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Sequim school board narrows superintendent field to 4

One candidate made Sequim School Board’s decision easy.

The other four? Not so much.

After whittling down a prospective list of about two dozen applicants to five semifinalists, the Sequim School Board of directors will host day-long, on-campus interviews with four of them next week, with possible selection of their new top administrator coming March 23.

The finalists are:

• Robert Kuehl, assistant superintendent with the Tumwater School District

• Mellody Matthes, assistant superintendent with the Tukwila School District

• Robert Maxwell, executive director of Special Programs with the Bethel School District

• Patrick Kelly Shea, executive director of Human Services with the Mead School District

A fifth semifinalist, David Engle, excused himself from the running on March 9 when he was offered and took the superintendent position with the Port Townsend School District.

“I think we all feel good (about the candidates),” school board member John Bridge said. “We’re going to get one great superintendent.”

Finalist interviews are scheduled for March 19-22.

None of the finalists has experience as superintendent, although three of them have been assistant superintendents at one point in their career.

“We were not necessarily looking for a superintendent from another district,” Sequim School Board president Sarah Bedinger said, noting that board members were seeking applicants with widely varied experience from areas such as finance, student performance and facilities.

“We were looking for diamonds in the rough, people who have worked under superintendents and who understood the weight that would be,” Bedinger said.

The new superintendent will replace Bill Bentley on July 1.

Selecting a final four

The board did not disclose names of the semifinalists and hosted an all-day executive session on March 10 to conduct semifinalist interviews. More than a dozen “observers,” a group including district staff and community members, interviewed candidates and reported back to the board.

The original plan, board members said, was to trim the list of five semifinalists to three.

But Engle bowed out of the running before the meeting took place and several board members said the remaining four deserved a chance to further make impressions during the campus visits next week before the board makes a choice.

“They all have different strengths,” school board member Virginia O’Neil said.

Candidates on campus

Finalist campus visits will last from 8 a.m. to about 8 p.m., O’Neil said, with discussions between the candidates and members each of the district’s bargaining groups (teachers, transportation staff, classified workers, etc.) slated.

Each finalist will be invited to a community forum from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Sequim High School library, 601 N. Sequim Ave.

“We want to encourage as many people as can come to give their input,” O’Neil said.

To cap each visit, finalists are invited to a dinner with school board members.

A special school board meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., March 23, where board members may select their next superintendent.
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