Civil. Peaceful. Even genial. That’s how I would describe
Bremerton School Board’s study session last night, especially as
compared to the members’ last few meetings.
The school board members, along with district staff and
Superintendent Bette Hyde, sat around a conference table quietly
discussing how to find a replacement for Hyde. About 10
community members, including one baby whose charming babble gave
the meeting a little meaningful soundtrack, were there to
watch. Public input was not allowed last night, but the board will
have another study session on Feb. 12 to take public comments on
the superintendent search.
Personnel Director Denise Zaske reported that there are about 15
superintendent openings in the state of Washington right now, which
is average for a year. Bremerton is probably two weeks behind the
other districts’ search timelines, but she said that time could
easily be made up.
Zaske told board members to think about how to portray
Bremerton schools to candidates, emphasizing the good
points – early childhood education, the Spanish immersion program,
the new Gates grant, the revitalization of downtown – along with
its challenges - the upcoming levy, meeting standardized
testing goals etc.
Board member Louis Mitchell emphasized the importance
of having a candid conversation about Bremerton schools with
“We want someone who is looking for a challenge,” he said.
“We need someone who understands leadership strategies that
improve teaching and learning,” said board member DeWayne Boyd.
“And we need a candidate who understands the history of the
district as research-driven,” added board President Cynthia
Zaske then brought up a few different ways to do the
search. District staff could look for a new superintendent, she
said, but there is limited time and resources for a full-bodied
search. The district could hire a consultant to work with district
staff to find a new supe. Or the district could hire a large
outside firm to do the work, like Seattle schools did in the
last search. The district has about $18,000 to spend on the search,
which wouldn’t even begin to pay for an outside firm. Their fees
usually begin at $50,000.
Board member Pat Jones dismissed the large independent firm
“I’ve always been against big expensive searches. I think they
are unnecessary,” he said.
Jones also wondered if Bremerton could lure a superintendent
away from another district, as Everett schools lured away Carol
Whitehead from Bremerton years ago. But Hyde warned against
“What you sacrifice in that is a lot of process and you could
sacrifice transparency,” she said.
Board members generally agreed that hiring a consultant to work
with district staff on a search was the best method. Zaske agreed
to call the consultants to ask what level of search Bremerton could
expect based on its budget and whether the consultants would stay
on with the board and the new superintendent after the hire to
offer coaching through the first year. The board
members agreed to set up in a time in the next two weeks to
interview potential consultants.
All in all a normal board meeting – much like the ones I
remember when I covered the board five years ago.