The Sequim School District is moving on from the superintendent they hired in 2019.
Dr. Robert Clark has resigned his lead administrator position a year-and-a-half into his tenure as Sequim School District superintendent effective Jan. 15, district officials announced Thursday.
Board directors unanimously agreed to approve his resignation at a special meeting Jan. 15.
Dr. Jane Pryne, acting superintendent for the district, will assume interim superintendent duties through June 30, district officials announced, after the board approaved the move in a Jan. 19 vote.
“Dr. Clark and the Board of Directors have a disagreement over Dr. Clark’s style of management and decision making and Dr. Clark has elected to resign his employment in the best interests of the District, its staff and students,” school district officials noted in an email sent to staff and students Jan. 14.
The district has declined in recent weeks to provide details of the complaint or investigation documents.
In a document board directors on Jan. 15 approved a document that spells out terms for Clark’s resignation, the district noted: “The parties agree the recent investigation conducted regarding complaints against Dr. Clark did not involve any allegation of inappropriate conduct with the students of the District. However, the verbal report of the investigator included findings regarding Dr. Clark’s style of management and decision making that do not meet the expectations of The Board of Directors. As Dr. Clark and the Board have disagreement over Dr. Clark’s style of management and decision making, Dr. Clark has elected to resign his employment in the best interests of the District, its staff and its students.”
Read the resignation document here: docdroid.net/jJCL7BB/ 11521-clark-separation-pdf.
Clark said in a phone interview Thursday that he didn’t have a comment about the situation other than, “it’s been a long two-and-a-half months.”
District officials noted in the email that the board of directors intend to interview and hire a superintendent search firm at a regularly scheduled board meeting in the near future, seeking a permanent replacement for the interim superintendent.
Clark’s final day of “active employment” was Jan. 13, the agreement noted.
“I’d like to thank superintendent Clark for his service up to this point and wish him the best in the future,” board president Brandino Gibson said at the Jan. 15 meeting.
In the Jan. 15 resignation document, board directors agreed to have the district will pay Clark the base salary for the remainder of his existing contract, with medical benefits extended through the end of January. He may also cash out up to 30 days of unused vacation days as well as all unused sick leave days.
Exact figures for the payout were not available at press time. On Jan 21, 2020, board directors voted to extend his contract another school year (2020-2021) for a $155,000 base salary.
The agreement also states Clark’s separation from the district is permanent and that he agrees he will not apply for future employment with the district.
Clark was placed on paid leave by the district on Oct. 22 pending the outcome of a complaint. A day later, following what school officials say was a separate complaint, Sequim High School principal Shawn Langston was placed on leave before being reinstated in late December.
In response to a public records request from the Sequim Gazette, the school district on Nov. 12 said via email it is withholding all records regarding both investigations, citing RCW 42.56.230 and indicating the records can be withheld because the documents contain “identity of employee subject to an unsustained internal investigation of misconduct, release of which violate the employee’s right to privacy due to the highly offensive nature of the allegations.”
Both complaint investigations were handled internally through the district’s human resources department as well as risk management staff, Pryne said.
Pryne at post
A former Port Angeles School District superintendent, Pryne stepped in to Clark’s role for the interim; her first day was Monday, Oct. 26.
She was one of two candidates for the Sequim School District’s superintendent position in 2019.
Gibson said Pryne is in a good position to lead the district for the remainder of the school year as the district looks to handle weighty issues such as re-opening plans and two key levy proposals.
“She’s done a wonderful job; we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from community and staff over the work she’s done,” Gibson said. “She’s got local experience as well worked on levies in the past.
“The board has full faith in her leadership moving forward.”
Clark’s brief legacy
Clark previously worked as superintendent of the Milton-Freewater School District, just south of Walla Walla across the Washington-Oregon state line, a job he held 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.
Clark succeeded Gary Neal, selected over former Port Angeles schools superintendent Pryne in the summer of 2019.
In late 2019 and early 2020, Clark and a committee of staffers began putting the final touches on a capital projects levy proposal that the board recently approved to put before voters in February, alongside the renewal of the district’s education programs and operations (EP&O) levy.
School leaders carried on with the capital project plans, and voters on Feb. 9 will consider a four-year, $15 million capital projects levy to address a number of building issues, as well as a four-year, $29.7 million levy that replaces Sequim’s current local tax and pays for core learning functions not supported in state’s basic education formula.
“We really need to get those levies passed,” Gibson said.
Clark was also at the helm of the district when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, overseeing the closure of classrooms in March and shift to remote learning at the closure of the 2019-2020 school year, as well as the return to in-person instruction for elementary grade level students in a hybrid model this fall before rising COVID-19 transmission rates forced another closure.
“We had some growth in areas, (such as) getting the two levies started,” Gibson said of Clark’s tenure.