School board members listen to public comment during a Marysville School Board meeting on Monday, June 3, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. Rinehardt is seated third from left. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

School board members listen to public comment during a Marysville School Board meeting on Monday, June 3, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. Rinehardt is seated third from left. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville school board president resigns amid turmoil

Wade Rinehardt’s resignation, announced at Monday’s school board meeting, continues a string of tumultuous news in the district.

MARYSVILLE — Marysville school board President Wade Rinehardt resigned Monday, adding to a tumultuous few weeks at the troubled district.

Board Vice President Connor Krebbs announced Rinehardt’s resignation at Monday night’s board meeting, saying it was “for personal reasons.” Parents and staff in attendance greeted the news with cheers.

Rinehardt’s resignation came the same day that a Marysville parent, Amy Hill, filed a grievance letter with the county auditor’s office against Rinehardt and Krebbs, citing “incompetent budget oversight,” unresponsiveness and the renewal of Superintendent Zachary Robbins’ contract among her objections to board leadership.

But after hearing Rinehardt was stepping down, Hill rescinded her letter. She said she wants to give Krebbs an “opportunity to do his thing as president.” Her letter could have been the first step of a recall effort.

In an interview, Krebbs said Rinehardt informed the school board and superintendent of his resignation in an email an hour or two before the board meeting.

The announcement was “unexpected, to say the least,” Krebbs said, adding that Rinehardt’s “reasoning is sound.”

“He’s doing it for the best interests of his family and” himself, Krebbs said, noting he wanted to let Rinehardt explain the departure. Rinehardt didn’t attend Monday night’s school board meeting. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Earlier this month, the district’s soon-to-be-former finance director Lisa Gonzales aired explosive allegations about mismanagement by district leaders. Gonzales, who is on administrative leave, publicly called for the school board to put the superintendent and head of Human Resources on leave.

Gonzales wrote she reached out to Rinehardt and board member Kristen Michal about the problems in May, but did not receive a response.

The day after Gonzales shared her public letter, Rinehardt confirmed the board would open an investigation into her accusations.

On Thursday, Human Resources director Alvin Cooper resigned suddenly without explanation.

On May 31, the district announced plans to close three schools in fall 2025, citing declining enrollment. The school closures still need final approval from the school board.

Per state law, the school board has 90 days to appoint a new board member.

That period doesn’t start until the board formally accepts Rinehardt’s resignation, Krebbs said, which it will likely do in a special session within the week.

The board will publicly interview prospective board members, he said, adding the public could have further opportunities to offer input. The chosen candidate will serve out the remainder of Rinehardt’s term, ending in November 2025, he said.

In an interview, Krebbs stressed the importance of the board’s decision in selecting Rinehardt’s successor.

“The message from the community overall for Marysville really has been: ‘We need to take the time to make sure our leaders are solid,’” he said.

Robbins declined to comment on Rinehardt’s departure Monday.

‘A huge victory’

Voters elected Rinehardt in 2021. During his campaign, he said his priorities were improving transparency and restoring trust in the district. He expressed support for open forums between the school board and the public.

He also opposed Critical Race Theory, writing on his blog at the time the theory “creates a larger divide between the races” because “those of certain skin color are to be supported more or differently than others.”

Marysville schools have been in deep turmoil all year, grappling with a severe budget crisis and facing parent and staff protests against district leadership.

In March, the district’s risk management pool voted to terminate the district’s membership effective Aug. 31, citing a recent steep rise in claims, poorly maintained buildings and the district reneging on an agreement to help pay for a legal settlement, among other concerns.

A risk pool is a form of financial protection similar to insurance, for losses like legal costs and property damage. The city is working with brokerage firm USI Insurance Services to find a new insurer.

At Monday’s meeting, USI broker Katie Henry assured the board there was “no scenario” where the district would not have insurance in September. The firm will “finalize the terms” of new insurance in about 30 to 45 days, she said.

School leaders expect insurance rates to rise 30%, according to the district’s financial plan.

Krebbs said he learned of Hill’s recall effort Monday, calling the process “an important tool” to hold officials accountable.

If he gets recalled, Krebbs said, “I’ll stop doing my job. But until that time, I still have a job to do. And … I really just can’t let it distract me.” He declined to comment on Hill’s grievances.

To restart the recall process, someone would have to submit “written charges” again, county auditor’s office spokesperson Sierra Cornelius wrote in an email.

Hill said she felt “really good” about Rinehardt leaving. Jalleh Hooman, another parent, agreed.

The news “means that our community’s voice is making a difference,” Hooman said. “This is a huge victory for our community.”

Hooman noted she did not want other board members to resign. She wants to give new members the chance to “do the right thing.”

‘Done from the heart’

Both Hill and Hooman are founding members of the Marysville Community Coalition, a group that has protested district leadership.

Before the board meeting, parents and staff gathered outside the district office in a rally organized by the coalition.

David Hogan, a second grade teacher at Cascade Elementary School, said he attended because of “incompetence” among district leaders.

“I’m just hoping that they see that we’re here, that we’re invested,” he said. “I want them to work with us more, to talk to us, to meet with us.”

Parent Amanda Zamara held a sign: “Read the Room, RESIGN.”

Both her kids have special needs, Zamara said. She was forced to homeschool her son after his school didn’t offer one-on-one paraeducator support, as mandated by his Individualized Education Program, she said.

Zamara said she wanted to see most of the current district leadership replaced by “competent, experienced people.”

“With the current administration, I wouldn’t trust them with my dog,” Zamara said, noting neither of her kids would be attending Marysville schools next year.

At the meeting, former school board member Don Hatch told the crowd he felt for Rinehardt.

“Nobody should be scared sitting up there” as a school board member, he said.

When it comes to casting blame, “I can point at the group up there,” Hatch said, referring to the board and superintendent.

“But how many fingers are (pointing) back at me, and the ones that are behind me?” he asked. “We’re all responsible for this school district. All of us.”

He directed the audience of mostly parents and staff to “go out there and fight” for the next school levy when it comes up.

Her voice thick with emotion, board member Eliza Davis appealed to the crowd that “this work is done from the heart.”

“This school district has been failing kids for decades,” she said. “It’s not something new. And (fixing it) has to be done together, not fighting against each other.”

Board member Beth Hoiby echoed Davis’ comments, saying “to be in this unpaid position and be attacked the way we are is … really not fair.”

“This is not easy work,” she added.

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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