Sequim School DIstrict's board of Directors voted on Feb. 23 to retain Dr. Jayne Pryne as the district's superintendent through June 2022. Photo courtesy of Sequim School DIstrict

School board votes to keep superintendent through June 2022

Three weeks after selecting a search firm to find its next superintendent, Sequim School District’s board of directors unanimously voted to keep their interim superintendent for another academic year.

Board directors voted 5-0 on Feb. 23 to retain Dr. Jane Pryne through the end of the 2021-2022 school year while the district continues a search for her successor.

The board similarly agreed to offer Pryne a contract at its regular meeting on March 1.

Pryne will earn a base salary of $155,000.

Directors last week cited a number of reasons for the move, from the timing — Sequim is on a relative late schedule to be searching for a superintendent — to COVID-related changes to in-person instruction, some negative attention from national news sources toward City of Sequim leaders, and turmoil within the district regarding recent complaints directed at administrators.

”We’ve got some challenges — we’re still trying to navigate through COVID,” director Brian Kuh said at the special meeting on Feb. 23. “We have enough on our plate … a little more time is needed to get out of the woods.”

Pryne was named acting superintendent in late October after superintendent Dr. Rob Clark was placed on paid leave following a complaint. (A day later, Sequim high principal Shawn Langston was placed on paid leave following a separate complaint; he has since been reinstated to his position.)

Clark agreed to resign in mid-January, and Pryne was named interim superintendent.

At the time, Pryne said in an interview that she was not interested in applying for the permanent role as the district’s lead administrator.

However, she said at last week’s meeting that there are a number of projects she’d like to complete before she steps away and that she’d be willing to stay another year if the board desired.

One of those projects, she said, was having a mediator at Sequim High School to work with staff about the school’s culture.

“That’s a long-term commitment; I would like to at least get the work get mostly completed,” Pryne said.

“I thought, ‘If I could just have one more year, we could hand it over to another superintendent … who would be around for a long time, to take the district to the next level.”

In an interview later in the week, Pryne said he primary goal is to help get students back into classrooms for in-person instruction.

“(We’re) getting some normalcy back for our students,” she said on Feb. 26, three days before Sequim High School students began returning to classroom for the first time in nearly a year.

“I would like to be here in part to help that along. That’s probably the biggest project right now.”

Board director Eric Pickens said at the board meeting that he’d prefer to have a long-term superintendent in place — somewhere between five and eight years, if possible — and that keeping Pryne on for a year while simultaneously doing a thorough search to bring in a new superintendent in July 2022 allows for that.

“I think (a multi-year superintendent) provides for a healthy district (and) long-term relationships with staff and community,” Pickens said. “Given the circumstances, I’m in favor of extending the search itself and extending Dr. Pryne’s contract simultaneously.”

Board president Brandino Gibson agreed.

“If goal is long term superintendent, let’s let the process happen and continue with the excellent superintendent we have in place now,” he said.

The board on Feb. 23 also heard from Hank Harris of Human Capital Enterprises, the superintendent search firm the district contracted with in early February.

Harris said the district is on pace with a timeline established earlier this year, but noted that finding a highly-qualified candidate is getting tougher

“You will find no shortage of districts … that are beyond or further along (the superintendent search process) than Sequim,” Harris said.

Many superintendents looking to make a change would be reluctant to make a move this late in the school year and leave their district in the position of searching for a new administrator in April or May, he said.

“Sequim may very well be a district that would be best served by someone with superintendent experience,” Harris said.

“Certainly folks of high talent are in high demand (and) this year is a very competitive year. (But) I can’t tell you what the pool’s going to look like. In this work, every week counts, every week matters.”

Board directors agreed to keep Harris and Human Capital Enterprises on the hunt for the next superintendent. He said his firm will keep the timeline that has staff collecting more information about Sequim and what characteristics its next superintendent should have.

“I think it’s always best to be at the front end of the hiring system,” Harris said. “You’ve got a wonderful superintendent in place for the next year.

“We’ll be in fine shape for recruitment whenever you deem that ready to go.”

Sequim’s board of directors also said they are happy with what they’ve seen from Pryne since she took over in Clark’s absence in late October.

“I’ve been extremely impressed by Jane and (her) work,” Kuh said.

Board director Larry Jeffryes, who retired with 35 years of teaching experience, noted at last week’s meeting, “(Pryne) is about the best I’ve worked with.”

Pryne noted last week, “Since I’ve been here it seems to have been a seamless transition. I think there are things we could accomplish with me being here another year.”

For more about the Sequim School District, see sequimschools.org.

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