Phay quits school board

One of the superintendent of the Coupeville school district’s critics will follow him out the door.

A critic of the superintendent of the Coupeville school district will be following him out the door.

Sherry Phay, the longest-serving current Coupeville school board member, announced this week on social media that she is resigning from her elected position after the July board meeting. She has been known as a strong, independent voice on the board.

“Like every vote I’ve ever made while on this board, the decision was made with integrity and thoughtfulness of the results in order to be able to be steadfast in my decision,” she wrote. “This decision could and should be interpreted as faith and confidence in the remaining board, new leadership and current leaders in our district.”

Superintendent Steve King announced his resignation earlier this year as the district, like many others in the state, faces financial problems that are forcing dire budgets cuts. He leaves after the June 27 board meeting, at which a draft budget is supposed to be presented.

The new superintendent, Shannon Leatherwood, is set to begin work on July 1.

Phay’s relationship with King has been acrimonious in the past.

Three years ago, Phay disclosed during an executive session that numerous district employees had reported to her concerns about King being misogynistic and retaliating against employees who criticized his behavior, according to documents obtained through a public records request.

Phay also sent an email to members of the teachers’ union in which she disclosed “the investigation into Steve King based on allegations of ‘creating a culture of fear of retaliation’ as evidenced by acts of misogyny, narcissism, gas-lighting and literal threats to employment status.”

As a result, school leaders, without the full school board’s direct consent, hired a Seattle attorney to conduct an investigation into King’s behavior. The attorney wrote in his report that he could not conclude, “on a more probable than not basis,” that King engaged in discrimination on the basis of gender or race, although the report highlighted some embarrassing comments he made.

The majority of school board members allegedly violated Open Public Meetings Law by approving — outside of a public meeting — a press release that expressed their strong support of King and chastised Phay for her email.

Following the controversy, only Phay remained on the board. She ran unchallenged for her second term in 2021.

While there hasn’t been any indication of in-fighting on the current board, Phay has remained an independent voice. She was the only board member, for example, to vote in April against a modified education plan that included staff reductions.

In her Facebook post, Phay expressed optimism about the district’s future.

“Change doesn’t happen overnight, and I am heartened to have observed, over the years, a school district that is growing in its advocacy for themselves and a community, that has always wrapped our students with support, dive deeper in helping CSD in reaching its full amazing potential,” Phay wrote.

In her biography on the district website, Phay is described as a stay-at-home mom of two daughters in Coupeville schools, a registered nurse who works at both WhidbeyHealth and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and a competitive power lifter.