Monroe schools on to ‘next steps’ for embattled superintendent

Blistering report in hand, Monroe school leaders are seeking an acting leader to fill in for Justin Blasko.

Justin Blasko

Justin Blasko

MONROE — Leaders of the Monroe public schools may be looking to sever ties with embattled Superintendent Justin Blasko.

The district’s Board of Directors announced it has begun a formal search for another acting superintendent as it works through the “next steps with Dr. Blasko,” after a scathing investigation found he bullied and denigrated district employees.

“Attorneys representing both Dr. Blasko and Monroe School District are currently in communication,” board President Jennifer Bumpus wrote in a June 2 letter to the community.

“As this is a very complex legal and personnel matter, the board is prohibited from sharing additional information; however, I can tell you that we are taking this very seriously and we remain steadfast in our commitment to follow policy and the law during this process.”

Bumpus, in an email with The Daily Herald, declined to say if she expected Blasko to ever resume his duties. He has been on paid administrative leave since December, when the board hired the Seabold Group to investigate allegations of inappropriate language, bullying and sexist outbursts by the superintendent.

“As we are working through this process, board members have a responsibility to review all the facts and not presuppose any particular outcome,” Bumpus said in an email. “In making any decisions concerning an employee, School Board members must be fair and objective and must respect legal due process.”

Investigators interviewed 50 people and reviewed loads of emails, text messages and other records. Some described the superintendent as “volatile and unpredictable” and reported feeling targeted by Blasko if they confronted him. Multiple witnesses told the investigator that Blasko — the district’s former executive director of human resources — referred to certain women with a sexist expletive or as “evil.”

District policy states employees will “treat each other and students with dignity and respect” and “refrain from use of abusive language.” While the investigator didn’t explicitly write that Blasko violated this policy, the allegations leave little doubt.

Blasko denied many of the statements attributed to him, but the investigator concluded he wasn’t forthcoming. Blasko did concede calling one former principal that sexist expletive.

In a written response to the report, Blasko apologized “to those who were hurt by my actions.” He said he didn’t recall many of the specific alleged incidents, but “I do not question the integrity of the people who have contributed to the report, nor do I question the validity of their personal experiences or perceptions.”

Blasko is under contract through July 2025. If the board terminates the contract, he would be eligible for a year’s worth of severance pay. His annual salary is nearly $250,000, and he’s in line for a cost of living increase July 1.

Under the contract, he can appeal, a process that could take several months to resolve.

In the meantime, directors are in the market for a new acting superintendent. Kim Whitworth, who has handled the leadership role since December, will return to her duties as the district’s chief academic officer July 1.

Jennifer Bumpus

Jennifer Bumpus

“We know she is looking forward to returning to the role that she loves,” Bumpus wrote.

The board hopes to get someone on board as close as possible to July 1, according to a district spokesperson. How long they would be in that role is yet to be determined.

Bumpus made clear directors want an experienced administrator who can set a different tone.

“Based on what we have heard from our community over the last several months, our goal is to find an experienced leader, skilled in building positive culture, and authentic community engagement,” she wrote in the letter to the community.

One of Blasko’s sharpest critics on Friday acknowledged the board cannot rush to judgment.

“We understand that the board has to follow procedure and law,” said Melanie Ryan of the Monroe Equity Council, in an email. “We hope that the new information that they will be hiring an interim superintendent is an indication they will be terminating him.

“We also understand the community’s frustration with the process,” she continued, “and the ongoing desire and need to express the expectation to the Board, which has historically supported Blasko, that he be terminated.”

Blasko was promoted to the district’s top job in February 2020 and given a three-year contract. Last summer, the board approved another three-year contract that ran through June 30, 2024, to replace his original deal. Then, on Nov. 22, the outgoing board amended the contract to extend it to June 30, 2025.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Everett courthouse garage briefly closed for ‘suspicious package’ report

A man drove his car into the Snohomish County Courthouse garage and reported he believed the package was in his car.

High-capacity magazines at The Freedom Shoppe gun store, which was holding a sale in anticipation of new gun control measures, in New Milford, Conn., April 2, 2013. The store is liquidating their stock of weapons expected to be banned. Months after the massacre of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., legislative leaders in the state on Monday announced what they called the most far-reaching gun-legislation package in the country. (Wendy Carlson/The New York Times)
WA high court leaves ban in place for now on high-capacity ammo magazines

Monday’s decision will keep the law in effect until the court hears arguments, possibly this fall, on the bill sponsored by an Edmonds senator.

Firefighters respond to a 911 call Tuesday morning in Mill Creek. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Mill Creek house fire displaces 3

Firefighters responded to a house fire in the 14100 block of 30th Avenue SE early Tuesday morning. No one was injured.

Alyvia Nguyen, 8, climbs on leaf shaped steps at the new Corcoran Memorial Park playground on Friday, July 12, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Bothell-area park ‘could not be a more fitting dedication’

In 2019, Jim Corcoran donated $1.5 million worth of land to become a public park. He died before he could see it completed.

Cars line up for the Edmonds ferry in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ferry line jumpers face a $145 fine — and scorn from other drivers

Law enforcement is on the lookout for line cutters. It’s a “hot-button issue that can lead to something worse.”

Mother charged in Stanwood toddler’s fentanyl overdose death

Morgan Bassett woke up in January 2022 and found her daughter wasn’t breathing. Last week, she was charged with manslaughter.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.