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Dickinson superintendent announces surprise resignation

Dickinson Public Schools superintendent Doug Sullivan announced his resignation on Monday. (Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson Public School Superintendent Doug Sullivan presented a letter of resignation on Monday to the school board.

Sullivan's resignation came after the board approved a long list other resignations from longtime Dickinson Public Schools teachers and administrators.

"Dr. Sullivan and I have met to discuss his contract," said School Board President Sarah Ricks. "I feel strongly it is in the best interest of the school district to, if he's willing to take us for another year, to have him stay. There's a number of exciting things that are happening and we really appreciate and value his leadership."

The one-year contract extension unanimously approved by the board offers a salary of $201,496 plus fringe benefits.

Sullivan revealed his intentions by speaking up before the meeting adjourned to say there was a "special guest" in the audience. He left the meeting table and led his wife up to the front of the room.

"I find it hard to believe that this is only the second school board meeting she has attended," Sullivan said. The first was when they interviewed for the superintendent's position "and no matter how much I cajoled or prodded or begged, she didn't want to come back. But this is our date night, and our daughter has dropped us off, and my wife looked at me and said, 'It would be nice when these pesky meetings stop getting in the way of our date night.'"

As the laughter died down, Sullivan reached into his suit and produced a white envelope that he handed to Ricks.

"Now having said that, Madame President, we submit my resignation from the Dickinson Public Schools effective June 30, 2018. It has truly been a pleasure and I will see that this is placed on the agenda for the January 18th school board meeting. I want to thank all of you for having had the opportunity to work with you. And on that note, I'd like to be excused."

Sullivan has served as superintendent since 2009.

Ricks said after the meeting she was caught by surprise when Sullivan announced he was resigning. She accepted his letter, saying she "really didn't want to."

"I think ... it is surprising," Ricks said after the meeting. She does not know his reasons for resigning.

Sullivan's announced departure comes after a string of resignations were approved by the board:

• Jeri Braunagel, mathematics instructor at Dickinson High School, a 21-year-veteran.

• Jane Cornell, leveled literacy interventionist at Prairie Rose Elementary, after 39 years.

• Ron Dockter, principal at Dickinson High School, after 14 years.

• Carla Fettig, literacy coach at Prairie Rose Elementary, after 29 years.

• Darlene Henning, visually impaired instructor at Dickinson HIgh School, after 34 years.

• Sherry Libis, principal at Prairie Rose Elementary, after 18 years.

• Amy Rudolph, special education instructor at Prairie Rose Elementary, after four years.

• Laura Tescher, special education instructor at DHS, after 16 years.

• Cynthia Welch, kindergarten instructor at Lincoln Elementary, after 22 years.

Ricks said she feels the large number of resignations are simply the years catching up to a previous generation.

"I think it's a generational issue," she said. "We have a lot of people who are getting to that point in their lives, they'd really like to retire and spend more time with their families."

Ricks said discussions are underway to fill the holes.

"We have already had several discussions about the challenges facing us with recruitment," Ricks said. "I know that our HR personnel and our business manager are working really hard on that and thinking what else we can do to heavily recruit and get solid applicants in for Dickinson Public Schools."

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