With the recent resignation of Superintendent Larry Francois, the Northshore School District Board of Directors is actively looking to hire his replacement. Finding the right person to lead a school district with over 20,000 students is one of the most important duties any school board has.
Right now, the School Board is under a lot of pressure to make an internal appointment during a special board session on Tuesday, March 22nd at 1:30 p.m. (held at Northshore’s Administrative Center, 3330 Monte Villa Parkway, Bothell. Note: the regularly-scheduled 7 p.m. meeting will occur later that same day).
The decisions made at the special session meeting around the hiring process are critical. If the Board makes an internal appointment at this meeting, it means any opportunity for active parent and community engagement in the search for a new superintendent will be lost.
I am asking parents and community members in the Northshore School District to email all five School Board members and let them know you support a nationwide search process for a superintendent replacement, and for the Board to include parents and the community in the decision-making process.
Here are the addresses for each school board member:
Kimberly D’Angelo – [email protected]
Ken Smith – [email protected]
David Cogan – [email protected]
Sandy Hayes – [email protected]
Amy Cast – [email protected]
Northshore is standing on the edge of many large changes, impacting nearly every family in our community. Our best chance to navigate these waters is with strong, permanent leadership. While it may be tempting to move quickly and name an interim replacement, the last thing our District needs is to tread water and settle for “good enough.” Right now our District faces serious challenges that require bold leadership; there’s no guarantee we’ll get that if we hire quickly and fail to do an exhaustive search. In fact, we have every reason to believe a hasty process will shortchange all of us.
Public engagement in other districts – An article published this week outlined the avenues and series of opportunities for public engagement in the process to name a new superintendent in the Edmonds School District, including public information sessions and candidate interviews open to the public. It is clear that their district has considered many different options to garner public awareness, participation, and transparency. Is this a bar too difficult to meet in Northshore? I’d like to think we could at least do that – and more.
Moreover, the fallout from recent revelations that the District was using public resources to monitor community member conversations on social media has not fully played out. Some parents are questioning the District’s commitment to transparency, which can have damaging impact on community support. Any hasty attempts to name a replacement will continue to feed these feelings of doubt.
Interim director is wrong direction to take – Some have argued an internal interim replacement would give us continuity during a time of change. To the contrary, naming an interim director suggests our circumstances are so dire that we cannot take the time to get it right. Yes, there are many changes on the horizon, but we still have sufficient time before we see those in the rear view mirror. Moreover, if the board decides to name a one or two-year interim superintendent, potentially significant cons accompany both options, outweighing any perceived benefit of continuity.
With a one-year interim, we have to trust that this individual carries out the execution phase of the changes we anticipate in 2017-18, including our shift to a 9-12 high school and 6-8 middle school configuration, without the benefit of seeing them through. We have to trust this individual will manage the execution as a leader, and set aside the fact that they were not immediately considered by ALL as the natural replacement. We have to trust this individual will not be distracted with the task at hand because of their own need to find a permanent station once their temporary job is over. This is a lot of trust to ask for, in a time when trust with the district in many quarters is low.
A two-year appointment bodes no better. While we would still struggle to some degree with the concerns outlined for a one-year appointment, we now have a situation where a new, permanent superintendent has to take on whatever fallout occurred as a result of the decisions from their immediate predecessor. Ownership of a problem – or success, is much easier to take when one has lived and led it. If the changes in 2017 do not land well, we may see a new superintendent decide to make different and possibly bigger changes to course correct. In sum, how much can you (and by extension, all of us) afford to lose if the changes in 2017 do not play out as expected?
Let’s take the time to get this right. Most importantly, let’s make sure parents are at the table and engaged in a decision of such paramount importance to our kids, their teachers, and our community.
Mindie Wirth is the parent of two children who attend school in the Northshore School District.