Tihen sworn in as interim superintendent
Dr. Lawrence Tihen was sworn in Friday afternoon as the interim superintendent in the wake of Dr. James Browder’s departure.
The decision of allowing Browder out of his 60-day notice requirement was approved by the school board Wednesday afternoon after he accepted a job at Edison State College as the vice president of operations. Browder departed as the superintendent of schools at midnight Friday.
The Lee County School District Communications Department could not provide how much Browder received for his vacation days and sick days upon his departure Friday or the total amount of his exit payment.
His contract called for two years salary as severance, or more than $335,000.
The vote to appoint Tihen as the interim superintendent was made by a unanimous vote by the school board Wednesday night after various motions for candidate recommendations failed due to tied votes.
Tihen was sworn in Friday at 4 p.m. in the school board room by the Honorable John Carlin in the presence of Board member Jane Kuckel. The ceremony was held to ensure continuity for the district, along with having a superintendent in place after Browder left.
Kuckel said Friday was an exciting day for the district because Tihen has already worked miracles with staff and the community.
“I look forward to being his boss,” she said, laughing.
Tihen said it came to him as a surprise when the school board appointed him Wednesday as the interim superintendent because he knew they had a number of very good candidates in mind for the transition period.
After the ceremony Tihen told the audience that this is a huge transition and he is happy to serve.
Tihen said becoming the interim superintendent is a small way for him to thank everyone for all they have done for him. He said he only plans on filling the position for as long as the school board needs him.
He already started the process of working with people in the district before being sworn in Friday to make sure there was as smooth of a transition as possible when Browder left.
The focus, he said remains on the students.
One of the first issues he wants to tackle is transportation.
He said as he battles the transportation issue he plans on finding a solution that is right for both the students and teachers because he believes when transportation is better, students do better in school. Tihen plans on getting the community’s input on the transportation issue to ensure that there is collective wisdom brought forward.
Tihen has already begun putting together a presentation that will be brought forward to the board once the new board members are seated in November.
All players will be brought together under Tihen’s leadership, so that problems can be solved. He said he believes the challenges and problems the district is currently facing is due to them accumulating over time.
“I want to get everyone back together,” Tihen said.
Before Tihen was sworn in Friday afternoon he was touched by the amount of support he has already received from the district and community.
“I am very grateful for the messages of support that I have received from parents and teachers, principals and members of the community,” Tihen said.
He said the highlight of his day Friday was when he heard from one of his students that participated in a program that was established almost 25 years ago. Tihen said it was nice to hear from the student because it reminded him of what is valued by the children.
“It was something I wasn’t expecting,” he said.
When Tihen first joined the district 31 years ago he worked with the administration for those who were visually and verbally impaired. He was then promoted to the director of student education where he worked with teachers and administrators across the district to help students with disabilities.
His involvement in the district continued as a principal, along with working to improve reading programs before being selected for the executive director of curriculum staff and development position.
Board Chairman Steve Teuber and Board Attorney Keith Martin will work on Tihen’s contract, which includes a five-day advance notice if the board decides not to retain him for the permanent superintendent position. His contract will be presented a the Oct. 7 meeting for approval.