San Juan superintendent candidate from Lynden to meet with public tonight

Rick Thompson ... Lynden School District superintendent is a candidate for the San Juan Island School District superintendent job. - Lynden Tribune
Rick Thompson ... Lynden School District superintendent is a candidate for the San Juan Island School District superintendent job.
— image credit: Lynden Tribune

San Juan Island School District could have a new superintendent picked, and possibly this week.

In a special board meeting Jan. 15, the school board voted to invite Lynden Schools Superintendent Rick Thompson to apply for the position here.

Thompson’s interest set off a flurry of special board meetings and a public meet-and-greet session with Thompson here Tuesday, 5-6 p.m., in the Friday Harbor Middle School Commons.

Thompson has served as superintendent at Lynden for the past two years and prior to that was curriculum director there. He has indicated to the Lynden district that he will not be returning as superintendent next year.

“Rick Thompson shone brightly on our radar screen during our 2009 selection process yet was convinced by the Lynden district to stay on as their superintendent for another year,” San Juan School Board Chairman David McCauley said in a press release.

“He is well-known and has been highly recommended by former district administrators, regional ESD staff, and our recruiting firm Northwest Leadership Associates. While it is somewhat unusual to bring in a single candidate prior to initiating a general search, we see this as a continuation of the recruiting effort we began last year and feel we can leverage the continuity with last year’s process to evaluate Rick in light of the pool of candidates likely to be available to us this year.”

The school board is scheduled to meet today at 5 p.m. in the Friday Harbor High School library. Board members will meet first in closed session to “review qualifications of superintendent candidate.” In open session, there will be an update on the superintendent search, followed by a possible board vote, according to the agenda.

Should the district not hire Thompson, it will immediately open the position and advertise for applications to be submitted in February for a final decision in early April, McCauley said earlier.

Thompson described his superintendency in Lynden as similar to San Juan’s interim superintendent, Walt Wegener. Thompson was Lynden’s director of curriculum and student learning and was elevated to interim superintendent in fall 2008.

“The board is doing a full search and I chose not to become part of that pool,” Thompson said. “I decided that for my career, for some of my professional goals, it was not a good fit for me here.”

The Lynden School District has three elementary schools, a middle school, a high school and a parent-partnership program that Thompson said is similar to San Juan’s Griffin Bay School.

Wegener was hired on an interim basis last year to succeed Michael Soltman, who left to become superintendent on Vashon Island. At the time, Wegener was student services coordinator in Toppenish.

Since joining San Juan, Wegener has managed the district during the sixth-grade’s move from middle school to elementary school, the transfer of management of the Experience Food Project, and voter approval of a tax levy that funds school sports through Island Rec, relieving the cash-strapped school district.

As part of his public outreach, Wegener authors a regular column, contributed to local media, called “Superintendent’s Corner.”

“He’s done a lot of great things, but we didn’t feel so strong that we didn’t want to look at other candidates out there,” McCauley said in an interview. “We want to consider him and we hope he will apply. I think Walt’s really been able to do as advertised.”

Wegener said he will apply for the job. But in the meantime, he’s looking elsewhere. “I have to look too,” he said. “As the district looks in a larger pool, I also am looking.”

District issues profile of Thompson
The San Juan Island School District issued a biography of Thompson on Monday.

According to the biography:

Thompson was raised in Renton, where he attended Renton public schools K-12. He graduated cum laude from Western Washington University with a major in English education and a minor in history and political science. He cites coaches, family members and friends who were educators as his most influential role models.

He taught six years in suburban Federal Way, where he also served as a class adviser, administrative intern, and tennis coach. As a coach, Thompson had a league record of 67-5, including the West Central District Championship.

From 1987-89, Thompson earned his master of education in school administration through Western Washington University. His master’s thesis reviewed the research describing behaviors of effective and ineffective principals.

He began his administrative career serving as a middle-level principal for four years in two small rural districts which gave him experience in K-12 operations, board relations, staff evaluation, and athletic administration.

Thompson 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 his five years in Lynden, Thompson has been responsible for the implementation of the district science strategic plan, a replacement of the K-12 math curriculum, the district assessment system, teacher and administrator staff development and related leadership for the district instructional programs. He also developed the fifth-grade outdoor education program with teachers.

Before moving to Lynden, Thompson was admitted to the Fuller Theological Seminary where he completed initial coursework discussing the Christian world view and other world cultures.

In 2008, Thompson completed a two-year superintendent credential program in Everett through Western Washington University .

“I was taught very young that education can help people realize their dreams and I still believe that today,” Thompson said. “My entire administrative career has been ... navigating the bureaucracy in ways to help kids learn.

“Serving as the superintendent in Lynden has been a great opportunity to get things done while given the multiple dynamics which naturally take place in a time of transition.”

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