School board renews superintendent’s contract

South Whidbey Superintendent Jo Moccia’s three-year contract was renewed last week with one abstention from the school board.

The contract extends Moccia’s employment until June 30, 2023. Her base salary was increased by 15 percent to $193,000 last year, a decision that led to some criticism in the community.

Under the contract, the board has until June 30 to evaluate her performance based on written criteria, review her salary and decide whether to adjust the salary upwards for subsequent contract years.

At the Jan. 22 meeting, board members voiced their opinions about the contract renewal.

Board member Julie Hadden began the discussion by describing Moccia’s responsiveness to change and her successes, including the direction of her leadership and the goals she met.

Longtime member Andrea Downs expressed support, making a motion to approve the contract.

Charles Currier, a new member of the board, said he would prefer to abstain from the vote, citing his lack of time on the board as a main reason why he felt unqualified to vote.

“These votes aren’t easy, but this is the decision that I’ve come to,” he said.

He added, “I’m not here for any disruptions. I’m just following my moral compass.”

Downs responded that voters expect school board members to be ready to serve once elected to the position.

“To put someone’s employment on the line because you feel that you haven’t been prepared enough for what you ran for in an election is a disservice to the people who elected you,” she said.

She added Moccia has been “quietly taking all of the criticism” and making changes in the district.

Downs pointed out that Oak Harbor and Coupeville superintendents have three-year contracts.

“This is not an unusual thing that we are doing,” she said.

Brook Willeford, also new to the board, agreed with Currier about the awkwardness of deciding the status of a contract for someone he’s only been helping to direct for two months. But Willeford said he believed Moccia can be judged based on how well she executed priorities set by the previous board.

“I don’t see this as a vote for the status quo, I see it as a vote for continued change, and I vote to approve,” Willeford said.

The motion passed with a 3-0 vote.