New interim superintendent chosen for Salt Lake City School District

Martin Bates, a former superintendent of Granite School District, will begin leading the district Wednesday.

Salt Lake City school board members appointed Martin Bates, a former superintendent of Granite School District, as the district’s interim superintendent at a meeting Tuesday night.

Bates, who retired after 11 years as superintendent in Granite in 2021, will lead the district “for a few months” as the board searches for a permanent replacement, board president Melissa Ford said.

The board placed previous Superintendent Timothy Gadson III on leave and offered him a severance payment in July, though he was ultimately moved into a consulting role during a meeting on Sept. 23 after he sought mediation.

The board said there had been “no finding of any wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Gadson and no violation of law by either Dr. Gadson or the Salt Lake City School Board,” in a statement during the meeting two weeks ago.

Business Administrator Alan Kearsley supervised the district during the months that Gadson was on leave. Gadson did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Bates, who started working in education 30 years ago as a special education and math teacher, will start Wednesday. He graduated from Highland High School and has raised eight children, who all attended school in Salt Lake City.

“I look forward to helping this board and the board that takes office in January to serve and support the children, families and employees of Salt Lake City School District,” Bates said.

Mike Harman, vice president of the Salt Lake Education Association, expressed frustration with the board during the public comment period for not engaging with students, families and employees before appointing Bates.

“I continually hope that you as board members will recognize the damage you do to public trust and employee morale when you are not open and transparent with major decisions like this,” Harman said. That hope, he added, is diminishing.

While he doesn’t doubt Bates’ qualifications, Harman said, he was “extremely disappointed” in the board for not taking public comment before Tuesday’s announcement.

“We all talk about the importance of shared governance and how that sets our district apart, yet the actions of this board do not foster a feeling of collaboration with stakeholders,” Harman said.

The board may have met its legal obligation to vote on an interim superintendent in a public meeting, Harman said, but only bringing forward one name instead of holding public discussions about potential candidates indicated to Harman that appointing Bates was a “foregone conclusion.”