San Juan schools superintendent weighs in on principal's resignation | Opinion

Selected for the post early last year, Superintendent Rick Thompson took over the reins of San Juan Island School District in July.  - File photo
Selected for the post early last year, Superintendent Rick Thompson took over the reins of San Juan Island School District in July.
— image credit: File photo

On Jan. 5, elementary school Principal Gary Pfleuger submitted his resignation to the district, stating a desire to seek other employment.

On Jan. 11, Gary was cited by the Journal of the San Juan Islands as having said his resignation was also motivated by a difference in views on “instructional leadership.”

In a special Board meeting on Jan. 11, the Board of the San Juan Island School District and I heard public comments from members of the school community that Mr. Pfleuger was a well-liked principal and that his work to establish a safe and civil learning environment was highly valued.

In this meeting, we listened to and sincerely acknowledged these comments. The Board also noted that this was not new information to them. The board then voted unanimously to accept the resignation of principal Pfleuger.

The district’s elected board of directors have over 25 combined years of experience serving the community as volunteer board members. The board members come from five very different backgrounds and frequently have diverse points of view. The board has experienced many different school leaders and leadership styles.

The board has also researched what is known about effective school leadership and reviewed generally acceptable leadership standards.

The decision to accept principal Pfleuger’s resignation was neither a decision made lightly, nor a reaction to a single event. The decision was made by board consensus, not by any individual board member.

Over the past 2 ½ years, the board has had the opportunity to interact closely with Mr. Pfleuger. The board has been kept apprised of management feedback and direction he received and the ways in which he did or did not respond to that feedback.

In other words, the board has had ample and thorough opportunity to observe his performance in light of the full responsibilities required in the position he holds.

Many people have asked why the district cannot explain in detail why we accepted Mr. Pfleuger’s resignation.

The answer to that question is simply that we are required to respect the confidentiality of the employer-employee relationship. To violate this confidentiality would be unfair to Mr. Pfleuger and would send a message to other district employees that their own employment information is at risk.

We have held this belief and continue to do so today for the sake of all our employees.

Our elementary school has an excellent staff who continue to deliver a quality education to our K-6 students every day. The school is also blessed with PTA and parent volunteers who contribute to the educational environment in amazing ways.

We are committed to working with the staff and elementary community to ensure continuity with the great work that is taking place there.

The board looks forward to working with the staff, PTA, parents and community in an inclusive and public process of determining the attributes we are looking for in the next elementary principal and in choosing from among the field of candidates we are able to attract.

If you have any questions or suggestions, we genuinely welcome your phone calls and e-mails. Our contact information is available on the district Website: http://www.sjisd.wednet.edu/sjisd/Board

Sincerely Yours,

Rick Thompson, Superintendent

San Juan Island School District

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