SEQUIM — With a little more than a year remaining on his contract, Sequim Superintendent Gary Neal has resigned as the Sequim School District’s top administrator.
Neal’s resignation went through the consent agenda Monday night to Sequim School Board members, who unanimously approved the motion 4-0 with Heather Short absent. Neal’s resignation is effective June 30.
While he didn’t reveal his plan Monday, saying he needed to wait to for approval from his new employer, Neal said Tuesday morning that he plans to work for Vanir Construction Management Inc. of Bellevue.
The company oversaw the district’s $5.75 million capital levy project to build a new central kitchen and demolish the Sequim Community School.
Neal, 60, said he’ll lead its K-12 program, likely in the Northwest, assisting school districts with pre-bond and levy projects.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Neal said. “I enjoy working with groups especially in moving forward with infrastructure.”
His tentative start date is July 15.
Neal said he fostered a relationship with Vanir staff during the levy project, and that he was impressed with their commitment to Sequim by participating in school and community events.
“From day one they told us ‘we want to be involved with your community and not just build a building,’ ” he said. “They were incredible and came through with what they promised.”
Neal said he had been recruited in recent weeks and his decision wasn’t cemented until May 3.
He told the School Board and a packed audience Monday night that he appreciates the opportunity to work in Sequim.
“This was five years of my life. It was an incredible experience personally and professionally,” he said.
“I’m forever in debt to Sequim schools.”
Neal said over the next two months he’ll focus on the superintendent transition, the district’s strategic plan and its organizational chart for district office staff and begin gathering information for the next steps for the district’s infrastructure.
Board, staff reaction
Board President Brian Kuh thanked Neal for his time and service in a letter.
“He has led a variety of efforts during his tenure here, including the successful completion of the Capital Projects Levy. This has resulted in the completion of a new Central Kitchen facility, and the deconstruction of the old Community School — both placing our district in an ideal position to pursue the next steps of our broader facility improvement and expansion plans,” Kuh wrote.
Previously, Sequim school board directors have twice reviewed Neal’s contract, in early 2018 and 2019 but declined to extend his contract.
The decision to not extend his contract drew the ire of a small group of community members who spoke in support of Neal — and moving the district toward improvements in capital projects — at an April board meeting.
However, Carol Harms, Sequim Education Association secretary, shared a statement from the teachers’ union Monday backing the board’s decision to not renew Neal’s contract.
She said public comments made at the last school board meeting prompted the teachers’ union to vote on whether or not to make a statement, and 88 percent of respondents voted to share that they do not recommend extending Neal’s contract.
Union representatives said that the survey went out before Neal’s decision was made public to resign and put on Monday’s agenda.
Neal has been with the Sequim School District since July 2014 when he was hired as assistant superintendent of teaching and learning working under then-superintendent Kelly Shea.
He began his term as interim superintendent in July 2015 as the Sequim School Board sought Shea’s successor, but the board declined to hire any of the three finalists, and removed Neal’s’ “interim” status Nov. 2, 2015.
Neal was a finalist for a superintendent position with the Hockinson School District in southwest Washington state in February but was not selected.
Matthew Nash 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].