Teachers, parents surprised by Boyd’s departure

School Board Chairman Steve Scoles looks to the future. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
School Board Chairman Steve Scoles looks to the future.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Jamie Boyd’s decision to leave South Whidbey Elementary School left her colleagues and others in the school district stunned.

Boyd has been the principal of the elementary school for the past five years. She was hired to consolidate the primary and intermediate campuses and improve the district’s reputation after her predecessor resigned after being charged with first degree theft for stealing kindergarten funds.

“You certainly got us out of a sticky spot and helped the image of the district,” said Board Member Fred O’Neal.

Before she was an administrator, Boyd taught special education for seven years in South Whidbey schools. She worked for more than 20 years as an educator, including 19 with the South Whidbey School District. In 2007, she was hired by former Superintendent Fred McCarthy to be principal of a consolidated K-5 school, and was the only South Whidbey candidate among the three finalists.

During her first year, she worked with the teachers union co-presidents to integrate the two staffs. Jan McNeely was the teacher-director at the now-partially occupied primary school, and Val Brown was the teacher-director at the intermediate school, which is now South Whidbey Elementary School. They were shocked by Boyd’s departure.

“Many folks including SWEA Leadership were surprised by the resignation of elementary Principal Jamie Boyd,” said Jan McNeely and Val Brown in a joint statement. “We wish her well on her next journey and look forward to the next chapter of our own journey in this district with someone new.”

Boyd’s departure was made official at the school board meeting last Wednesday night. Boyd turned in her letter of resignation to District Superintendent Jo Moccia the previous Monday. Boyd will finish the school year; her final day will be June 30.

The decision to leave was made the week prior, Boyd said. She reviewed her time as the principal and chose to leave, though to what she didn’t know.

“I always have said that I would look at and reevaluate my time as principal at five years. I accepted the job stating that,” Boyd said.

“What I’m doing is not firmed up yet. I have a fairly large portfolio of skills. I’m keeping all of my possibilities.”

Boyd added: “I’ve been here a very long time. It has been a wild ride and one of the best rides I’ve been on. I am grateful for my time here.  Sometimes it’s time to go.”

When she was hired, Boyd’s primary task was to consolidate two buildings, which took two years. By the third year Boyd was the principal, she had almost every kindergarten to third-grade class relocated to the intermediate campus. Last year was the first time all classes were housed in South Whidbey Elementary School, except the preschool is still next door at the primary campus. The result of the school consolidation was one of Boyd’s fondest moments.

“One of the most fun activities involved the children, because frankly, that’s what does it for me,” Boyd said. “We were looking for an activity to create a new identity. We created an election for our new mascot, who is Bubbles the Orca. That was a lot of fun.”

Leading the elementary school wasn’t all fun and games for Boyd. There’s work to be done, said Boyd, who has been with the South Whidbey School District for more than 20 years. Boyd said the elementary school still has to work on its program alignment K-5 and beyond to make its students college and career ready.

A plan to hire a replacement began March 9. And it’s a short timeline. Moccia said she wants to have a recommendation to the school board by April 25, and the new principal’s first day will be July 1.

“It’s an aggressive timeline, but we want to give people time to make a commitment,” Moccia said.

Moccia told the board she will start the principal search process, including an interview team and a community forum, early this week. The position will be advertised “widely” for two weeks, Moccia said. The interview team will consist of teachers, parents of elementary school students, support staff and herself. The interview crew will screen applications and choose several applicants to interview at the end of March. Interviews with candidates will begin after spring break on April 9, when the team will select the finalists.

From April 16 to 20, the interview team will meet with the finalists and narrow its choices to two candidates. At the end of the process, the two finalists will meet with school staff and attend a community forum.

The hiring process raised questions among the school board members about their role. O’Neal wondered how involved the board would be, and Moccia answered that her job is to recruit employees, including administrative leaders, to the school district.

“I think I have a sense of what the board is looking for,” Moccia said. “My thinking is the board’s main priority is hiring the superintendent . . . I look at it as the superintendent’s responsibility to bring in a new principal.”

Other board members said they were content to let Moccia do the legwork.

“I don’t think we need to be there until the end,” said Board Member Linda Racicot.

“Just keep us in the loop,” said Board Chairman Steve Scoles.

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