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Board hires new leader

Fred McCarthy -
Fred McCarthy
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Fred McCarthy of Seattle was hired Monday as the new superintendent for South Whidbey School District.

McCarthy, 59, will replace Superintendent Robert Brown, who is retiring June 30.

On a 4-0 vote, the board voted unanimously to offer McCarthy a three-year contract that will pay him $125,000 each year, plus a health benefits package.

McCarthy most recently served as the principal and development director of St. Benedict School in Seattle until June 2005.

McCarthy was not at Monday’s meeting.

But McCarthy said later that he was honored to be selected from so many qualified applicants.

“During the interview process I was impressed with the quality of people I met, their desire for educational excellence, and their enthusiasm for the community and its school system,” he said.

“I will work to deliver the quality of service and leadership expected in this position,” McCarthy said.

“Bob Brown has set the stage for someone to continue moving the district forward. I sense a real optimism about the future,” he added.

McCarthy was chosen from a field of three finalists, a group that included Dave Peterson, assistant superintendent for Oak Harbor and Dan Chaplick, superintendent of the Republic School District.

All told, there were 26 applications for the job.

“Dr. McCarthy was the most qualified of all the candidates. We were impressed with his breadth of experience in various areas including curriculum, finance, motivation and leadership,” said school board president Rich Parker.

“He has a high sense of integrity and authenticity,” Parker said.

Late last week, the school board was criticized by a small group of teachers who wanted Sally Harrison, a former principal at the Intermediate School, added to the list of finalists.

The school board declined to add Harrison to the pool of finalists, however.

McCarthy will become the school district’s fourth superintendent in the past 10 years. The prior superintendents were Art Jarvis, July 1985 to June 1996; Lisa Bjork, July 1996 to June 2000; Martin Laster, July 2000 to March 2004 and Bob Brown April 2004 to June 2006.

He will take over for Brown on July 1.

Brown congratulated the board for doing a thorough search for a superintendent. “I will work hard to ensure a smooth transition with Dr. McCarthy,” Brown said.

The board credited Brown and the administrators for helping the district through some tumultuous times.

Director Jim Adsley thanked the district administrators for the support they have shown the board during the previous two years.

“When the district found itself in crisis, we found Bob to lead us,” Adsley said. “It seems like more problems cropped up almost daily, but the support from the district’s administrators made it much more palpable for the new superintendent.”

Director Greg Gilles thanked Brown for “helping us learn to work together.”

Brown was hired as an interim superintendent in April 2004 to replace Martin Laster, who resigned along with assistant superintendent Dan Blanton and Susan Nerison, administrative secretary.

The three later filed a federal suit against the district, claiming the district and the board had violated their right to free speech, and said they were subject to defamation, constructive discharge and wrongful withholding of wages. The case is currently in mediation, with a tentative court date set for November 2006.

Prior to his time at St. Benedict School, McCarthy spent 16 years as an assistant superintendent in three Washington state school districts; Maryville, Steilacoom and Riverview, near Duvall. He has taught both in secondary and elementary public schools.

St. Benedict is a Catholic school for kindergarten through eighth grade in the Wallingford area of Seattle. As development director of St. Benedict he was charged with raising the funding to operate the school.

He received a Ph.D in administration from Seattle Pacific University, and his research project dealt with staff motivation and morale. He has authored two books on the subject: “School Spirit-Supercharge Your School Through Recognition” and “Awards and Recognition - Everything You Need To Know About The Value and Power of Effective Recognition and Award Giving.”

McCarthy said he and his wife, Shannon plan to find a home on South Whidbey sometime this spring or summer.

They have two children; Patrick, 25, and Michael, 31.

“This will be an exciting new chapter in our lives. We will enjoy learning the history and traditions of the area, getting to know as many people as possible, and contributing positively to the quality of life in the schools and the community,” McCarthy said.

“Our personal appreciation is extended to the school board and to all of those individuals whose input was instrumental in my selection,” he said.

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