New Monroe superintendent Shawn Woodward during his panel interview on Thursday, Jan. 26, in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

New Monroe superintendent Shawn Woodward during his panel interview on Thursday, Jan. 26, in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Incoming superintendent says he’s ‘done homework on Monroe’

Shawn Woodward has faced issues of racism, equity and inclusion as the leader of the Mead School District near Spokane.

MONROE — A longtime Washington state educator with experience leading districtwide response to racist incidents will take the top spot in the Monroe School District this summer.

After an all-day interview process Thursday, the school board unanimously selected Shawn Woodward to serve as the next permanent superintendent.

“We are excited to welcome Shawn to the Monroe community,” Board President Jennifer Bumpus said in a prepared statement. “The Board was incredibly impressed with his extensive experience that aligns with our needs. This was a difficult decision because of how deep our applicant pool was, and we feel strongly we have selected the best candidate to lead the Monroe School District.”

Woodward, 53, is expected to start July 1, after Interim Superintendent Marci Larsen finishes her term. Larsen’s contract extends through June 30, 2023, with the option to end sooner if she and the board agree.

The district has not formally offered Woodward a contract outlining salary, benefits and term length. His predecessor, Justin Blasko, made nearly $250,000 a year in the position. Larsen’s year-long contract provides just more than $260,000.

Woodward currently works in the Mead School District in Eastern Washington, and he plans to finish the school year there, he said. That district has about 10,300 students, or just shy of double the enrollment of the 6,000-student Monroe School District.

Prior to that, he served as superintendent for the roughly 3,500-student Lake Pend Oreille School District in Sandpoint, Idaho.

He said he applied for the Monroe position because he wants to move to the west side of the Cascade Range to be closer to family, and he prefers working with smaller school districts.

“The one comprehensive high school districts, there’s a certain amount of pride … in communities like that,” Woodward told The Daily Herald in a phone interview.

His selection as superintendent comes on the tail of a tumultuous year for the district. In the final months of 2021, an argument at Monroe High School led to felony hate crime charges against a father. Several other families reported harassment and racism in the district in the weeks following.

Around the same time, two employees filed anonymous complaints against then-Superintendent Blasko. Blasko was put on paid administrative leave as the district investigated the claims. In July 2022, he signed a separation agreement and resigned.

Woodward said he’s “done (his) homework on Monroe” and knows what “challenges and opportunities” await him. That includes developing a much-needed strategic plan and addressing incidents of racism and harassment — both tasks he has completed with Mead and Lake Pend Oreille, he said.

“I feel like my skillset is such … that I can come in and help right away,” Woodward said.

During a panel interview with community members, Woodward gave a specific example of his work with diversity, equity and inclusion. Around the spring of 2020, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, the Mead School District made state and national news for a student video that espoused racial violence. Woodward told the panel that he led the Mead school board in addressing the incident “swiftly and responsibly.”

“As a leader, I knew at the time that I needed our board to consider policy to address this issue, because I thought that with board support we could move faster,” Woodward said. “And I also believed people out in our community needed to see action.”

Since adopting the policy, the Mead district conducted a “full-scale equity audit” to show over- and under-representation of minority groups in discipline, graduation rates, honors classes and other school programs. The data from that audit is available in a public “equity dashboard,” he said.

The panel also asked about Woodward’s approach for transparency and communication, two issues that parents have criticized the district for in the past. Woodward said he’s been called an “eternal optimist” who tries to focus on telling the truth and giving hope.

“You need to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, but always remain hopeful for people as a leader,” he told the panel. “Transparency means you are not just sharing the information that makes you look good. … Be honest, be truthful and be hopeful.”

Woodward’s resume includes more than 30 years of education experience, including time as a teacher, principal and director of teaching and learning. Most of his time in schools was spent in Western Washington, in Kitsap and Skagit counties.

Mallory Gruben is a Report for America corps member who writes about education for The Daily Herald.

Mallory Gruben: 425-339-3035;; Twitter: @MalloryGruben.

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