SEQUIM — Sequim schools’ superintendent, Gary Neal, is one of four finalists for the Hockinson School District superintendent position in Clark County in southwest Washington.
The Hockinson School District announced the selection of finalists on Wednesday and Neal sent out a notice to Sequim School District staff the following day via email.
“Basically, [the Sequim School Board] is letting my contract expire in June 2020, so that means I become a free agent,” Neal said Friday.
“I’m not going to wait till June 30  to see what happens.”
The other three candidates for the Hockinson position are Steven Marshall, director of Educational Resources in Camas School District; Ellen Perconti, superintendent of Mary Knight and Grapeview school districts; and Tony Vandermaas, executive director of Leadership and Learning in Longview School District.
The candidates will spend Monday in the district for a series of interviews with teachers and classified staff, Hockinson High School students, principals and district office staff, and the School Board, Hockinson school officials said. Hockinson also will host a candidate community forum and open interviews later that day.
Hockinson School Board members plan to meet Tuesday to review the input. They expect to announce a selection later in the week.
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 balked on three finalists, and removed Neal’s’ “interim” status on Nov, 2, 2015.
Neal has a year-and-a-half remaining on his contract. Sequim school board directors have twice reviewed Neal’s contract, in early 2018 and 2019 but declined to extend his contract.
Neal said he learned of Hockinson’s opening a few weeks ago.
“For me, it allows me an opportunity to look at another district, see their enrollment, staff, levies and bonds, and see if I’m a fit for it,” Neal said.
“After looking more into it and chatting with some folks in that area, I became more and more interested in it. It look like a good match.”
Brian Kuh, president of the Sequim School District’s board of directors, said Neal was interested in making a move to be closer to family and that he would be inquiring about positions in other school districts. He said Neal told board members he was a finalist for the Hockinson position on Thursday.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to discuss this as a board yet; that said, I’m confident that my board colleagues are equally happy for Gary and supportive of him with whatever path forward he chooses,” Kuh said in an email.
“If he’s selected, our focus will be towards ensuring the smooth continuity of operations at the district a transition, and also for the completion of the strategic plan.
“Gary has led our district through the imminent completion of the capital projects levy which has provided a clean slate for our future facility development. The board is excited to continue the district’s engagement with the community to determine what our next steps are for our schools.”
Prior to Neal’s employment in Sequim, he was principal at West Valley High School in the Spokane area for eight years. He taught for 16 years at the high school level and has served as an administrator at the middle school and high school levels.
He said he hopes to learn of the Hockinson School Board’s decision later in the week.
Neal said he hasn’t applied elsewhere but he’s been contacted by some consultants of other school districts.
Located in Brush Prairie just northeast of Vancouver, Wa., Hockinson has about 1,870 students, about 1,000 less than Sequim, in three schools: a high school, middle school and elementary school, along with a district office.