MUKILTEO — Turnover at the top is happening in another of Snohomish County’s largest school districts.
Superintendent Marci Larsen, who has led the Mukilteo district for the past 16 years, announced Friday that she plans to retire Dec. 31. She follows former Everett Superintendent Gary Cohn, who began his retirement earlier this month, and Edmonds Superintendent Kristine McDuffy, who intends to step down at the end of the upcoming school year.
It will be up to the Mukilteo School Board to determine how it will replace Larsen, a former special education teacher who climbed the ranks to become an elementary school principal and school district administrator. She’s spent 40 years in education.
The board plans to accept Larsen’s resignation during its Aug. 26 meeting and discuss finding her successor. Larsen’s departure will come in the middle of the school year.
Larsen said the school district is in a strong position financially and has worked hard to address equity for a growing enrollment with an increasingly diverse student body. The number of students learning English as a second language has increased from 718 in 2000 to more than 3,000. The district in recent times has been averaging an additional 143 such students a year, roughly the equivalent of five to six classrooms.
School Board President Michael Simmons praised Larsen, particularly her financial stewardship.
“What has been less visible, as she quietly and humbly works behind the scenes, is Dr. Larsen’s careful, smart and strategic financial management,” he said. “Her practical planning kept the district in good shape in both stable and challenging times, and she made sound decisions in the best interest of students, staff and families.”
That financial caution wasn’t well received a year ago among some members of the Mukilteo Education Association, who took a vote of no confidence in the superintendent. Teachers packed the School Board chambers and pushed for raises after the McCleary decision by the state Supreme Court provided more state money for salaries. The board initially balked at their demands but settled on one-time raises of about 13 percent.
Larsen said her goal was to make sure the district was in a position to not cut staff or services to students. Sometimes the financially prudent decision takes time.
“You come in thinking you can’t make everybody happy and that is hard,” she said.
In June, Mukilteo teachers agreed to a three-year contract, making them the highest-paid educators in the state. Both sides hailed the agreement and the tone of the talks. At the same time, the district has been in a position to add staff, Larsen said.
Judy Schwab has come to know Larsen well over the years. She was on the School Board when it hired Larsen and remains on the board 16 years later.
She said Larsen has brought “unprecedented longevity and calm, steady leadership” to the district.
“Beyond the estimable legacy Dr. Larsen leaves our district, she has given more: her upbeat engagement in our larger community is peerless,” Schwab said. “She has been our goodwill ambassador and role model. She is one of a kind.”
Larsen said she will miss the connections with co-workers after she retires. It’s those relationships that make the decision to leave difficult.
Earlier this week, she was at a training session for transportation workers, including bus drivers and mechanics.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I love these people,’” she said.
Larsen has “nothing splashy” planned for retirement, although she plans to remain in Mukilteo.
Travel will be nice, “and not to have to plan it between School Board meetings,” she said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.