The Sequim School District board of directors held their regular board meeting on Aug. 5, and officially began a search for an interim board member in the process.
That’s because board director Robin Henrikson had submitted a resignation letter three days after the district’s July 15 board meeting, stating her desire to allow the board to have an easier transition process with a new superintendent.
Henrikson declined to run for reelection to retain her board director position in the General Election this November.
Henrikson, who is an adjunct professor at Seattle Pacific University, previously served as the president of the board and has in recent board meetings expressed her frustration in the difficulty the board has had in accomplishing its goals.
In her resignation letter, Henrikson expressed a desire to have a declared and unopposed candidate for the school board election in November take her seat to speed up their process of getting up to speed with being a board member.
“I think appointing a candidate who is running for my current District One position now makes a lot of sense rather than waiting for a more difficult transition in Decemeber,” Henrikson wrote in her resignation letter on July 18.
Instead, per the recommendation of interim superintendent Rob Clark and agreed to by a unanimous vote of the board, the school district will accept applications of people interested in holding the seat on an interim basis until the Nov. 5 election.
Applications will be accepted until Sept. 5, with public interviews conducted on Sept. 9. According to board president Brian Kuh, candidates on the ballot will not be considered in order to avoid giving them an “undue advantage” over any potential opponents.
The board meeting also saw Clark confirm the appointments of several new administrators in the school district, including new Sequim Middle School principal Mark Harris, most recently the assistant principal at McClure Elementary School in the Yakima School District.
Harris takes over for Vince Riccobene, who was removed from that position recently and formally assigned as lead administrator of Sequim Options School. Clark has also previously said that Riccobene will also help with administrative duties across the school district.
Greywolf Elementary School has two new assistant principals, with Mark Willis coming over from the same post at Sequim High School while splitting his time running the Olympic Peninsula Academy, and Jennifer Lopez sharing the Greywolf position. Lopez most recently served as the school’s family engagement coordinator and is a former Greywolf classroom teacher.
With Willis leaving the Sequim High School, Kristi Queen is now the only assistant principal at the high school.
Other businessClark was officially sworn into his post as interim superintendent of the school district at the start of the meeting, in a short ceremony performed by Judge Brian Coughenour.
Sequim Middle School counselor Cathy Shea is taking a one year leave of absence, Clark noted. The reason for her leave was not specified. Shea was named in the 2018 federal discrimination lawsuit against the district, along with Riccobene and SMS assistant principal Rhonda Kromm, who remains in her position.
There was a short hearing for the final budget proposal for the 2019-20 school year, which will see the district operate at a loss of $140,946 for the school year. That number is based on what district director of business operations Darlene Apeland called a “conservative” enrollment projection through the course of the school year, and also includes $68,590 in debt service payments. Both Clark and school board members present said they were satisfied with the budget presented, though Clark did note that he will be taking a more personal role in monitoring what he called “a couple areas of concern” within the budget where he felt that the projected expenses were higher than he would expect.
The board also reviewed and approved a bid from Sodexo to continue providing food service for the school district on an initial one-year contract with a further four one-year options, though Clark and Kuh both expressed an interested in exploring self-operation options for the district in the future.
While reviewing proposed updates to a district policy regarding maintaining professional boundaries between staff and students, the board had an in-depth discussion as to the impacts and concerns of the policy as currently updated. District staff have expressed a concern that the current state of the updated policy would prevent them from hiring students for jobs such as babysitting that have been standard practice in the past, and both Clark and the board agreed that the language of the policy is too restrictive in some areas and unclear in others as to what is allowed. Clark said that he will review and adjust the policy update to make it more clear and allow for “reasonable contact” for various situations, including reasonable employment and group activities like clubs and athletics.