PW-S Board has yet to ink contract with school chief

Official says talks with administrator being promoted to superintendent are taking time but agreement is imminent
Ozaukee Press staff

Two months after the Port Washington-Saukville School Board decided to promote Director of Business Services Mel Nettesheim to superintendent, it has yet to approve a contract with the woman who is to become the district’s top administrator on July 1.

The board met in closed session again Monday to discuss its offer to Nettesheim. Twice in the last two months approval of her contract has been listed on board agendas but no action was taken because an agreement had not been reached.

The Port Washington-Saukville School District typically signs contracts with top administrators within days of the board’s decision to hire them, and despite the fact that Nettesheim won’t assume the role of superintendent for months School Board President Brenda Fritsch said shortly after the board ‘s Nov. 7 decision to promote her that she wanted to sign a contract as soon as possible.

On Tuesday, Fritsch said there are no snags in negotiations and she expects the board to vote on a contract later this month.

“There’s not a rush to settle this like there may be with someone new coming into the district,” she said.

Nettesheim echoed those comments last month.

“There are no hiccups,” she said. “It’s just a matter of taking some time to iron out all the details.

“We should have no problem wrapping this up by January.”

Fritsch said negotiations with Nettesheim are more involved then they typically are with other superintendents because she is an existing employee who is being offered a one-year interim superintendent contract.

Nettesheim is the presumptive permanent superintendent but is being offered an interim contract because she has yet to earn her superintendent’s license.

Nettesheim said that, as is typical in contracts with employees who are being promoted, the agreement will include assurances that she will have a job in the district even if she or the board decides she’s not the right fit for superintendent.

“That’s something we’ll end up including in the contract,” she said.

Nettesheim’s promotion begs questions about how or if the board will fill the director of business services position. School officials have said the options range from hiring a new administrator to replace her to dispersing her duties to existing employees and that Nettesheim will present a plan to the board this month.

Nettesheim, 38, came to the Port Washington-Saukville School District in January 2021 from the Wauwatosa school system, where she was the director of operations and facilities, and although she has worked here for just two years, she is the district’s longest-serving central office administrator.

Nettesheim, who unlike past superintendents holds a master of business administration degree, has no classroom teaching experience.

She will replace Dave Watkins, a former top administrator in the St. Paul, Minn., school system who was hired in June 2021, then stunned officials by telling them ahead of an Oct. 3 board meeting that he will retire at the end of the school year.

Unlike 2021, when the board oversaw a four-month superintendent search conducted by a consulting firm that included multiple community input sessions, the selection of Nettesheim took just more than a month and was done almost exclusively during closed sessions of the School Board, which made it clear that it favored promoting an internal candidate.

In Nettesheim — the only candidate interviewed for the job — board members saw a candidate who as superintendent would lend stability to a district that has been rattled by turnover in the highest ranks of its administrators and, in particular, continue a strategic planning process implemented during the Watkins administration.

“My No. 1 objective through all of this has been to keep our current plan in place,” board member Sara McCutcheon said. “We need someone who has intimate knowledge of this plan. We don’t need any more change right now.”

School Board Vice President Brian Stevens, who voted against offering a contract to Nettesheim, said in an interview that he did so because he believed the board should have conducted a search that included external candidates, especially since Watkins will serve as superintendent through June 30.

“Nothing against Mel,” he said. “I love what she’s been doing, but it’s pretty early in the process and I believe we had time to conduct a full search for an outside candidate before we made a decision.”



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login