Questions raised with Liberty superintendent change

LIBERTY, Mo. - Liberty is a district with a history of trouble at the top. A closer look at the process of hiring their newest leader raised serious questions.

When Liberty Superintendent Mike Brewer steps down next summer, his replacement will only be a few steps down the hall.

"We surprised a lot of people," Brewer agreed.

Dr. John Jungmann, a relatively new face at the district, will step into the role of superintendent. District officials recruited him to be deputy superintendent only four months ago. 

When Brewer recommended Jungmann replace him, the school board agreed and never performed an official search for other candidates. They did when Brewer was hired. Most districts, like Raymore-Peculiar, do. Ray-Pec's superintendent search can be found posted online .

"This went a little faster than any of us thought it would," said D. Scott Connor, president of Liberty's Board of Education.

Officials tout Jungmann will allow a much smoother transition than when Brewer took the job in 2008.

That's when former Superintendent Scott Taveau faced accusations of double-dipping; taking retirement funds while working full-time. His replacement, Phil Wright, said he was forced to resign for refusing to forge documents. But an audit revealed district credit card abuse, like buying alcohol and spa treatments.

Brewer was supposed to stabilize the ship. Board members say he did. 

"Mike has been the right guy at the right time," Connor said.

But Brewer isn't leaving the district. He is resigning as superintendent to become the executive director of elementary education, a new position with a comparable salary. School board members tell 41 Action News they knew the changes might raise eyebrows.

"Frankly, Mike moving into a different position and not doing a search were the two things I went in to my board with," Connor said. "Those were a couple of the big concerns that I had."

But the board passed it unanimously, telling us they believed Jungmann was the best person for the job. They said a search would not only cost thousands of dollars, but result in Jungmann still being the best choice.

Brewer's most recent three-year contract was signed January 2010. It had been extended each year until this year. We reviewed the contract and discovered Brewer was supposed to complete his doctorate by December 2010. Two years later, he is still not done. That's why board members did not extend it.

"What the board wanted to see was to see him get his doctorate before we added that third year on," said Connor.

"I have a certificate and I've got my specialist and that is all you need," insisted Brewer, who says a doctorate is not a requirement of the job. "But it would be an expectation if I was going to stay," he said.

Former board member Martha Ransom insists his doctorate was a requirement for Brewer.

"We were concerned," she said. "Some of us were very concerned. We, at one point, even offered to give him a three month leave of absence to get that done because we felt that superintendents of our district needed to have that doctorate."

Now, just a few months after not getting the extension, Brewer lands a newly created position. He defends the timing because Jungmann was so perfect for the job.

"I can fully support him" said Brewer. "This works to where, you know, I can stay here and if this didn't all work out then I was just going to stay put in the superintendency."

"It was not something he created for himself," insisted Connor. "I completely understand why it looks that way to some people but its, it just is what it is."

District officials all argue the 25-year district veteran never wanted to be superintendent forever.

"Overtime, I knew that my heart was still at the elementary level and so I knew eventually I would get back there," he said. "I just didn't know when and how, but the timing is working out perfectly.

"The future is bright for Liberty and I want to be a part of it," Jungmann said.

Jungmann takes office July 1. Despite how he was promoted, everyone seems to be positive about his assumption of the superintendent seat. Jungmann has already been awarded for his past as a superintendent, serving in Monett for four years before coming to Liberty.

A doctorate is not a state requirement to be a superintendent in Missouri. Brewer adds he will graduate with his doctorate in May.

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