Approachable, collaborative, knowledgable in finances and familiar with the island. These are some of the qualities the San Juan Island School District Board is looking for in their next superintendent.
On Jan. 9, about 18 people, including staff and teachers, attended the school board’s meeting to discuss the attributes most-needed in a successor superintendent.
The superintendent, among other duties, manages staff and faculty and creates the district’s budget, which the board must approve.
Kari McVeigh has served as the district’s interim superintendent since last June after her predecessor left to work at a district in Oregon. The job is not posted yet. Instead, the board held the first of what is planned to be several meetings on the attributes of the new hire, as well as the process that will be used to make the decision.
School board member Jack McKenna noted that the district’s superintendents often struggle to understand how the island’s tight-knit community works. Board member Barbara Bevens agreed and suggested an island resident would be the best fit. By performing a local search, the board would save money on a national recruiter, said McKenna, as well as avoid candidates who are looking at the district as a “stepping stone” instead of a longterm career, added Bevens.
“We’ve had trouble the last three times with someone coming in cold from somewhere else and learning our island way,” she said about previous superintendents. “The learning curve is too great … for someone coming in from the outside. I think the idea of mentoring and nurturing one of our own is the better way to go for us.”
Acting board chairman John Kurtz said he would like to see McVeigh stay another school year and mentor Fred Woods as her replacement. Woods is the principal of the San Juan Island High School and the school’s girls basketball coach. Though no official decision was made, McVeigh said she would mentor Woods.
“I think the idea of Fred as following me as superintendent is an absolutely brilliant idea,” she said.
Other superintendent attributes that were discussed at the meeting included someone who is nonconfrontational, passionate, a consensus builder and knowledgable in changes in the way the state finances education, including special education needs.
The district’s last superintendent, Danna Diaz, left after three years at the end of the last school year. Her departure followed a strike for one school day of the 2017-18 school year, which was resolved when the teachers negotiated a raise for that year. Last October, two-year contracts with both the district’s teachers and other staff members were finalized with more raises.
McVeigh, who lived on the island when she was hired, came out of retirement to work with the district. Kurtz noted the positive effect McVeigh has had on the schools.
“I think everyone can say that the whole mood of the district has changed [since McVeigh joined],” said Kurtz. “I think you feel better walking through the buildings.”
For more information on the district, visit www.sjisd.wednet.edu.