Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Leadership Input

The Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors is partnering with GR Consulting to collect input from students, families, staff, and the community about the current strengths and challenges of the district and the desired characteristics, experience, and skills of a superintendent.

The Board will consider the feedback as they make the decision to select a permanent superintendent and to understand current perspectives and priorities when updating its strategic plan.

Selecting a new Superintendent is one of the most important decisions a school board makes for a district. Finding and hiring the right chief executive for the leadership team is critical to the success of students and staff. The Board is looking for a leader to continue the many successes of our schools, support a diverse student population, and enhance a district with a rich history of providing quality education.

In addition to an online survey (coming Jan. 25), there will be focus group options for students, families, staff, and the community. More will be communicated on these opportunities as details are finalized.

This collective input will be presented to the School Board during a work session on Feb. 16 at 4 p.m., followed by a regular meeting at 5 p.m.

Selection Process Timeline

Living Snoqualmie asked SVSD Board President Melissa Johnson if this is the same process and consultant used in the past Superintendent hires; she replied, “This is a different process than what we have used in the past; this is not a search process! The Board will solicit input from students, staff, parents, and the community about the current strengths and challenges of the district and the desired characteristics, experience, and skills of a superintendent. The Board will then consider the feedback as we make the decision to select a permanent superintendent and to understand current perspectives and priorities when updating the strategic plan.”

“The major difference between the two is that a traditional search process includes posting the position, actively recruiting individuals to apply, reviewing applicants, selecting finalists, conducting interviews, and providing the community the opportunity to meet candidates and give input prior to the School Board making the hiring decision. This selection process offers key stakeholders an opportunity to share their priorities and input regarding our school district’s leadership before the Board confirms their selection for this important role.”

Johnson went on to say that the consultant, Dr. Jim Hagar, was used in the past during the district’s 2018 search, and they “had an excellent experience with extremely positive feedback from all parties involved.”

Find the survey link here

[Information provided, in part, by the Snoqualmie Valley School District]

Comments

  1. Chris Lodahl says

    One of the prime reasons the head person or in this case the superintendent is brought in or hired from the “outside” of the organization — he/she is not an “insider” who owes favors to other team members they worked with. Changes will have to be made and toes stepped on, usually friends. The School District has operated under this principle and hired many a superintendent by using a search firm or as some say a head hunter for an “outsider”.

    So, how did we get to a Coup – change can be traumatic with a new boss. A group or it could be one individual — banded together and a leader emerges, as in all political coups; that leader approaches a board member or members that the person in question has to go; the board buys into it discharging the head person (no cause in this case); then the board fills the empty position with the coup leader who approached them and the others (“insiders”) who felt threatened, back the decision; everyone is now happy as there will be no changes—remember change is traumatic to some; some call it the buddy system at work or the good ole boys.

    In our case the public outrage was brutal about the amount of the payout, as the Board had no “cause” as stated under the Hiring Contract to terminate the superintendent and why then was he a bad hire or poor leader – the public did not get clear transparent answers – no “cause” therefore no reason per the Hiring Contract to fire him, leaving the fact the Board – “Rather than seeing a course correction” their words — let him go (paid his contract off) on behalf of the Coup or “insiders”. This is why the School Board is struggling with what to say and do as public transparency is not there.

    Yes, our new leader has a Superintendent Certificate form WSU and was currently the Assistant Superintendent and is now the Interim Superintendent. The question will be — will he be appointed superintendent (from the inside) or will the School Board do a search for someone coming from the “outside” the organization to be the superintendent. Remember the Boards words last December — “We will communicate the next steps regarding our long-term plan soon.” We are now at the “next steps” and it is evident from today’s news, the “insiders” continue to have the School Boards ear and the Board continues with their cover up.

    As for how the School Board handled their decision for the payout and separation – I can only say the Separation Agreement for the payout and Board Letter are sloppily phrased or written – that is another clue – one hand says one thing while the other hand is doing something else. After reviewing the no cause to terminate; why it happened; how it happened; lack of board transparency — I would say Dr. Gibbon was doing his job and our school district has problems that he was hired to fix – yea, some of the top team need to go. Our community needs to look at fixing another problem – a failed school board – three are coming up for re-election (filling for public office is this spring).

    Respectfully,

    Chris Lodahl, NB Mayor 92-95, Councilmember 90-91

    • Stephen Kangas says

      Chris, I respect your well articulated view on this, and agree with much of it, but just want to point out some exception. Yes, in an unusually politicized organization as SVSD admin is, as compared to a private corporation, there is a greater need to look “outside” the org for a new chief to run the show and answer to the board. I, too, would prefer to see that hire come from the outside.

      Since so much of the impact of the “product” of SVSD affects nearly all of our community of taxpayers, parents, students, etc, a survey of what our community would like to see SVSD provide them is extremely important to the strategic planning of the district, which in turn *should* affect the hiring and on-going evaluation of the superintendent who implements that plan in his/her working relationship with the board of directors. In private corporations we call that “market research”, which should regularly be undertaken. SVSD has been regularly conducting such survey research over the years, unfortunately it seems to have historically been focused primarily on parents and staff and de-prioritizing the rest of the taxpayer community at large. I believe this reflects the internal and limited external politics of SVSD and parents. I would prefer to see outreach of such SVSD surveys to the entire community of taxpayers who fund them.

      Creating a special and unusual survey on the topic of what the community would like to see in the new superintendent hire is in a way putting the cart in front of the horse. Evaluating the skills, knowledge, and previous track record of success/failure that is needed of a new hire in order to meet the supposedly up-to-date and well-thought-out strategic plan is something that should not drive the plan in the first place…that’s backwards. So, I’m a bit puzzled by what I’m reading here about this new survey, except if one believes that it may be intended to get a better fix on the external community political factors at play here; that is not necessarily a bad thing, but I submit should not be given much priority in the hiring process given how much improvement SVSD really needs to make and thus where the priorities need to instead be focused on. It even smacks of the politics surrounding re-election of board directors coming up. But, it’s not wise to hire a kumbaya party host leader because they’re liked for being a skilled in making everyone happy to shake up an organization that is in need of change…but offering this survey kinda smacks of that. Now, it could be that the board is hoping to tap into the hive brain of skilled and knowledgeable CEO hiring managers and management out in the community to supplement their lack of such skills and knowledge, which may be a good thing…but that is best done by prequalifying the survey respondents to weed out the politics and the inexperienced hiring manager wannabes. Think of it this way: many of us buy stuff from Amazon, but how much good would it do for Amazon to survey their customers on what they wish to see in their replacement CEO? Instead of what products, services and support you wish to see Amazon provide to you? Full disclosure: I have not yet done the survey (no link here), so I’ll be later assessing what they’re really wanting to learn from the community.

      I also agree that SVSD can stand more improvement in terms of student academic outcomes and preparation for life after graduation, wider student population success, greater financial efficiency, and how that squares with taxes and other sources of revenue, teachers and their skills/knowledge/pro-dev, student to teacher ratios, etc. I agree with you that there is likely a need in SVSD admin and staff for an organizational change to put into place what is needed for that planned improvement. I also see in my past and present discussions with admin and staff that the politics around that is mixed, with a desire for “shake up” versus a resistance for such change internally. But a good chief with the right skills and experience can gain the balance of respect to affect organizational changes as well as changes in the goals of the plan without unduly alienating the needed admin and staff talent to make progress; in fact, I believe we were seeing that in Gibbon’s predecessor (Manahan) before he resigned over health issues. But, it’s not the community hiring that chief, it’s the board of directors.

      I do not agree with what you are implying about firing over “cause”, perhaps I don’t understand what you are driving at there. In employment contracts, “cause” is a legal term that determines if any amount of termination compensation is owed when the organization fires an employee, and often it is zero. “Cause” needs to be clearly defined in order to be successfully defended in a lawsuit if it came to that, and if done properly can even be a big barrier to such a lawsuit being filed in the first place. But an employee always can be fired for any legal reason with little justification, but it is customary that kind of termination “without cause” is based upon unsatisfactory performance sufficiently defined to likewise be a large barrier to a lawsuit, and that there is a reasonable amount of termination compensation provided to the fired employee. Ie, just because Gibbon was fired without cause does not mean it should not have happened nor was not justified, as there is always reasons that someone is fired without cause, it’s common, happens everywhere all the time, sometimes with no separation compensation. However, it’s still best to define in the employment contract some important reasons for termination without cause, and define the separation compensation, especially if it involves a very highly paid employee. In this case, it would appear that neither the cause or without cause was well defined along with termination compensation, and that is a bad oversight in my view, therefore I agree with you on that point. I also do not believe that the public deserves any more information about this firing without cause, simply because such public knowledge has no relevance to the district’s improvement desired by the board, only the strategic plan does, which is highly available to the public.

      This “coup” thing you’re talking about: a board should always be in touch with what is going on inside the organization that they have fiduciary and other responsibilities for. I see no problem in any board receiving input from the organization’s employees, whether managers or staff right “down” to the volunteers and students. Whether that input is proactively sought out by board directors, or unexpectedly brought to them. Unlike so many other school districts, we have here in SVSD an “active” board that is more involved in the district planning, on-going evaluation, correction, admin and staff discussions, and public communications. They are operating in a vacuum, which is a good thing. In the case of an internal group of managers and staff banding together to affect change in the organization, I submit that is also something that as a board director in my organizations I wanted to know about, as there is value in many heads group thinking that should not be discounted. It just needs to be assessed in the context of the strategic plan, what the hired chief is reporting and performing, etc. Most board directors do want such “rogue” reporters to also work through their management structure so that they can see what becomes of those ideas. Sometimes they are suppressed before it comes back to the board through the command structure they want it to (superintendent in this case). If it is a superintendent or other senior management failure being reported, then how else is the board to hear about it in a timely manner? Certainly not from the failing party(ies). From what I can see from afar here, it does look like the SVSD board did take the proper steps here to detect superintendent non-performance, put him on an improvement plan, and when he did not execute such plan then fired him without cause as needed. (separation compensation issue aside)

      I don’t agree that “public outrage was brutal”. What we’re seeing here on this blog is a tempest in a teapot, as the community at-large does not find this matter very notable. Everyone I talk to just doesn’t seem to care and feels that the board was justified. So far, I’ve seen only one person write brutally critical in public, here, trying to stir up a pot over not being an elected director to participate in the firing decision, instead of the most important issues that affect our entire community of taxpayers, some of whom are parents, and our students.

      With that said, I like what you’ve written here, Chris, I always find you thought-provoking, Chris, and most of what you said makes a lot of sense to me. Too few people in our community have the courage to start and participate in conversations about how one of the very largest tax burdens in our community should be operating and improving. Kudos to you for that.

      • The public outrage is limited due to apathy and a lack of knowledge, not facts, which are in short supply.

        • ^This. The board has no legal requirement to do any of these things.
          The survey is just a “feel good” ploy for us to vent.
          I feel better now. 🙂

      • You appear to be afflicted with a bit of hubris. The board has squandered millions of our hard-earned dollars. Not all of us have money to burn with this school district. I have written personally to the board about my aversion to their fiscal irresponsibility when this story first broke. I have no confidence in them moving forward as-is. If I didn’t have a child in svsd school right now I would move out of this over-priced, over-built school district. Why did we need a fancy new high school and float two massively expensive bonds, only for the board to squander even more of our money?
        Unfortunately, anyone outside of the svsd board corporation have no legal rights to do anything about it, except vote in new members when they are up for election.

      • See Linda, Stephen Mansplains everyone, not just you. He likes to speak as if he is an authority on everything. But he hasn’t bothered to read the survey before writing a term paper about his opinion. Amazing.

  2. I believe the firm being used is GR Recruiting (not GR Consulting), or was that a deliberate misdirect by the School Board, seeing how they’re not apparently actually going to recruit anyone?

  3. Stephen Kangas says

    Editor: it would be great if you provide the link to the survey in your article so that the community can participate without otherwise trying to hunt it down.

    • The survey link was not yet available when the story was first published. It is now at the end of the article. Thanks for the input!

  4. Stephen Kangas says

    I completed the survey. It seems to be a mix of passing along the board responsibility of establishing superintendent candidates hiring criteria to the masses, with the more important & relevant poll of the changes in the SVSD that the public wishes to see. The poll of operation & product changes does not strike me as very different than what we’ve seen previously in such surveys over the years.

  5. you sound like a redneck…”we don’t need none of em fancy schools”

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