing to take on the superintendent’s duties permanently.
“Since it’s an internal hire, we didn’t post or interview,” he said.
The board was willing to make that move because they consider Cronk “a good force in the system,” Hill said.
“He’s more actively worked on things like converting us to restorative justice models,” he said.
But the decision does not sit well with some members of the community who believe ACS should have conducted a broad search, preferably with candidates from outside of Anderson and Madison County. Some members of the community also believe Cronk, whose education and background has been largely in IT, does not have enough K-12 classroom experience to lead the district.
“Part of that is in who you have in a cabinet around him or her,” Hill countered.
Lindsay Brown, a concerned resident, said he was asked by several people to host a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to discuss the issue and to determine whether to request that the board continue the search.
“People are not happy about that. It’s nothing bad toward him, but he just lacks the qualifications to lead the schools into a new direction,” he said. “Our kids are not getting what they deserve, That’s not saying he isn’t doing the best job that he can, but he’s lacking a lot of skill sets. I think they should take the time and pick a well qualified candidate who can check off all the boxes.”
The board should have had an outside organization like Ball State University identify and prescreen potential candidates before allowing a diverse group of community members assist in the interview and selection process, Brown said. His complaint about the lack of public process is similar to the one made by members of the Black community, Terry May and Manuel Hunt, when Cronk’s predecessor, Timothy Smith, was selected to replace Terry Thompson.
“When I say diverse, that not only means color. That means economic status and other factors,” he said. “All aspects of the community should be involved because all aspects of the community will be affected. Even senior citizens who don’t have kids in the schools are affected. Everybody is a stakeholder in this, no matter if you have kids in the school district or not.”
Though he would like to see a Black superintendent or at least the interview of some Black candidates, Brown, who does not have children attending school in ACS, said he really just wants the best person for the job. But he added that ACS has far too little diversity among its teachers and administrators.
“We don’t want them to think because they put Eric Davis in as assistant superintendent that will shut the Black community up,” he said. Davis, who is Black, most recently served as principal at Anderson High School.
Even though some members of the community want a home-grown superintendent, Brown said the best exchange of ideas come from people who come from other systems.
“People want somebody who is an outside-of-the-box thinker. We want a qualified person who will bring new ideas to our school system.”