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Teachers union calls for new superintendent by summer

Vashon Education Association (VEA), the school district teachers’ union, has asked the school board to hire a new superintendent to begin in August.

The request came on the heels of rumors that the board might vote to extend the contract of acting superintendent Terry Lindquist for another year, keeping him at the helm of the financially troubled district through August 2009.

“We want a new permanent superintendent,” VEA vice-president Elizabeth Golen-Johnson said last week. “We want to start making long-term decisions with someone who would be here for the long term.”

The request was made in an e-mail to board members last Wednesday, one day before the school district’s five board members met in executive session before the regular board meeting to evaluate Lindquist’s work. Board member Laura Wishik indicated at the meeting that Lindquist was in fact the subject of the executive session.

Wishik was about to make a motion on the outcome of that session, but changed her mind, so the public didn’t get to know the content of the motion.

Wishik, in an e-mail on Monday, said the matter would be on the agenda at the next board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Vashon High School library. “I am personally in favor of keeping Terry another year, but the discussion will occur next meeting,” she added in her e-mail.

Board chair Bob Hennessey, cautioning that he could not speak for individual board members, concurred. “We are headed down a path towards voting on extending Terry’s contract,” he said.

That possibility was in the minds of VEA leaders when they decided to urge the board to not renew Lindquist’s contract when it ends in August, according to VEA executive committee member Stephen Floyd, a drama teacher at Vashon High School. The union leadership, he said, prepared a poll of the membership when it heard that there were plans to ask Lindquist to extend his time for a while.

The poll, Floyd said, asked VEA’s 107 members to approve the ideas that showed up in the letter to the board. It was sent out sometime the week before last, he said. According to Golen-Johnson, the leadership received about 23 responses to the poll; of those, she said she didn’t know how many voted to send the letter, but indicated it was a majority.

“We have polled our membership and the members of the Vashon Education Association are strongly in favor of beginning a search for the new superintendent and leader for the 2008-2009 school year,” according to the letter, which Golen-Johnson read aloud at last week’s board meeting.

It added, “Now that our financial situation is on the mend we believe that a new leader is required to build the consensus and cooperation that will be needed to carry our staff, our students and our community into a bright future.”

The letter to the board does not speak explicitly about the VEA’s opinion of Lindquist’s work as acting superintendent, but the letter could have been taken as a challenge to him.

Lindquist himself said at the meeting, “I’ve been in a lot of superintendent situations, but none quite like this. I felt anxious about the letter. I appreciate the comments from the public, and I want to work with the VEA to resolve their concerns.”

The public comments came from four community leaders who spoke after Golen-Johnson read aloud the full contents of the letter to the board. All four spoke in favor of keeping Lindquist on board after hearing a rumor that his continuation might be challenged by VEA.

“We are lucky to have a man of Terry Lindquist’s caliber. I am in favor of keeping him for as long as he will stay,” said Todd Pearson, who has commented frequently on board issues.

Anne Atwell, a PTSA leader, added, “I have been blown away by Terry’s commitment to our program. I would do anything to keep him on board.”

Another PTSA leader, former president Donna Zaglin, also praised Lindquist’s leadership, especially with the district’s budget difficulties. “We are just beginning to get our budget established. We don’t have a buffer to work with. We’re just starting to get stable. From my heart, I would thank Dr. Lindquist for keeping on,” she said.

Former board member Jake Jacobovitch concurred. “The ship was heading for the rocks. We are fortunate to have Dr. Lindquist to take us on the right course,” he said.

“Please don’t be offended by the letter,” Jacobovitch added, speaking to Lindquist. And, speaking to the VEA, Jacobovitch urged the group to talk collegially with the board.

After the meeting, Golen-Johnson said that VEA had in fact met with Lindquist and it had a good outcome. She also indicated that perhaps VEA had moved too quickly on the matter.

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