In his first school board meeting since becoming the Sequim School District Interim Superintendent, Dr. Rob Clark made no bones about being a very different person than his predecessor.
“This (position) is one that hasn’t had enough leadership,” Dr. Clark told the board directors and the audience of a special school board meeting on July 10. “This (position) needs to step up and really lead and make the decisions that need to be made.
“This board has taken way too many hits, and I need to fix that,” Dr. Clark continued.
Dr. Clark was responding to a series of comments made by several board directors after a presentation from the Washington Schools Risk Management Pool about how difficult and unforgiving the experience of being on a school board can be. The presentation was about how the pool can help protect the board, superintendent, and district from legal action and what each party is actually responsible for in terms of potential liability.
“It’s a relief to know (the board) is actually doing this right,” said board Vice-President Brandino Gibson.
Director Robin Henrikson became emotional talking about how appreciative she was for the risk pool’s support and clarification in the face of all the pressure and backlash board members face as part of their duties.
In recent months, the board has frequently faced scathing public comments about a variety of issues, including how the district is responding to the fallout of the federal lawsuit from former teacher Autumn St. George in 2018 that was settled in March for $850,000.
Board President Brian Kuh indicated that the board is going to be changing their public comment policy to disallow any comments having to do with district staff, whether the comment is positive or negative. Deborah Callahan, the executive director of the risk management pool who was there to make the evening’s presentation, indicated that this was a fairly standard policy in many of the districts her company works with.
Comments critical of the district as a whole, such as actions taken, policies or decisions will still be allowed.
Back to business
With so many special board meeting sessions in recent months, Kuh expressed almost a sense of relief at having a regular school board meeting when he opened up the July 15 meeting.
As part of the meeting, Clark made a brief statement to those in the room that they can expect him to be an open, honest and candid superintendent, both with district staff and with the community as a whole.
“We need to move forward, not dwell in the past,” Clark added.
The meeting hosted a presentation from the district’s community outreach coordinator, Hanna McAndie about her duties overseeing the district’s truancy process, which has been getting overhauled after several changes at the state level in how excessive school absences are to be handled.
According to McAndie, the state regulations that mandated the district form a Community Truancy Board also meant that the district has had to update its policies and procedures around students missing classes as well. It’s a still-evolving process with lots of work to do, but McAndie says she and the community volunteers she’s working with on the CTB have been making steady progress on the issue.
One of the biggest things that can be done to help, McAndie told the school board, is for members of the community to volunteer to help or join the CTB.