Soltman, former Islander, is a finalist for school superintendent

Michael Soltman talks to Islanders tonight. - Courtesy photo
Michael Soltman talks to Islanders tonight.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Vashon Island school board on Sunday chose two candidates — Michael Soltman, superintendent of the San Juan School District, and Arthur Himmler, superintendent of the Steilacoom Historical School District — as finalists for the school district’s superintendent position.

After the board’s decision, however, Himmler, in a surprise move, accepted a job at the Omak School District, leaving Vashon with one finalist.

Himmler was expected to visit the Island on Wednesday. Soltman is on Vashon for a full day of interviews and meetings today — a day capped by a meeting between him and members of the public as well as another interview with the board.

The meeting with the public is from 7:30 to 8:30 tonight at McMurray Middle School.

Board chair Bob Hennesssey said the other four semi-finalists — interviewed on Saturday — are still, technically, in the running. Soltman, he said, is “a preferred candidate.”

But, he added, the situation is still a very positive one.

“I think we would be fortunate to get somebody of Michael Soltman’s caliber, and I hope that after the meeting tonight, both the board and Michael determine it’s a good fit for the district,” he said Tuesday morning.

The five-member board expects to make a final decision Thursday night.

Hennessey said Soltman and Himmler rose to the top because both of them impressed both the board and its panel of community advisors with their background in what Hennessey called “instructional leadership” — the academic substance that makes up a district’s curriculum.

“They also both know what it’s like to be in a small community. And they both know what it’s like to be in a community where parents have very high expectations of the district,” he added.

Soltman, a former school psychologist with a master’s in education from the University of Washington, has roots on Vashon. He lived here several years ago, when he worked for the Mercer Island School District, and has children on Vashon.

The board made the decision on the two finalists after an all-day meeting on Saturday, where each of the six semi-finalists were interviewed by the district’s five board members while a panel of more than a dozen community members listened. After each interview, members of the advisory panel offered their views of the candidates to the board.

Denise Katz, the PTSA president, said it was an excellent process.

“We had some great choices. We all saw each candidate for their strengths. And then we had to discuss who would be best for our district. And we were all in synch,” she said.

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