King to pass baton to new superintendent

The Coupeville School Board chose Shannon Leatherwood as the district’s new superintendent.

The Coupeville School Board has unanimously chosen Shannon Leatherwood to lead the district as its new superintendent.

Leatherwood, who is currently a superintendent intern and secondary principal at the Bethel School District in Pierce County, will be taking the baton from Steve King, whose last day on the job will be June 30.

The new superintendent is taking the reins at a challenging time for the district, which is facing $1.66 million in budget cuts ahead and is currently on Northwest Educational Service District 189’s financial watch list.

The other finalists included Kittitas School District Superintendent Tim LaGrange, former Lakewood School District Superintendent Scott Peacock and former Coupeville School District Superintendent Jim Shank, who is currently the North Beach School District’s superintendent.

In an email sent to The Whidbey News-Times, Board President Morgan White said contract negotiations are still pending, but she expects Leatherwood will begin working around the time King leaves.

The decision, she wrote, was made during a special meeting Wednesday morning, where board members spent “several hours” discussing the candidates.

In an email to The Whidbey News-Times, Leatherwood expressed her gratitude to the district and the community.

Her “entry plan,” she said, would consist of building relationships with staff, students, parents and the community, learning about challenges, strengths and opportunities “as soon as possible.”

She also plans to develop a comprehensive assessment of the district’s strengths and challenges, and to look further into the district’s data and financial systems to ensure fiscal responsibility.

Leatherwood said she was drawn to the position because Coupeville reminds her of the community she grew up in, Sumner, back when it was still a small town. There, she could count on the support of her peers and mentors. Eventually, she said, this support allowed her to play soccer in college.

She acknowledged Coupeville’s “strong sense of tradition and continuity” and the community’s passion and dedication to the schools and the students.

“Together, we will continue to uphold the tradition of excellence that defines Coupeville, ensuring that every child receives the support and resources they need to thrive,” she wrote.

After evaluating the finalists’ experience and reviewing comments submitted by the public following the four community forums and district tours held on Monday and Tuesday, the board concluded that Leatherwood was the best fit for the role.

In the past, Leatherwood worked as the principal of the Michael T. Simmons Elementary School in the Tumwater School District from 2010 to 2017, and as a teacher, curriculum coordinator and K-12 instructional coach at the Orting School District from 1996 to 2010.

In 2023, she won the Washington State Secondary Principal of the Year award for her work at the Spanaway Middle School in the Bethel School District, where she has been working since 2017.

White wrote that the board chose Leatherwood for her “incredible track record of academic excellence, financial responsibility, experience with capital projects, grant writing, and team building.”

“We feel confident, excited and hopeful about the future of our school district,” she wrote.