San Juan schools superintendent nearly nets new job in Port Angeles

Rick Thompson - Journal file photo
Rick Thompson
— image credit: Journal file photo

The superintendent of San Juan Island School District is staying put—for now.

Superintendent Rick Thompson was one of two finalist chosen from 36 applicants vying for an upcoming superintendent vacancy in nearby Port Angeles school district. But the job instead went to the superintendent of California's Silver Valley Unified School District, located east of Barstow, near the Mojave Desert, when the Port Angeles school board selected Marc Jackson for the position in a unanimous decision March 27.

Thompson was in Port Angeles to participate in a series of school district and community meetings earlier that week.

"It was a good opportunity for me," Thompson said. "I'm fully involved in my work here and I like my job. I saw the position as a career advancement opportunity."

Thompson, who began his tenure with San Juan's public school district in 2010, cited an opportunity to manage a larger and more complex school district, as well as increased compensation, as motivation for seeking the job. The Port Angeles school district reportedly has $155,000 set aside for the base salary for a newly hired superintendent.

A former teacher who moved to public education's administrative ranks in 1992, Thompson joined San Juan Island School District following a five-year tenure with the Lynden School, the final two as superintendent. Previously, he served as a school administrator in Tacoma for nine years, in the roles of assistant principal, high school principal, and assistant to the superintendent.

In Port Angeles, the public school district operates five elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and alternative high school and vocational school, and boasts an enrollment of roughly 3,700 students. It also maintains a collaborative relationship with the Lower Elwha Tribe.

In comparison, San Juan Island School District, with an enrollment of about 900 students, operates an elementary school, middle school, high school and an alternative high school, four in all. The district also manages the Stuart Island school and participates in the Running Start program at Skagit Valley College.

Student enrollment at the Silver Valley school district, managed by Jackson, is about 3,000.

In addition to a greater student-body enrollment and more schools, Thompson noted that the number of faculty and staff in the Port Angeles school district is itself four times the size of San Juan's. Interest in the two final candidates vying for the superintendent job was widespread in Port Angeles.

"It was similar to the process of what I did here, but with a lot more stakeholders," Thompson said of the 11-hour-long series of interviews in Port Angeles.

Although the present school year is nearing its end, Thompson said business matters at the district are in full swing.

A final design is near for replacement of the high school's aging vocational shop with a modern science, technology engineering and math (STEM) facility, the cost of which will be reimbursed by a state grant of up to $1 million. Thompson said the district expects to put the construction portion of the project out to bid by April 23 and, under terms of the grant, will have one year to complete the project.


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