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Dr. Stephen Tegarden leads Carmel Clay schools a second time around

Dr. Stephen Tegarden

Dr. Stephen Tegarden

By Chris Bavender

Dr. Stephen Tegarden wasn’t looking for a job when he was approached by the Carmel Clay School Board of Trustees to act as interim superintendent.

“I told them I’d at least meet with them to see what they had in mind and where it might fit with my retirement,” Tegarden said. “Once I did, I felt they were headed in the right direction with their search (for a full-time superintendent) and thought it would be a good fit.”

A fit Tegarden is comfortable with. From 1993 to 2000 he was superintendent for the school system. He retired in 2000 but soon found himself back in the role on an interim basis with Washington Township after the departure of Dr. Eugene White.

“There are professional interim superintendents but it wasn’t a role I was seeking or had really thought about before,” Tegarden said. “But, I found I really enjoyed the role and was there for about six months and then went back to retirement.”

He was invited to act as interim for a few other school districts but declined. When Hamilton Southeastern offered him an interim slot he initially turned it down but offered to help with the superintendent search. However, he soon found himself stepping in as interim for eight months.

“Then I went back to retirement. We had a bed and breakfast inn in Chatham Arch in downtown Indy but we sold that least year, and I was really retired this time so I felt the Carmel job would be a good way to spend a bit of it for a few months,” he said.

For the school board members, the decision to hire Tegarden wasn’t difficult.

“During the seven years he was here he achieved a good balance in the district and had good achievements and that interested us. And, in addition, the fact he had served as an interim and helped in the search process, was the best of both worlds,” said Tricia Hackett, CCS board member. “Also, he is just a personable guy. He is trustworthy and willing to talk to a variety of people and the board just feels that will bring confidence to our district during this time.”

Tegarden will work with the board and BWP & Associates to find CCS’ next superintendent. A search initiated last January yielded three finalists out of 21 candidates but trustees ultimately decided “we had some really talented people but not the one who would be the best leader for our district,” according to Hackett.

The Board is exploring its next steps in the new superintendent search and will update the community via its website as details emerge.

“We are looking for someone who is a student centered leader – students must come first. They also need to be a team builder – not just a strong leader themselves but know how to recognize and bring in ideas from constituents,” she said. “Also, someone who is an effective manager and knows how to balance students, curriculum, families, etc – all with decreased funding.”

Tegarden also has a keen eye for what will make someone a good candidate.

“I think there are starter jobs – where someone has been an outstanding assistant superintendent for a few years in a small district and there are places for those people for their first superintendency,” Tegarden said in describing the best candidate. “But, a district like Carmel, with all the issues they are dealing with and the expertise and involvement of the community – they really need a veteran.”

Tegarden, who started as interim June 10, will be paid $650 per day.

“That is what he charged four to five years ago at the other school districts and that $650 doesn’t include health benefits, life insurance, vacation pay, etc. It is pro-rated and he won’t be paid for days he doesn’t work,” Hackett said. “I think given his love for the district and his experience, we are getting our bang for our buck.”

One thing that has changed since Tegarden left CCS is school security – with lockdown drills a common occurrence.

“I left before 9/11 and things have changed dramatically in the way we respond to information we receive or threats that might come in so I am sure this is something I will review with staff as exactly what procedures and responses are in place,” Tegarden said. “I remember going to Carmel High School and having a very emotional meeting with a large group of students following Columbine – that incident changed the way everybody looked at going to school. And now, of course we are dealing with the aftermath of Sandy Hook. So, there is just no way you can say we will never have another incident like that and no way you can say we have a system in place that would absolutely keep that from happening so all you can do is be prepared.”

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