Judgment is the most elusive leadership quality. It’s also the most critical — a value informed by empirical knowledge and personal relationships that can’t be pre-tested or fudged on a resume.
In nearly a decade of service as the Marysville schools superintendent, Larry Nyland exhibited judgment and breathed life into the state’s paramount responsibility of educating children.
“Dr. Nyland led our school district with incredible distinction and integrity through some difficult times,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said. “His focus on improving performance in the classroom while always fighting for the needs of our kids has left this district distinctly stronger after his tenure.”
“Difficult times” indeed. Nyland took the reins of a district fractured by a 2003 teachers strike that lasted 49 days. Bridging the divide of pro- and anti-strike factions (feelings that bled out to parents and the community) required diplomacy and farsightedness. Nyland managed it well.
“When Larry got here, it was the right time,” Rep. John McCoy told The Herald’s Gale Fiege.
It’s a juggling act to be sure. A successful superintendent needs to be an adept administrator, a politician who can placate a (sometimes) prickly school board, an influential force in the community, and someone with a strong, clear vision of the district’s future. Add to this a need to haul down to Olympia and advocate for better K-12 funding and, in the best of all possible worlds, be liked by the kids. Nyland nailed it.
Outcomes are the ultimate gauge. During Nyland’s service, graduation rates rose 20 percentage points. That’s more than data: It traces the future of a generation of Marysville-district grads who earned diplomas and ideally are headed for higher ed and a living wage.
Optimism with Nyland’s leadership translated politically. Voters passed a $120 million school levy in 2006 that underwrote Marysville Getchell High School and Grove Elementary.
“My passion is student learning, and I think we’ve had notable achievements in the past nine years,” Nyland said. “It’s not just about better test scores. It’s about the skills students take away when they graduate.”
Assistant Marysville Superintendent Gail Miller also is retiring. Nyland and Miller were honored May 30 by the Tulalip Tribes.
“Gail and Larry brought to the table compassion and an understanding of the tribes,” tribal chair Mel Sheldon said.
It’s a legacy and testament of leadership, one that needs to be preserved and grow.