Darrington School Board dealing with upheavals

The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

DARRINGTON — It’s a time of upheaval for the Darrington School Board. Three members resigned in as many months.

Two vacancies have been filled, but another spot is open after a third member stepped down in December.

There also was a close election for another seat, won by former Superintendent Dave Holmer. That means four of five school board members are or will be new this year in the district of about 400 students.

Meeting minutes and resignation letters chronicle a tense few months for the board. The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

The contract with Superintendent Buck Marsh has not been renewed and will expire June 30 if the board does not vote to continue his employment. Marsh’s salary this year is $110,000, according to the contract. He took the job in 2015, and also is the athletic director and has four children in the district.

There had been talk of eliminating the position and spreading duties between the elementary principal and district business manager, according to meeting minutes. That was before turnover on the board. No final decision has been made.

Two board members resigned in the fall: Dana Meis and Alan Pickard. Jennifer West also submitted her resignation in October, but rescinded it to ensure that enough members remained to handle routine business such as approving payroll. Meis’ and Pickard’s resignations were read by the board Nov. 1.

In her first resignation letter, West wrote that tensions between the school board, community and superintendent had gotten out of hand. She submitted a second letter Dec. 21. It was an emotional decision to leave, she said, but she no longer felt she had support in trying to resolve the group’s differences.

Pickard said in his letter that he was exhausted by the situation and stepped down to refocus on volunteering. Meis wrote that she considered whether to resign when her son transferred out of district but planned to finish her term. She decided in October to resign. There was pressure from some in the community, according to meeting minutes.

Nine people, including one who turned out to be ineligible, applied for the positions vacated by Meis and Pickard. Jeff Koble and Sheila Sisney were appointed. The appointments last until the November election, when they may choose to run to keep their seats.

In her application, Sisney noted that she has three children in Darrington schools and one more who will attend. The district’s success is personal, she wrote.

Koble said in his application that his goal is to run the district like a business, with priorities based on what is best for the children’s education. He wants to acknowledge past issues and move forward, he wrote.

The board is seeking applicants for Position 1. Applications are due by Jan. 18. A public meeting will be held to interview candidates before the board votes on its newest member, likely at the end of the month. Information and applications are available at the district office, 1065 Fir St., or by calling 360-436-1323.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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