Monroe schools wants to know what public seeks in an interim leader

The board is on track to interview candidates July 28, though it’s unclear if the community can watch

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Monroe in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118

MONROE — Community members have one week to share what qualities they want to see in Monroe’s next interim superintendent.

The district on Friday launched surveys in English and Spanish to learn what skills, personality traits and values residents hope a temporary leader will possess. Other questions seek to gauge what residents see as the district’s challenges and strengths. Those results will be shared with candidates to “aid them in learning about Monroe.”

The survey will close at 4 p.m. July 15, and responses presented to the board at its July 18 meeting.

On July 21, the board will review applicants and discuss whether to conduct candidate interviews in open session or behind closed doors.

In a board workshop Thursday, directors were divided on the best course and agreed to wait on a decision until they can review the applicants.

Board president Jennifer Bumpus said she preferred closed interviews because it could make candidates more comfortable, especially if they are employed and prefer not to have their bosses know they’re looking for other jobs.

Director Chuck Whitfield said a private interview would allow the board to speak more candidly with the applicants and really understand their personality.

“This is going to be a personal relationship. …It’s really going to be about the person and getting a feel for that person,” he said. “Having that (interview) at a public meeting, I just don’t think we can accomplish that.”

Director Sarah Johnson said she worried about how community members would respond to a private interview process. Director Molly Barnes suggested a compromise: hold a public forum for the community to meet the finalists but complete the interview in private.

“In the back of my mind I’m going, ‘This is an interim. This isn’t a full-on superintendent.’ We are going to have a full, completely different process that will have so much community involvement,” Barnes said.

The national executive search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates was hired under a $5,000 contract to assist the district. The search firm representatives helping Monroe are both long-time Washington educators, including Kristine McDuffy who is a retired superintendent of Edmonds School District. They have helped with superintendent searches in several area districts, including Lake Stevens, Riverview, Shoreline and, most recently, Marysville.

Three people had applied for the interim position as of Thursday. Interviews are set for July 28.

The person who is eventually selected will guide the district through the 2022-23 school year.

Superintendent Justin Blasko, who is under contract through 2025, has been on paid administrative leave since December. His future is unclear after an investigation found claims of inappropriate language and bullying credible.

Kim Whitworth served as acting superintendent until July 1 when she returned to her role as the district’s chief academic officer. Other district administrators are handling the day-to-day administrative chores until an interim leader is hired.

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

Mallory Gruben: 425-339-3035; mallory.gruben@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @MalloryGruben.

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