After much discussion regarding the proposals and potential logistics of working with two different search firms, Sequim School District’s board of directors agreed to contract with Northwest Leadership Associates to find their next superintendent.
Directors held a long meeting with a packed agenda on May 20, chief among them were discussions related to replacing superintendent Gary Neal, who announced two weeks ago that he would not be returning to the district after his contract runs out on June 30.
Citing the Northwest Leadership Associates’ more detailed timeline that they are the only firm recommended by the Washington State School Director’s Association for such a search, directors chose NWLA over McPherson & Jacobson.
Some members of the board and administration representatives were hesitant during discussion about McPherson & Jacobsen based on previous history with the firm; in the district’s search for a superintendent in 2015, the firm selected three finalists that Sequim School Board directors eventually rejected.
Now the board will move forward in officially hiring NWLA and implementing their plan to hopefully get an interim superintendent in place in the coming weeks, then moving on to their search for a full replacement of Neal.
Their timeline may have been impacted by an unexpected hiccup, however – Neal announced in Monday’s meeting he had been informed that he had more vacation days remaining than he had anticipated, and more than he could “buy back” of his contract. At current, if he buys out all the vacation days his contract allows him to, his last day of work at the district would be June 8, before the end of the school year and two days before the board’s hopeful timeline for hiring an interim superintendent.
Neal asked the board to allow him to buy out an additional 10 days, pushing his departure date back to June 18, which would work better with the planned timelines. Directors elected to wait to make a decision on how to proceed with that issue, however, with several board members saying that the district will likely have at least one special board meeting prior to the next scheduled meeting (June 3).
School board directors asked if Neal would be willing to push back his official exit date by the number of vacation days he has remaining — so that he could leave on June 30 as planned and still get paid for those vacation days — but Neal told the board that he was “not prepared” to do so.
SMS targets new math program
Sequim Middle School principal Vince Riccobene and Pam Landoni, the district’s Instructional Coach & Professional Development Coordinator, proposed that the middle school officially adopt the Eureka math curriculum that they have been piloting at the school for the last year.
Riccobene and Landoni cited a marked increase in assessment scores and support from the school’s math teachers about Eureka, a program already in use at both Helen Haller Elementary and Greywolf Elementary schools.
Eureka, Riccobene and Landoni said, encourages developing options on how to approach math problems and makes use of daily assessments and instructional aides to keep kids from falling behind, and Sequim Middle School’s math teachers have embraced it so far during the pilot program — meeting each Tuesday to make sure they are using the curriculum properly and planning on how to better utilize it.
The board did not vote on the proposal, but board members with children in the district seemed supportive of the idea.
The board heard presentations from several other district groups, including the Sequim Options School, the Sequim High School leadership student board liaisons, SHS physical education teacher and football coach Eric Wiker, and the SHS Robotics Club.
The board was updated on a recent audit relating to the district’s Title 1 grants. According to Darlene Apeland, the district’s Executive Director of Business Operations and Finance, there was only one minor finding in the audit relating to bid process policy, and that has already been corrected. The auditor also had notes on a few improvements that should be made before future audits, mostly relating to how moneys from various ASB clubs are handled, and Apeland said that changes to those processes are already being considered.
During the public comment period, the board heard a presentation from a student selected to be a student ambassador to Sequim’s sister city of Shiso, Japan next fall. Karlie Viada spoke of being an all-A student in accelerated classes and twice representing her school at the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair. She’s seeking donations to help meet the $2,500 cost of the trip, and is seeking sponsorships for her to work at a Japanese garden in Seattle this summer. Those interested in helping her can reach her family at viada firstname.lastname@example.org.