SEQUIM — The Sequim School Board has agreed to contract with Northwest Leadership Associates to find candidates for the district superintendent post.
At a packed meeting Monday, the board discussed how to replace Superintendent Gary Neal, who announced two weeks ago that he would not return to the district after his contract expires June 30.
Citing the Northwest Leadership Associates’ more detailed timeline and that they are the only firm recommended by the Washington State School Director’s Association for such a search, the board directors chose the Liberty Lake business over McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha, Neb.
Some members of the board and administration representatives were hesitant about McPherson & Jacobsen because in the district’s search for a superintendent in 2015, the firm selected three finalists that Sequim School Board directors eventually rejected.
Now the board will move forward in officially hiring Northwest Leadership Associates.
The board aims to have an interim superintendent in place in the coming weeks, then move on to a search for a permanent replacement.
The timeline might have been affected by an unexpected hiccup, however: Neal announced in Monday’s meeting he had been informed that he had more vacation days remaining than he had anticipated, and more than he could “buy back” of his contract.
If he buys out all the vacation days his contract allows him to, his last day of work at the district would be June 8, before the end of the school year and two days before the board’s hopeful timeline for hiring an interim superintendent.
Neal asked the board to allow him to buy out an additional 10 days, pushing his departure date back to June 18, which would work better with the planned timelines.
The board decided to wait to make a decision on how to proceed with that issue, however, with several board members saying the district will likely have at least one special board meeting prior to the next scheduled meeting (June 3).
School board directors asked if Neal would be willing to push back his official exit date by the number of vacation days he has remaining — so that he could leave June 30 as planned and still get paid for those vacation days — but Neal told the board he was “not prepared” to do so.
Neal has accepted a job with Vanir Construction Management Inc. of Bellevue.
The Sequim School Board has twice reviewed Neal’s contract, in early 2018 and 2019, but declined to extend his contract.
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 [email protected].