School boards seek superintendents together

Chimacum, Port Townsend districts kick off joint search

The Port Townsend and Chimacum school boards have joined forces in a search for superintendents to not only lead each of the districts but also to do so with an eye toward collaboration.

“I’m really pleased to see the two districts cooperating to find two future leaders for our districts, to find what I’m calling a match between districts and a fit for each district,” said David Engle, who early this month came out of retirement after serving as Port Townsend’s superintendent for four years to serve as Chimacum’s acting superintendent.

Engle facilitated a joint meeting between the two boards Tuesday evening, during which members reviewed a request for proposals to find a consultant to lead their joint search.

That request was released Wednesday, and three firms were invited to submit proposals. They are NW Leadership Institute of Liberty Lake, Wash., Human Capital Enterprises of Palm Springs, Calif., and McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha, Neb.

They’ll have until 4:30 p.m. Sept. 9 to submit their proposals, after which the boards will conduct joint, 30-minute interviews with each applicant via a Zoom conference call on Sept. 15.

The boards are set to select a firm and enter into a contract by Sept. 25. In October, the chosen consultant will lead a review of key stakeholders and develop leadership profiles for each district over the course of several weeks before recruitment begins sometime in November.

Jennifer James-Wilson, chair of Port Townsend’s school board, said a critical piece of the proposals that board members will consider is how each consultant would go about collecting information from stakeholders to inform the leadership profiles each district is looking for.

“We build our profiles by finding out where our stakeholders are — our teachers, our parents, our community members, our paraprofessionals, our students,” she said. “This is the essential ingredient.”

Candidate interviews with the boards, employee groups and members of the community would begin in January. Finalists would be selected in early February and final decisions would be made by Feb. 24, with contracts negotiated and signed by mid-March.

On Tuesday, the boards discussed the possibility of selecting one superintendent to lead both districts, acknowledging that the idea is likely to come up in meetings with stakeholders because it has come up in the past.

“It is possible and it is legal,” Engle said, “but it’s a question for our communities to answer. When I came in 2012, people were not ready for that. I explored it a little bit and the communities were so far apart from each other. That may have changed; it’s been eight years.”

For the most part, however, the board members agreed it would be best to seek two superintendents who fit the unique qualities and characteristics of each district but who also would be able to work well together.

“Answering to two boards is more complicated than answering to one,” said James-Wilson, recalling how Quilcene and Brinnon school districts shared Superintendent Wally Lis between 2011 and 2015. “Answering to two communities is more complicated than answering to one.”

However the search shakes out in the coming months, members of the two boards say they’re optimistic about a future full of collaboration.

“I’m really excited,” said Kristina Mayer, chair of Chimacum’s school board. “This is new ground broken, and may it be the beginning of a long, healthy relationship.”

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Jefferson County reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by email at [email protected]news.com.

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