The Sequim School District has named their interim superintendent: Rob Clark.
After spending about 40 minutes in executive session on June 18 deliberating between two finalists — Clark and former Port Angeles Superintendent Jane Pryne — the board reconvened into public session to announce their unanimous choice.
Board director Jim Stoffer made the motion to name Clark the interim superintendent — pending a successful background check and contract negotiation — effective July 1.
“This decision is made after intensive discussions and review of the comments submitted by the public (at Monday’s interviews),” Stoffer said.
The motion carried unanimously, with each board member taking the opportunity to speak in support of the decision and of the process as a whole.
“We had two really good candidates, and it was a pleasure to interview them both,” board vice president Brandino Gibson said, speaking via conference call.
His words were echoed by board President Brian Kuh, who added that it was a “pleasantly difficult decision to make” between Clark and Pryne.
Directors Robin Henrikson and Heather Short both thanked the public for their comments and input, with Short mentioning that community feedback helped her make up her mind.
Clark is expected to be in Sequim by July 1 after finishing his responsibilities as superintendent of the Milton-Freewater School District in Oregon.
Clark has worked as superintendent of the Milton-Freewater School District, just south of Walla Walla across the Washington-Oregon state line, since 2013.
He has also served as a superintendent in Washington state school districts, including the Quilcene School District,the Cascade School District in Leavenworth and the Rearden-Edwall and Washtucna school districts in Eastern Washington.
Pryne, who interviewed by Skype (she is vacationing in Sweden) served as superintendent in Port Angeles from 2009-2014. In Port Angeles she oversaw numerous administration changes, and elected to retire and serve as an educational consultant when her contract expired.
She also has served as a district superintendent in Arizona prior to her time in Port Angeles, and served as an Associate Clinical Professor for Northern Arizona University immediately before coming to Washington state.
Each candidate interviewed with the board for about 40 minutes, and while public comments were not accepted during the regular board meeting following the interviews, the board offered and accepted comment cards and candidate preferences.
Pryne spoke of her love of education administration and district leadership. She said she would focus heavily on the district’s School Improvement Plans as a point of her initial involvement and direction over the summer, if selected as the district’s interim superintendent.
Clark said that if hired his early focus would include budgetary balancing and getting ready to pass a bond issue in the spring. He said Milton-Freewater hadn’t passed a school bond since 1982, but thanks to groundwork he had laid during an elementary school reorganization early in his tenure and a long series of public meetings, the community passed a bond to build a new school building with 81 percent yes votes.
The biggest difference between the two candidates, though, seemed to be in their interpretation of the role of an interim superintendent.
Clark indicated that he wanted to “hit the ground running” and start working on improving the district. He told the board that it’s vital for an interim to “get the lay of the land and identify the tasks that need to get done,” mentioning the bond issues in the district and “lingering personnel issues” in the district. He emphasized that he would be in each of the school buildings on a regular basis to work with administration and staff to understand what they need and help guide needed changes to improve the education experience for the students.
Pryne said that an interim had to “maintain the status quo” and that they were to “help navigate the transition phase to a permanent superintendent, not be an agent of change.” She also said that she would rather continue and complete work that’s already in progress at the district level rather than trying to make substantive changes.
For more information, call the Sequim School District at 360-582-3260 or see www.sequimschools.org.