Sequim School board mulls retaining interim superintendent

SEQUIM — The Sequim School Board is considering retaining interim Superintendent Rob Clark permanently.

“I can’t honestly think of a bad thing I’ve heard about [Clark] in talking about him with anyone,” board president Brian Kuh said during Monday’s meeting.

The conversation was sparked in part by a fast-approaching timeline for the search for a permanent superintendent. Northwest Leadership Associates (NWLA), the contracted search firm, is scheduled to begin their search in December.

Kuh said he and Vice President Brandino Gibson — who was excused for Monday’s meeting — recently spoke to NWLA representative Roger Rada about the board’s options in regard to its contract and how to proceed if the board chose to extend Clark instead of conducting a full search.

According to Kuh, Rada said the board has two options: proceed with the search as planned with Clark applying as a candidate, or start an information-finding process to gauge opinion on Clark among district staff and the community, to help inform a decision about retaining him.

Rada said the firm could serve as the district’s search firm when Clark eventually retires, Kuh said.

Clark said he feels his ideal situation would be to work two to three more years beyond his current one-year contract, with his last year spent working with and mentoring his replacement.

After that theoretical contract expires, Clark said that it would be time for him to retire.

Kuh said he did not have details about how these changes may impact the district’s contract with NWLA, but that he’d be following up with Rada soon to discuss those details.

Clark said that representatives from NWLA would be at the Washington State School Directors Association regional meeting that he and Sequim School Board directors are attending Saturday, and that would serve as a good opportunity to discuss the issue.

Either way, Clark said, the decision needs to be made soon, preferably by Jan. 1.

“That way if you choose to go in another direction,” Clark told board directors, “you can get into the early pool of [superintendent] candidates.”

Clark also noted that a decision “needs to be made by the next board after the election. That’s not a decision for the current board.”

Bond measure in sight

Clark said he is in the process of creating a bond measure for the school district that he may ask directors to put on the November 2020 ballot — something he said would be “set back, but not ruined” by bringing on a different superintendent.

“If someone else takes this to the finish,” Clark said, “he’d have to work very hard because people will need to be convinced that he’s going to do the work someone else set up.”

Student performance

School board directors also saw the results of OSPI’s assessment of students’ performance in the 2018-19 school year, one that saw 66 percent of Sequim students meet grade level standards on state testing for English Language Arts curriculum, while 55 percent met math standards and 53 percent met science standards.

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Maughan indicated that those numbers are on a “slow upward trend” from previous years, though she did say that she is “concerned” about the district’s trend of fairly high performance in those areas among elementary school students steadily falling as students advance through middle and high school.

Maughan indicated that school staff are examining the results for their respective campuses and that more reports from their analysis will be forthcoming.

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Conor Dowley is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at cdowley@sequimgazette.com.

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