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Finalists announced in search for new chief of South Whidbey schools

Three finalists — including two from out of state — have been chosen in the search for a new superintendent for the South Whidbey School District.

The finalists are Mellody Matthes, the assistant superintendent for the Tukwila School District; Josephine "Jo" Moccia, the superintendent of the Averill Park Central School District, based in Averill Park, N.Y.; and Jeff Sweeney, superintendent of the Fillmore Unified School District in Fillmore, Calif.

The South Whidbey School Board conducted interviews with five semi-finalists for the superintendent position on Saturday. According to district officials, school board members met with 12 observers after the interviews to get feedback on the candidates.

The three finalists will return to South Whidbey for site visits and meetings with district employees on May 17, 18 and 19.

The district is looking for a replacement for Superintendent Fred McCarthy, who is retiring from his job as chief of schools at the end of June.

Mellody Matthes

Matthes was the executive director of human resources in the Oak Harbor School District from 2004 to 2010, and prior to that, was the principal of Shelton High School for five years.

Matthes has also taught fifth grade, as well as language arts at the high school level.

South Whidbey officials noted that Tukwila has a reputation as the most diverse school district in the country, and Matthes’ references said she has a firm, collaborative approach.

Jeff Sweeney

Earlier this month, Sweeney announced his retirement as the superintendent of Fillmore Unified School District, which has an enrollment of approximately 3,800 students.

He has also served as an assistant superintendent in the Temple City Unified School District in California from 1998 to 2006, and was an associate professor at California State University, Los Angeles from 1990 to 1995. Sweeney was also an elementary school principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and began his career as an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles in 1976.

South Whidbey school officials said Sweeney's references have said he has dealt with the challenges of shrinking budgets, and also note that he and his wife have a vacation home in Washington.

Josephine "Jo" Moccia

Prior to taking over as superintendent of the Averill schools, a district east of Albany with an enrollment of 3,333 students, Moccia was also an assistant superintendent in the school district, where she has worked since 1989.

South Whidbey school officials described her as someone with expertise in finance and special education — she was formerly the director of special education in the Averill Park Central School District from 1989 to 1998 — and her references have described her as a forthright, resilient leader who has successfully confronted challenges with budgets and programs.

She also has ties to the Evergreen State; her daughter lives in West Seattle.

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