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State brings schools interim help

To steady the rudder of the South Whidbey School District, representatives from the state are working with district personnel to keep the operation moving forward.

This week, experts from the Northwest Educational Service District were working alongside the district’s central office personnel and advising board of education directors in the aftermath of the resignations of Superintendent Martin Laster and Assistant Superintendent Dan Blanton.

Jerry Jenkins, ESD superintendent is working with acting Superintendent Greg Willis to coordinate the operation of the district. The ESD has also recommended four people as prospective interim superintendents. All were interviewed by the school board in executive session this week.

Other ESD personnel were brought in to assist the district business manager Ben Thomas and student services director Diane Watson. An administrative secretary from a neighboring school district is expected to assist human resources secretary Sue Terhar in assuming the duties of an administrative secretary.

“We will be spending more time on personnel and special education issues,” Jenkins said this week speaking of personnel grievances and complaints by parents of special education students.

Jenkins said his staff will also be working with Thomas on financial matters.

“His numbers look accurate, but we are trying to validate those as this time,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said that South Whidbey needs an interim superintendent with the skills necessary to restore stability to the district.

“This is the best investment the district can make,” he said.

The prospective candidates are retired superintendents and, unlike someone applying for a position as full-time superintendent, the search is actually a recruiting process in which the right person will have to be sold on the prospect of coming in as an interim.

Jenkins said the ESD does not have the resources to replace the district’s assistant superintendent.

According g to Helen Price Johnson, president of the school board, a public meeting will be held to take action once the board picks an interim superintendent.

BREAKOUT BOX

Community group organizes

An ad hoc community group calling itself Excellence in Education is meeting on March 29 at 7 p.m. in the Intermediate School Community room to discuss the district’s process and criteria for hiring an interim superintendent and other matters relating to leadership in the district.

The organization was formed by Freeland resident, Kord Roosen-Runge in response to the resignations of Martin Laster, Dan Blanton and and Susan Nerison.

Roosen-Runge said he has invited board of education directors, representatives from the Northwest Educational Service District 189 and school district personnel to participate in the upcoming meeting.

The group, EIE has had one meeting on March 16 attended by 30 people including former school board members, district personnel, parents and other community members.

“Some of us are very concerned about the hiring process for our interim superintendent because there has not been discussion with the public by the leadership regarding the process, the criteria or its timetable,” Roosen-Runge said.

Roosen-Runge said he believes its important to have public input because of the recent resignations of the district’s top two administrators.

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