Sequim school directors refine search for next superintendent

When the job posting for the Sequim School District’s next superintendent goes live late this week, it won’t be specifically targeting a short- or long-term solution to the role.

While Hank Harris of Human Capital Enterprises — the superintendent search firm hired by the district to find its next administrative leader — urged board directors to consider seeking an experienced candidate that might not stay for several years, directors said they hold out hope they can still find a superintendent who will serve as more than a bridge to the next long-term leader.

The board of directors and Harris further refined who they hope to entice to be the district’s lead administrator at a special meeting on Dec. 9, with the job expected to be posted on Dec. 17 on several education websites.

“Time is now of the essence … (and) we need to set the criteria at the get go of the search,” Harris told directors.

Dr. Jane Pryne has led the district as interim superintendent for the past 13 months following Robert Clark’s placement on administrative leave in October 2020. (Clark resigned Jan. 15 and in late March, a district employee filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against Clark that has yet to be resolved.)

Pryne, who had retired from her position as Port Angeles School Superintendent, agreed to serve as interim superintendent on Oct. 26, 2020 and then re-upped for another year at the board’s request in February.

But in November 2021 Pryne announced she’s resigning the post effective Dec. 31. It is still unclear who will lead the district in Pryne’s absence, as assistant superintendent Jennifer Maughan was placed on administrative leave in mid-September after alleging acts of discrimination/retaliation against her by Pryne.

Board members briefly discussed replacing Pryne during their Nov. 15 meeting. Gibson said he’s made contact with the Olympic Educational Service District, one of nine regional state agencies across Washington state that supports school districts, about assistance in temporarily filling the superintendent role.

Three primary candidate options

Harris in his presentation last week presented three superintendent archetypes:

• Option one, an “experienced school district leader who is committed to moving to and putting down roots in Sequim.” However, Harris noted, “Highly talented mid-career school district leaders may well be uninterested in relocating to Sequim at this moment in Sequim School District’s history.”

• Option two, an “experienced school district leader who is interested in a short-term commitment to Sequim.” This kind of candidate would likely be in the district for one to three years and set the district up for a more long-term leader after his/her tenure. These candidates, he said are often someone who has been a superintendent and my be semi-retired but wants to continue to work in the education field. “The aspiration would be for this new superintendent to help the new board ‘right the ship,’ and attend to some of the pressing matters that have challenged the district over the last several years,” Harris noted.

• Option three, an “experienced organizational leader” who’s known and trusted in Sequim and/or Clallam County. This candidate, Harris wrote, could be “a seasoned executive who has demonstrated success and has experience with boards and transformational change but who may be new to school district leadership.”

Harris said getting a good pool of candidates from option one might be difficult.

“I really do believe Sequim needs an experienced leader at the highest level of the organization,” he said.

“When there are many places that also are attractive places to live … (the) fact three most recent superintendents have not lasted a very long time is a risky proposition for someone who needs to earn a wage,” Harris said.

Unless that person has deep ties to Sequim or the Olympic Peninsula, long-term candidates might be scared away by the district’s current problems.

“Someone who does not have deep ties will have other opportunities and less risk,” he said. “I fear I will bring you a very small pool … from option one.”

But board directors said they still hold out some hope that the candidate pool could still bring in someone with interest in a long-term tenure at superintendent.

“I’m still leading toward option one,” board president Eric Pickens said. “I haven’t lost faith in our community,.Sequim absolutely best to live in the world and I think we can attract that person.”

Said board vice president Patrice Johnston, “One year just seems like another interim. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for somebody to stay for at least two years.”

Stakeholders

Part of the process of picking the next superintendent is a community stakeholder group that would, by Harris’ timeline, interview finalists for the role on or around March 10.

Harris suggested a 14-member group representing a diverse array of interests and subgroups within Sequim schools and the boarder community.

Harris suggested that this Community Confidential Stakeholder Committee include seven community members that would include: a parent from each of the three grade-level schools (elementary, middle and high); two students; a community members who is not parent/guardian of a Sequim student, and a seventh member who is a parent of non-parent/guardian.

The committee would include seven staff stakeholders, to include: a pre-kindergarten/elementary school employee; a middle school employee; a high school employee; a classified or “confidential” employee; an administrator or supervisor; a labor representative, and an additional labor rep or staff member.

On Dec. 9, board directors also expressed interest in having other stakeholder groups, including special needs and highly capable groups, as well as the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the City of Sequim.

A lottery system to pick most of those members is easiest, Harris said otherwise, the board would need to create a selection sub-committee and rubric for committee selections.

Pickens and Johnston said they would meet with Harris to further refine this group.

Costs

Harris recommended in at least two options to offer a higher-than standard salary — something close to $250,000 — to attract the next superintendent to Sequim.

The elevated salary, Harris said, is “because this is a challenging moment in time. At this moment … it might behoove you to attract the best candidate.”

The board on Dec. 9 verbally agreed to a $2,100 advertising budget that would put the job posting with three regional entities (Washington Association of School Administrators, EdJoin and Coalition of Oregon School Administrators), as well as three national groups (School Superintendents Association, National Alliance of Black School Educators and Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents).

Board directors also asked Harris to look further afield, such as Montana and Alaska, for viable candidates.

Sequim school board directors in February selected Human Capital Enterprises to lead the search of a superintendent for the 2021-2022 school year. At the time, the company was in the final stages of superintendent searches in Chimacum and Port Townsend.

Sequim School District superintendent search timeline

• Dec. 17 — Vacancy posted

• Dec. 17-Feb. 7 — recruitment window

• Feb. 10 — Preliminary interview (virtual, with consultants)

• Feb. 11-14 — Board member individual reviews of documents

• Feb. 14 or 15 — Presentation of slate

• Feb. 25 — Board initial interviews

• March 10 — Community stakeholder interviews w/finalists

• March 12 — Board interview with finalists

• March 14 — Board meets to identify preferred candidate(s)

• Late March — Target for announcement

• July 1 — New superintendent assumes responsibilities

More in News

Proposed law would force cities to increase housing density in single-family neighborhoods

By Juan Morfin WNPA News Service Forcing higher densities in Washington’s cities… Continue reading

Employment test for marijuana use questioned

Brooklynn Hillemann WNPA News Service Washington marijuana users won’t face losing their… Continue reading

Peninsula awaits news on how to order federal masks

Health officer: N95, KN95 masks recommended

COVID-19 cases keep rising on Peninsula; OMC transfers cases to Jefferson Healthcare

Public health authorities confirmed an additional 123 COVID-19 cases on the North… Continue reading

The Port Angeles School District is expected to sell its former administrative services building to Olympic Medical Center in February. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)
Olympic Medical Center buying school’s site

The Port Angeles School District is preparing to sell its former administration… Continue reading

Peninsula COVID-19 cases grow by 407 over weekend

North Olympic Peninsula’s health officer reported a total of 407 cases of… Continue reading

TEASER
Fire District 3 seeks architects for new fire stations

Carlsborg and Dungeness need upgrades, staff say

TEASER
City councilors vote to blur backgrounds in virtual meetings

As Sequim city council continues to meet in virtual sessions because of… Continue reading

Teaser
Sequim home sale prices hit all-time high

Inventory remains low as more development planned

Most Read