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Bjork resignation catches chairman by surprise

"The school board chairman was caught by surprise when Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lisa Bjork resigned last Friday.Jim Adsley, chairman of the South Whidbey School Board, said Bjork requested a special executive session Friday morning to address a personnel issue. As it turned out, that issue was her resignation.We were pretty much shocked, Adsley said. The private session was attended by himself, Bob Riggs, Wendy Alexander and Ray Gabelein.We weren't prepared to make any immediate comment, Adsley added.On Monday morning, Riggs delivered a short statement from the board on the matter.The Board of Directors of the South Whidbey School District has accepted the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Lisa Bjork, effective June 30, 2000, the statement reads. While the board regrets Dr. Bjork's decision, it looks forward to new opportunities available to the district. At this time, the board wants to thank Dr. Bjork for her work and dedication to the district over the past eight years and wishes her well in the future.Officially, the resignation won't be accepted until a meeting Wednesday morning at 8:00 at the school district headquarters in Langley. After the resignation is accepted in public, the board will discuss the process to replace Bjork.In her letter of resignation, Bjork cited lukewarm support from the current board, and mentioned that differences exist between certain board members and myself that are antithetical to my beliefs and style of leadership.Bjork declined to comment beyond what she stated in her letter, which is printed in its entirety on page 5 of today's South Whidbey Record.Her letter is not totally clear to me, quite frankly, said Adsley, also declining to discuss any differences Bjork may have had with board members.In recent months, there have been disagreements on the budget, and last year the board refused to extend Bjork's contract to three years, which she said in her letter is what 95 percent of superintendents in this state have in their contracts.The issue now, said Adsley, is where do we go from here? A process will begin to select a replacement. It will be a real open process, he said.Barbara Schneeman was the one board member who couldn't attend Friday's meeting. She was at the high school helping with a writers' workshop. She said Bjork came and told her of her resignation right after the meeting.She shared with me, Schneeman said. Bjork mentioned leadership differences in her letter, but Schneeman wouldn't comment. We evaluate the superintendent two times a year and we hadn't even done that yet (this year), she said.Ray Gabelein said the board members agreed to the public statement and would not comment beyond that, and all agreed that Adsley as board chairman would be the spokesman. Helping find a new superintendent will be one of the most important decisions that I'll take part in, Gabelein said.Riggs pointed to Bjork's letter as explanation enough for her resignation. I don't have anything else to say, he said. I'm sorry it happened. It's a shame to lose somebody of her ability.Alexander couldn't be reached for comment Monday.Bjork spent eight years with the South Whidbey School District, the last four as superintendent.She was a leader in the state effort to reform education. She said Friday she doesn't know what she will do next, except that I'll keep reforming."

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