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Superintendent search draws dozens of qualified applicants

Nearly 30 administrators in public education — including superintendents, assistant superintendents and principals from around the region — say they’d like to leave their current posts to helm Vashon’s 1,500-student school district.

The application deadline for the position was last Friday. Howard Coble, an education headhunter hired by the board to help in the search, said he’s impressed by the size of the applicant pool — 26 are seeking the position — as well as the quality of many of the applicants.

“We have some strong candidates,” he said. “I think the board will be quite pleased.”

The large pool, he said, is due in large part to Vashon’s quality of life as well as the school district’s reputation for academic excellence. “Vashon is just a very attractive place, albeit a little more expensive to live,” said Coble.

With the candidates’ names and resumés in hand, the five-member school board now begins a fast-paced selection process that is scheduled to culminate March 26, when board members plan to announce their selection.

The new superintendent, who will replace interim Superintendent Terry Lindquist, is expected to begin work on July 1.

The first significant milestone is tomorrow night, Thursday, Feb. 19, when the board is expected to vote on the five to seven semifinalists, candidates they’ll bring to the Island on Feb. 28 for a daylong series of interviews. Both the vote on the semifinalists as well as the interviews will be conducted in open session.

The board has also put together an advisory panel to assist in in the process.

The group, announced at the school board’s meeting last week, will play the role of observers during the Feb. 28 interviews.

While they won’t be allowed to ask questions, they’ll have in hand each candidate’s biographical information, resumé and a rating chart, Coble said. After the interviews, they’ll submit their observations to board members.

Bob Hennessey, who chairs the board, said the process makes sense — giving the board valuable input from a cross-section of Islanders while ensuring the five members retain the responsibility of making the decision.

“It’s ultimately up to the school board to make this call, but we want to make sure we get input from all sides, to the extent we can, from this community. This advisory committee is full of people whose opinions matter to me,” Hennessey said.

The 17-member advisory panel includes Kristine Nelson, who heads the Vashon teachers’ union, McMurray Principal Greg Allison, several high-profile community leaders — including Jean Bosch, the president of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council, and Denise Katz, president of the PTSA — and other well-known community members and teachers.

Donna Klemka, a former school board member and one of the members of the panel, said she was impressed by the thoughtfulness of the process.

“It’s a huge decision for this community because there has to be a good fit,” she said of the superintendent selection.

“I’m excited to be part of this group,” she added. “I respect the fact that they’re seeking outside consultation.”

Once the board has narrowed the selection to two or three finalists, each candidate will spend a few days on the Island, visiting schools and meeting with key players.

An open house will be hosted for each one, as well, where community members can meet the candidates and ask them questions.

“I think it’s a good process, and I think we’re going to have a good pool,” said Lindquist. “And you’re only looking for one.”

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