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Friday, March 31, 2017

Gene Kirchner On Why He's Retiring, How Charter Schools Will Affect Fort Thomas

Superintendent Gene Kirchner sits for an interview in his office with Mark Collier. FTM file. 
Superintendent of Fort Thomas Schools, Gene Kirchner, announced his retirement at the March 13 Board Meeting. In this exclusive interview with Fort Thomas Matters Radio, Kirchner tells Mark Collier why and what's next.

The Charter School bill, HB 520, from the last General Assembly is also discussed.

"We’re talking about kids here. We’re not producing widgets. These are children," he said.

The story:

In a surprise announcement at the March 13 Fort Thomas Board of Education meeting, new Board Chair, Brad Fennell, read the resignation letter of Superintendent, Gene Kirchner.

While the news surprised some, Kirchner said it was just about the number of years he had in the retirement system.

“I love my job, but with 34 years into the Teachers Retirement System, it just made sense to step aside at this time,” he said. "It was the Law of Diminishing Returns."

In Kenton County, three top administrators with over 30 years experience abruptly retired from the Kenton County School District, including the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent.

District spokesperson Jess Dykes said all three were retiring because of rumors of major changes coming to the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System. By getting out now, they were able to roll the monetary value of their unused sick time into their salary and effectively get better retirement benefits should those rules change in the future.

Kirchner said he directly wanted to address that and did so in a letter to staff.

“That’s absolutely not the case with me,” he said.

Kirchner will officially retire on June 30, 2017. He was hired to the district in March of 2012.

Fennell said that the board is being led through the hiring process by attorney Don Ruberg.

“We have a very unique and special school district,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll find someone who reflects those values to carry our district into the next decade.”

Fennell said they hoped to have a candidate in place before Kirchner retires.

Below is the letter that was read to the School Board:

Dear Board of Education Members,

It is with mixed emotion that I write this letter to inform you of my intent to retire effective June 30, 2017. After 34 years in public education, it simply makes sense for me to move onto the next chapter in life's journey. However, please know that this has not been an easy decision. The community of Fort Thomas is such a special place, and I have thoroughly enjoyed these past five years.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as superintendent in Kentucky's finest public school district. I am incredibly proud of the work that we have accomplished together. My hope is that each of you are equally as proud. I owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for entrusting me with the well-being of our community's most precious asset, it's children.

I assure you that until June 30, I will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of our students and staff in order to ensure that FTIS is well positioned for a seamless transition to a new superintendent. I take comfort in the fact that our district is financially sound and our brand image is very strong. It's time for new leadership to build on the solid foundation that we have collectively established. I have no doubt that far greater accomplishments lie ahead for Fort Thomas Independent Schools.

It has truly been a pleasure to serve with each of you.


Gene Kirchner

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