SEQUIM — The Sequim School District has found its next interim superintendent — and her commute will be short.
The school board has offered the position to Joan Zook, former superintendent of schools for the Shelton School District who now lives in Sequim’s Sunland neighborhood.
Zook told directors in a virtual meeting she had “been happily retired for a while” and surprised herself thinking about putting her name in for consideration.
“It kept me awake in a happy way,” she said. “I thought maybe I can offer something here that might be useful to the board.”
Jane Pryne, current interim superintendent, is resigning as of Friday.
Zook worked for Shelton schools from 1994-2011, first as director of Special Services (1994-1997) and Director of Assessment, Instruction and Curriculum (1997-2000) and, for the final 11 years there, as superintendent (2000-2011) before she retired.
“I’m still passionate about education,” Zook said. “I’ve been reading the local newspaper and keeping abreast of what’s going on and troubled by what’s happening in the district.
“I felt it was worth a conversation that perhaps I can be of service.”
Board President Eric Pickens said Zook offered to help.
“(She) reached out to us and is invested in the community, something I’m pleased with,” he said. “I believe the district would be in good hands under her leadership.”
Pickens added that he contacted eight candidates for short-term contracts and they “didn’t seem like a good fit” due to geography and/or their timelines to work.
Board Vice President Patrice Johnston said she felt enthusiastic about Zook acting as interim superintendent.
“She took the initiative and recognized that her skill set could help us get through this transition time,” Johnston said.
Johnston reported that one Shelton School Board member during Zook’s tenure said, “(we’d) be lucky to have her.”
In her own conversation with Zook, Johnston said, the former superintendent was engaging, thoughtful and easy to talk with.
Board member Jim Stoffer said he appreciated Zook’s dedication to public education, including partnerships with Native Americans.
The board agreed to allow Pickens to negotiate Zook’s contract for Jan. 1 through June 30, 2022.
Zook said she’s grateful for the opportunity.
“I hope you find the best superintendent on the planet to take over the reins,” she said.
Sequim board directors are working with Hank Harris of Human Capital Enterprises to find the district’s next full-time superintendent.
Community and board interviews with finalists are scheduled for late February and early March.
With Harris’ help, the board plans to make a decision on the next superintendent by late March, with the next administrative leader stepping into the role on July 1.
Pryne has led the district for the past 13 months. She stepped in after the former superintendent, Robert Clark, was placement on administrative leave in October 2020.
Clark resigned Jan. 15. In late March, a district employee filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against Clark that has yet to be resolved.
Pryne, who had retired from her position as Port Angeles School Superintendent, agreed to serve as interim superintendent on Oct. 26, 2020, and then re-upped for another year at the board’s request in February.
But in November, she announced she was leaving at the end of the calendar year.
Zook worked as a teacher and social worker along with various positions in education — including working with American Indian and special needs students — in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
She was supervisor of Special Education for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia from 1983-1989, director of Special Services Cooperative for the Wenatchee School District from 1989-1992 and a staff development specialist for the Early Childhood Assistance Program for the state Department of Community Trade & Economic Development before she took a job in Shelton.
She has a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of North Dakota.
Zook said she and her husband moved to Sequim a year ago after 30 years in Olympia.
“I wanted sunshine,” she said. “We went to Mexico and then Arizona and, over time, we missed the Pacific Northwest. Both of us feel like it’s home and we’ve always known Sequim.”
About five years ago, they took an extended trip in Sequim and “absolutely fell in love with it.”
They also have family in the area, she said.
“Sequim is a wonderful place,” Zook said. “I see us staying here a very long time.”
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group and Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Gazette.
The Olympic Peninsula News Group is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach Dahiell at email@example.com and Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.