SEQUIM — Three weeks after selecting a search firm to find its next superintendent, Sequim School District’s board of directors unanimously voted to keep their interim superintendent for another academic year.
Board directors voted 5-0 Tuesday night to retain Jane Pryne through the end of the 2021-22 school year while the district continues a search for her successor.
The board is expected to offer Pryne a contract at its next regular meeting, set for Monday.
Directors cited a number of reasons for the move, from the timing — Sequim is on a relatively late schedule to be starting a search for a superintendent — to COVID-related changes, to in-person instruction, as well as some negative attention from national news sources toward City of Sequim leaders and turmoil within the district regarding recent complaints directed at administrators.
“We’ve got some challenges,” board member Brian Kuh said at the special meeting on Tuesday. “We’re still trying to navigate through COVID.
“We have enough on our plate … a little more time is needed to get out of the woods.”
Pryne was named acting superintendent in late October after Superintendent Rob Clark was placed on paid leave following a complaint.
A day later, Sequim High School principal Shawn Langston was placed on paid leave following a separate complaint; he has since been reinstated to his position.
Clark agreed to resign in mid-January, and Pryne was named interim superintendent.
At the time, Pryne said in an interview that she was not interested in applying for the permanent role as the district’s lead administrator.
However, she said at Tuesday’s meeting that there are a number of projects she’d like to complete before she steps away and that she’d be willing to stay another year if the board desired.
One of those projects, she said, was having a mediator at Sequim High School to work with staff about the school’s culture.
“That’s a long-term commitment; I would like to at least get the work get mostly completed,” Pryne said.
“I thought, ‘If I could just have one more year, we could hand it over to another superintendent … who would be around for a long time, to take the district to the next level.”
Board member Eric Pickens said he’d prefer to have a long-term superintendent in place — somewhere between five and eight years, if possible — and that keeping Pryne on for a year while doing a thorough search to bring in a new superintendent in July 2022 allows for that.
“I think (a multi-year superintendent) provides for a healthy district (and) long-term relationships with staff and community,” Pickens said. “Given the circumstances, I’m in favor of extending the search itself and extending Dr. Pryne’s contract simultaneously.”
Board president Brandino Gibson agreed.
“If goal is long-term superintendent, let’s let the process happen and continue with the excellent superintendent we have in place now,” he said.
The board on Tuesday heard from Hank Harris of Human Capital Enterprises, the superintendent search firm the district contracted with in early February.
Harris said the district is on pace with a timeline established earlier this year, but noted that finding a highly-qualified candidate is getting tougher.
“You will find no shortage of districts … that are beyond or further along (the superintendent search process) than Sequim,” Harris said.
Many superintendents looking to make a change would be reluctant to make a move this late in the school year and leave their district in the position of searching for a new administrator in April or May, he said.
“Sequim may very well be a district that would be best served by someone with superintendent experience,” Harris said.
“Certainly folks of high talent are in high demand, (and) this year is a very competitive year. (But) I can’t tell you what the pool’s going to look like. In this work, every week counts; every week matters.”
Board members agreed to keep Harris and Human Capital Enterprises on the hunt for the next superintendent. He said his firm will keep the timeline that has staff collecting more information about Sequim and what characteristics its next superintendent should have.
“I think it’s always best to be at the front end of the hiring system,” Harris said. “You’ve got a wonderful superintendent in place for the next year.
“We’ll be in fine shape for recruitment, whenever you deem that ready to go.”
Sequim School Board members also said they are happy with what they’ve seen from Pryne since she took over in Clark’s absence in late October.
“I’ve been extremely impressed by Jane and (her) work,” Kuh said.
Board director Larry Jeffryes, who retired with 35 years of teaching experience, noted Tuesday, “(Pryne) is about the best I’ve worked with.”
Said Pryne on Tuesday: “Since I’ve been here, it seems to have been a seamless transition. I think there are things we could accomplish with me being here another year.”
For more about the Sequim School District, see sequimschools.org.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].