Oak Harbor Public Schools’ superintendent search came to a close last week when the board selected the woman who has led the Cle Elum-Roslyn School District since 2019.
During a special meeting March 4, school board members voted unanimously to appoint Michelle Kuss-Cybula to the position. Lance Gibbon, the former superintendent, left last year to became the school superintendent in Snoqualmie Valley.
Kuss-Cybula was chosen from among three finalists, each of whom spent a day in the school district last week to meet with staff, parents and students. The other two candidates were Kimberlee Armstrong, associate superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools in California, and Oak Harbor Assistant Superintendent Dwight Lundstrom.
“We had three excellent candidates that each would have been successful in this district, so it was very, very hard to make a final call,” Board Member Jessica Aws said.
Kuss-Cybula’s salary will be decided during negotiations.
Kuss-Cybula said one of her immediate priorities in her new position is to learn about the district’s recent failed attempt to pass a capital projects bond and determine the best way to “hit restart” on that work.
“It’s very important for the schools that really are in rough shape,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of portables. It’d be nice to get kids into a building and really start prioritizing those needs and working with the community to do so.”
That work will entail getting to know the school district and engaging with community partners, including the military. The new superintendent said that helping students from Navy families feel at home in Oak Harbor schools is another matter of great importance to her.
Kuss-Cybula comes to Oak Harbor Public Schools with a long history in education. Her career journey began during her junior year at the high school she attended in New York.
“I had a counselor at my high school basically tell me I wasn’t college material and gave me an application to the local grocery store and took the college application out of my hand,” she said. “And so I said at that point, ‘Yeah, I think I’m going to college.’”
Inspired by the mentorship of her elementary and high school art teachers, Kuss-Cybula studied education at Buffalo State University and became an art teacher herself. Eventually, she moved west, and she and her husband raised their two daughters in the Skagit Valley.
Prior to becoming the Cle Elum-Roslyn superintendent, she served as principal and in other administrative roles at various schools in Bellingham and Sedro-Woolley.
Kuss-Cybula said she has long been interested in working and living in Oak Harbor. She has had her eye on the superintendent position ever since Gibbon left the district.
Because she and her family lived in the area for so long, the relocation to Oak Harbor is something of a homecoming for Kuss-Cybula, who said that driving over Deception Pass Bridge feels like “a warm hug.”
This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sister publication to The Herald.