Pryne steps in as acting superintendent

Looking to handle a bevy of change — three administrators on leave and most students still learning remotely in the midst of a pandemic that’s sees cases rise steadily outside Clallam County — Sequim school leaders welcomed acting superintendent Jane Pryne to the district Monday night.

Pryne was sworn in at the district’s Nov. 2 meeting and signed to a contract that will pay the former Port Angeles schools superintendent $711 per day plus mileage through Dec. 31, 2020.

Sequim School Board directors unanimously approved the contract.

“I’m thankful she was able to jump on board so quickly and able to serve the students and staff at such a crucial time,” Sequim School Board vice president Eric Pickens said.

Two Sequim school district administrators — superintendent Dr. Rob Clark and Sequim High principal Shawn Langston — were placed on leave in October pending the outcome of separate complaints; no details about either complaint have been released.

Sequim school representatives announced Clark was on paid leave Thursday afternoon, Oct. 22; Langston was placed on leave the following day.

Shelley Jefferson, Helen Haller Elementary assistant principal, was placed on leave this summer.

Board members did not address the administration changes directly Monday.

“Obvious(ly) we can’t comment on personal matters; (we) need the fact finding to take place,” board director Brian Kuh said.

Pryne was one of two candidates for the Sequim School District’s superintendent position in 2019. She became the Port Angeles district superintendent in 2009 after serving seven years as superintendent of a district in the Tucson, Ariz., area and a year as interim superintendent in another Tucson-area district. She retired from the Port Angeles School District at the conclusion of the 2013-2014 school year.

“She stepped right in and been doing some great work right away,” Sequim School Board president Brandino Gibson said Monday.

”It’s like I’ve always been here; everywhere I’ve gone I’ve gotten a very warm welcome,” Pryne said.

Clallam County Superior Court judge Simon Barnhart administered the oath of office.

Levy considerations

Sequim school leaders remain steadfast in looking at two ballots issues for February 2021.

On Monday night, Pryne gave an overview of Sequim’s Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy that expires in 2021, along with a proposed capital projects levy, both of which school district leaders look to put before voters early next year.

Sequim School District’s taxpayer-approved EP&O levy runs out in 2021, and the district is looking for voters to continue local support in a special election on Feb. 9.

Initial numbers proposed by Clark earlier this year would keep the local levy rate at between $1.23 and a little less than $1.26 per $1,000 of assessed value — in all, between $7.15 million and $7.7 million for a four-year (2022-2025) levy.

EP&O levies pay for a multitude of district-wide services and staffing, from food service and transporation to special education, technology, classroom support and more.

“It is a replacement levy; it is not a new levy. It’s the day to day operations of the district,” Pryne said. “You get federal and state monies, but it’s never enough to cover some of the costs.”

Clark and Pryne both said the district hasn’t promoted the levy prior to the fall as the district didn’t want voters to be confused that it may be on 2020 general election ballots.

District officials in recent weeks promoted a plan to run a capital projects levy side-by-side with the EP&O proposal, an approximate $14 million plan to be paid for by local taxpayers over three years, at a cost of $0.75 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The capital projects levy would cover cost of a multitude of issues at the five school building campuses and district office, including roof replacements, upgrades to the district’s phone system, technology services and overall security, modernization of science labs at Sequim High School, Greywolf Elementary School’s hook-up to the Carlsborg sewer system, and more.

“(These needs) were identified in previous years,” director Jim Stoffer said Monday. “We need to focus on those critical repairs.”

Clark said in a previous interview, “Every campus is going to be touched. Ultimately, when it passes, we will take care of every small project (the district has).”

Both levy proposals would be on the Feb. 9 ballot and need 50 percent plus one vote to pass.

Pryne said the board could approve the ballot measures at a scheduled special meeting on Nov. 30 and send to Clallam County officials prior to the county auditor’s Dec. 11 deadline for the Feb. 9 ballot.

Sequim’s previous capital projects levy — one that deconstructed the former Sequim Community School and built the new central kitchen on West Fir Street, among other projects — will be paid off in December 2020.

Board directors plan to get more information from representatives of DA Davidson, a Port Angeles-based investment firm, at their Nov. 16 meeting.

Administrators contract

The board Monday evening also considered a new approach to salary increases for its administrators, though the motion to approve the increases was tabled until the Nov. 16 regular board meeting.

A salary scale proposed Monday night by human resources director Victoria Balint and reportedly approved by Sequim administrators would pay about $128,000 in base salary for elementary school principals, about $131,000 for the lead middle school administrator and $138,000 for high school principal and learning support services executive director positions. Base salaries would increase by 1 percent every five years, up to a maximum of 6 percent for 30 years experience.

The proposal also sets similar base salaries and increased for assistant principals at each building.

The administrator contracts include 12 holiday days, 25 vacation days, five personal days and 218 work days (2 of which may be worked remotely or on days not typically considered work days) out of a 260-day calendar.

That’s a rise from 207 work days, Balint said.

The structured salary scale, district officials said Monday, eliminates the need for yearly salary negotiations and is more reflective of the days administrators actually work.

District officials note Sequim administrators did not receive a salary increase in two of the past four years. This new approach, Balint said, puts Sequim in position to be competitive for top administrator staffers but doesn’t over-extend the district’s resources.

Kuh said the district saw a rise in teacher salaries from state funding via the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, but it didn’t see a parallel rise in administrator salaries.

“We recognized even then … this doesn’t match up,” he said Monday.

Pickens said he wanted further clarification about the proposed salary changes and board members deferred a decision until their next meeting.

Sequim schools superintendents through the years (since 1912)

Jess Mantle 1912-1919

Paul Davis 1919-1924

N.C. Abbot 1924

Anna E. Sweet 1925-1930

Kirby Smith 1930-1934

Harry Edwards 1934-1946

Tom Marsden 1947-1953

Wallace Blore 1953-1960

Matt Strauss 1960-1965

Everett Lindaas 1965-1974

Jack McKay 1974-1977

Robert (Bob) Schmitt 1977-1984

Ken Anderson 1984-1993

Lew Moormann 1993-1999

Mike Joyner 1999-2003

Garn Christensen 2003-2007

Bill Bentley 2007-2012

Kelly Shea 2012-2015

Gary Neal 2015-2019

**Rob Clark 2019-2020

*Jane Pryne 2020-present

* — acting superintendent

** — on leave as of Nov. 3

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