By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“I am doing this for a lot of personal reasons,” Downs said Monday. “This is a great opportunity for me.
“I wasn't looking to leave the district, but . . . I found that I wanted to get involved in the private side of education as part of a faith-based community.”
Downs will leave Chimacum on June 30 to become superintendent of Joy Christian School in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Ariz.
Due to the timing of his resignation, the School Board will hire an interim superintendent for the next school year and begin the search for a permanent replacement for Downs in the winter, board President Ted Friedrich said.
Downs, 53, helped return financial stability to the district after voters passed a levy lift in 2012 to support a facilities upgrade.
“After the levy passed, it put the district in a better position,” Downs said.
“We didn't have to dip into our resources to take care of our facilities.”
Chimacum High School Principal Whitney Meissner said Downs was effective because he was visible and cared about the students.
“He participated in school programs, and you would always see him around the school,” she said.
“He's been very active and helped us set up a clear vision for the school with the goal of strengthening staff, improving instruction and improving the school climate — things that will continue after he's gone.”
Downs, who arrived as the former assistant superintendent of southwest Washington's Woodland School District in 2010, said the size of the Chimacum district and the location of all schools on a single campus makes the district unusual.
“Kids build relationships that last all the way through school,” he said.
“Developing these longstanding friendships contributes to the positive atmosphere.”
Downs expects that working for a faith-based school will be a different environment, beginning with the parental involvement.
“The parents pay tuition, so it creates a high level of interest in the academic program,” he said.
“And we have the flexibility to teach from the Bible, teaching creationism along with evolution and discussing the validity of both.”
There also is a difference in funding.
“The public schools face a challenge because they are at the mercy of the Legislature,” he said.
Friedrich said Downs, whose wife, Deborah, is a 1979 Chimacum High School graduate, will work with his predecessor, former Superintendent Mike Blair, in tying up administrative details during the selection of an interim superintendent.
Friedrich said no consultant firm will be formally involved in the search, although it will work with search consultant Michael Boring on an informal basis.
“He is plugged in to who's available and who might be interested in this,” Friedrich said.
The district will look to get someone in place immediately.
The candidate most likely will be an experienced superintendent who has recently retired but feels the need to get back into education on a temporary basis, Friedrich said.
Chimacum Elementary School teacher Mitch Brennan, who was on the search committee that hired Downs, said Downs will be hard to replace.
“Some of the candidates came in and said that the problems would take care of themselves, but Craig had some specific ideas about what needed to be done,” Brennan said.
“And after three years, he has done a lot of those things.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.