Retiring Marysville superintendent got schools back on track

MARYSVILLE — No matter what side they were on in the fall of 2003, most people agree that the divisive 49-day teachers strike in the Marysville School District took a toll on the community.

When he started in the summer of 2004, then-new Superintendent Larry Nyland set out to meet individually with more than 700 people. His first goal, he said, was to “restore relationships.”

Many of those in attendance at Nyland’s retirement reception May 30 at the Hibulb Cultural Center talked at length about Nyland’s work to heal the district and to get results from the school board, the administration, the teachers, the district’s 11,000 students and the people of Marysville and Tulalip.

State Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, said he always appreciated Nyland.

“When Larry got here, it was the right time,” McCoy said. “He was successful at calming things down and getting the district back on an even keel.”

In his role in the state Legislature, McCoy said he heard frequently from Nyland regarding school funding and other issues.

“Larry had no problem telling me what was on his mind, and I like that,” McCoy said. “I hope our new superintendent is outspoken, too. She can call me anytime.”

Becky Cooke Berg is scheduled to start her new job as superintendent of Marysville schools on July 1. Berg, who has a doctorate in education, is moving here from her job as the superintendent of the Deer Park School District near Spokane. A meeting to give the public a chance to meet Berg is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Monday at the school administration office before the regular school board meeting.

Nyland, who served nine years in Marysville, said his last days with the school district this month are “bittersweet.”

“It’s time to hand the job off,” Nyland said. “It’s been a good nine years.”

Most of the Marysville high school graduations are over for the year. Nyland said he is proud that the graduation rate in the district rose 20 percentage points during his tenure.

“My passion is student learning and I think we’ve had notable achievements in the past nine years,” he said. “It’s not just about better test scores. It’s about the skills students take away when they graduate.”

Nyland began teaching in 1971 in Gig Harbor and served as a superintendent in Alaska and elswhere in Washington before taking the job at Marysville.

Under Nyland, voters began passing school levies again, and in 2006 they approved a $120 million bond package in 2006 that helped build Grove Elementary School and Marysville Getchell High School. In 2007, Nyland was named the state’s superintendent of the year.

Assistant Marysville Superintendent Gail Miller also is retiring at the end of this month after nine years with the district.

“There was no better superintendent to work with and no better place to end my career than with Larry in Marysville,” Miller said. The Tulalip Tribes hosted the reception for Nyland and Miller, and Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon served as the master of ceremonies.

“Gail and Larry brought to the table compassion and an understanding of the tribes,” Sheldon said. “They were team players, and we are eternally grateful for the relationships that were made.”

Arden Watson, who has served as head of the teachers union in Marysville, said that from the start Nyland had a clear desire to work with teachers and all staff of the district.

“We haven’t always agreed on everything, but we worked collaboratively,” Watson said.

School Board President Chris Nation said Nyland stood by the board and made Marysville a better district.

“At a time of turmoil and mistrust, Dr. Nyland got us back on track,” Nation said. “We aspire to be like Larry.”

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said the partnerships between the school district, the tribes, the business owners and the city to benefit students were encouraged by Nyland.

“Because there is no bigger priority than our children,” Nehring said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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