Bremerton: A footnote on superintendent appointmentSeptember 11th, 2013 by Chris Henry
I’ve brought this up before in relation to superintendent searches in South Kitsap. Here it comes again, sparked by the recent appointment of Aaron Leavell as Bremerton School District’s new superintendent.
In 2008, the South Kitsap school board appointed then-assistant Superintendent Dave LaRose to succeed then-outgoing Superintendent Bev Cheney. Both LaRose and Leavell were well known to district constituents and well-liked by most. Leavell, like LaRose, has been the district’s assistant superintendent.
But the SKSD board got some serious blowback for presuming that LaRose’s appointment would be universally welcomed. The board announced its intention to hire LaRose to lead the district and held forums so district residents could comment before making it official. Then-board president Patty Henderson said the board had heard LaRose was applying for the Bremerton superintendent position (vacated by Bette Hyde and eventually filled by Flip Herndon), and SKSD didn’t want to lose LaRose to another district.
The tide of comments at the 2008 SKSD superintendent forums indicated a public slighted by the process. The overwhelming majority praised LaRose but said other candidates should have been considered, even if the intention was to hire from within.
Comments like this from then-former school board member Chris Lemke were common. (Lemke is now on the board again, but was elected after LaRose was appointed.)
“He’s a wonderful man,” Lemke said. “What I disagree with, there are other candidates. Give them the chance to speak, and give people the opportunity to speak about them.”
In contrast, the Bremerton school board was careful not to overtly express its intentions, although several comments by board members hinted at the direction they were heading.
The BSD board held a community forum Aug. 30, inviting city residents to talk about the district’s needs and the search process in general. The overwhelming majority at that meeting clamored for the board to appoint Leavell.
At the next meeting, the BSD board took their suggestion and welcomed Leavell with open arms.
While none of the Bremerton board members mentioned LaRose’s appointment, it seemed to be hovering in the back of their minds.
In comments made before the motion to appoint Leavell, board
Rubie said he has taken note of “other districts” who have
hired from within.
“They key point is they didn’t get feedback from all
Rubio Rubie said. “I
really wanted to make sure we were following the process correctly
and that we were listening to all sides and all positions.”
To conclude this footnote, I think it’s fair to say that the controversy surrounding LaRose’s appointment didn’t substantially affect his tenure.
Here’s Patty Henderson explaining the SKSD board’s thinking
before it formalized appointment of LaRose. He is now in
California, replaced this summer by Michelle Reid.