SALEM -New Salem schools treasurer Dawn Meeks resigned before she started, citing unspecified personal reasons for the sudden decision and forcing the board to hire an interim treasurer in a hurry.
The board met in special session early Thursday to accept Meeks' resignation and to hire recently retired Canton Schools Treasurer Michael Bichsel as the interim treasurer at a daily rate of $283 retroactive to Wednesday.
"We do appreciate you stepping in and helping us out on short notice," board member Steve Bailey said to Bichsel, who was present for the meeting.
Board President Brad Myers described the events of the last few days as "a whirlwind," explaining that Meeks let them know prior to last week that there was a personal family issue going on, but didn't indicate to him until Friday that she might not be able to take the job.
The board met in executive session during an emergency meeting Sunday for personnel, with no action planned. On Monday, Myers said she told him it was definite that she could not take the job. Another special meeting was set for Tuesday
afternoon, with action expected, but then it was cancelled due to a lack of quorum, with the meeting reset for Thursday. All five board members attended.
Meeks had been slated to take over Wednesday, with now former Treasurer Jill Rowe scheduled to leave for her new job in the Crestwood Local Schools in Mantua effective Wednesday.
In her letter of resignation dated July 31 and effective immediately, Meeks said "I appreciate having had the opportunity to serve the Salem schools. However, circumstances in my family and personal life make this the best move for all concerned at this time."
A Salem resident, Meeks had been hired at the end of May. She had been serving as the treasurer and food service director for the Windham Exempted Village School district since 2008, a position she was leaving to take the Salem job. Prior to that, she served as the treasurer's assistant for the West Branch school district from January 1995 to December 2008.
She attended the June board meeting and had worked with Rowe a few days, being paid at the daily rate, the same rate they agreed to pay Bichsel.
Myers said when he was first told she might not be able to take the job, Superintendent Tom Bratten looked to secure an interim and contacted someone he knew who had just retired. Bichsel agreed to take the position on a temporary basis and spent a day with Rowe this week to ease the transition.
"I'm just happy I can help and get them through a tight spot," Bichsel said.
The 52-year-old Alliance resident retired July 1 after 27 years as treasurer of the Canton Local School District. He was born and raised in Alliance and graduated from Marlington High School.
He worked with Bratten for 10 years when Bratten was a principal and director of vocational education at Canton South and they've kept in touch.
"Knowing how school boards of education operate, I understood the difficulty the board was in when Tom called me last Friday," Bichsel said.
He also knew Rowe and how good of an operation she had in place, which made his decision a little easier. His wife is still working and they have two grown sons and three grandchildren.
"We were lucky to get someone with that much experience," Bailey said, noting that all treasurer contracts start Aug. 1, so anybody who is a treasurer was likely in a contract.
Myers offered thanks to Bratten for his quick action.
"He stepped up immediately as our superintendent and contacted his friend. We appreciate him coming in," he said, referring to Bichsel.
As for finding a permanent treasurer, he said the board hasn't had any time to talk about their next step. They'll have to start the search for a new treasurer all over again. The next board meeting is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 20.
"We certainly wish Dawn well. Our thoughts and prayers are with her," Myers said.