Port Townsend superintendent search starting

School board discussing different options for replacing Polm

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend School Board has begun discussions on how to proceed with hiring a superintendent to replace John Polm, who is leaving this summer.

Three out of the five current board members have been through a superintendent search: chair Jennifer James-Wilson, Connie Welch and Nathanael O’Hara. They were involved in the most recent hiring of Polm in 2016.

The process is new for board rookies Doug Ross and Jeff Taylor, who were elected in November.

Puyallup School District announced Jan. 31 that board members had selected Polm to be their new superintendent starting July 1. Polm will continue to serve as the superintendent of Port Townsend School District officially until June 30.

Wilson on Thursday provided options for steps the board could take when seeking a new a new superintendent.

The options include interviewing a search consultant and trying to hire someone in spring/summer; hire a search consultant to hire an interim superintendent and then open the full search in fall to hire in January/February 2021 for a start date of July 1; and look internally for candidates. Wilson said some of the current faculty do have the correct certifications.

“There are advantages and disadvantages to any of those options,” Wilson said.

A consultant would be able to vet qualifications for candidates and perform the needed background checks, so that the board would have to sift through only the qualified candidates.

“I don’t feel like I’m in a position to manage the vetting,” Wilson said.

Welch is against looking for an external interim superintendent, as having someone new to the district and only taking control temporarily can lead to possible conflicts in the district’s needs and wants. She recommended taking the time to really discuss what the district and board need and are looking for before opening the process.

“Outside [superintendents] don’t necessarily know what the community or the staff can tolerate,” Welch said. “The board and the staff are the stability for the district and making sure the person has the same priorities we have.”

What seemed to be the most popular idea leaving that meeting — no decision has been made — was to hire an interim superintendent for the 2020-2021 school year, open the application process in fall to receive applications by winter break and make a decision in February 2021.

The potential year and a half process would give the board time to decide on what they’re looking for and what the district needs, to build off the groundwork that Polm had laid.

“I think if we can buy ourselves time, it makes for a better process,” Wilson said. “It’s a time consuming process…if we have the luxury of time, it would be wise.”

The board members will be having further discussions about the search for the new superintendent and the public can attend the meetings at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of the month in Room S-11 of the Gael Stuart Building, 1610 Blaine St.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].

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