Sequim School Board considering retaining interim superintendent Clark

The interim superintendent has “impressed” the Sequim school board

Interim superintendent Rob Clark has impressed the Sequim School Board since he was hired to oversee the district four months ago — so much so that at the Oct. 21 board meeting they discussed on Monday night the option of signing him to a longer-term contract and removing the “interim” tag from his title.

“I can’t honestly think of a bad thing I’ve heard about (Clark) in talking about him with anyone,” board president Brian Kuh said during the meeting.

The conversation was sparked in part by an approaching timeline for the search for a permanent superintendent fast approaching. Northwest Leadership Associates (NWLA), the contracted search firm, is scheduled to begin their search in December.

Kuh indicated he and vice president Brandino Gibson — who was excused for Monday’s meeting — recently spoke to NWLA representative Dr. Roger Rada about what the board’s options are in regards to their contract and how to proceed if the board chose to extend Clark instead of conducting a full search.

According to Kuh, Rada indicated that there are two main options: 1) proceed with the search as planned with Clark applying as a candidate, or 2) starting an information-finding process to gauge opinion on Clark among district staff and the community, to help inform a decision whether to retain Clark.

Rada said the firm could serve as the district’s search firm when Clark eventually retires, Kuh said.

Clark said he feels his ideal situation would be to work two to three more years beyond his current one-year contract, with his last year spent working with and mentoring his replacement. After that theoretical contract expires, Clark indicated that it would be time for him to retire.

Kuh said he did not have details about how these changes may impact the district’s contract with NWLA, but that he’d be following up with Rada soon to discuss those details.

Clark said that representatives from NWLA would be at the Washington State School Directors Association regional meeting he and Sequim School Board directors are attending on Oct. 26, and that would serve as a good opportunity to discuss the issue.

Either way, Clark said, the decision needs to be made soon, preferably by Jan. 1.

“That way if you choose to go in another direction,” Clark told board directors, “you can get into the early pool of (superintendent) candidates.”

Clark also noted that any decision “needs to be made by the next board after the election. That’s not a decision for the current board.”

Bond measure in sight

Clark said he is in the process of creating a bond measure for the school district that he may ask directors to put on the Nov. 2020 ballot — something he says would be “set back, but not ruined” by bringing on a different superintendent.

“If someone else takes this to the finish,” Clark said, “he’d have to work very hard because people will need to be convinced that he’s going to do the work someone else set up.”

Student performance

School board directors also saw the results of OSPI’s assessment of students’ performance in the 2018-19 school year, one that saw 66 percent of Sequim students meet grade level standards on state testing for English Language Arts curriculum, while 55 percent met math standards and 53 percent met science standrads.

Assistant superintendent Jennifer Maughan indicated that those numbers are on a “slow upwards trend” from previous years, though she did say that she is “concerned” about the district’s trend of fairly high performance in those areas among elementary school students steadily falling as students advance through middle and high school.

Maughan indicated that school staff are examining the results for their respective campuses and that more reports from their analysis will be forthcoming.

Other business

• During his presentation to the board, Clark indicated that he’s building implementation committees to finish the work started previously on the district’s Strategic Improvement Plan. While he said that most of the goals in the SIP can “walk themselves to a finish,” he did request additional information from the board as to their expectations on the financial goals in the SIP given the restrictions and realities of a school district’s budget. President Kuh and director Jim Stoffer indicated that because legislative feedback and action weren’t available when the SIP was finalized, little detail was currently available, but Kuh said he would work with Clark to establish what needs to be done on that front.

State auditor investigates unauthorized use of funds

On Oct. 10, the Office of the Washington State Auditor released a report regarding a special investigation into the potential loss of public funds in the Sequim School District. The investigation began on May 16, 2018, after the district notified the auditor’s office about an unauthorized savings and checking account being operated by the Sequim High School cheer booster club.

The auditor’s office confirmed the results of a separate district investigation that while the account was open between May 2016 and May 2018, the booster club deposited and spent funds related to ASB activities, money which belonged to the school district.

The auditors recommended that the district strengthen their monitoring and training around ASB activities and funding, to which the district has already begun a training process, according to district director of business operations and finance Darlene Apeland. She said that two such sessions had already occurred, and one more is planned for February.

Asked about the report at the Oct. 21 district board meeting, interim superintendent Rob Clark indicated that the cheer coach and staff involved with the account are no longer with the district. The booster club isn’t an organization directly overseen by the district, so he wasn’t sure if anyone involved was still in the organization.

Because the auditor’s findings couldn’t prove fraud in the case, Clark said that there will be no way to recoup the money other than the $2,419.99 that was left in the account when it was closed in May 2018 and turned over to the district.

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