S. Whidbey school superintendent quits

WHIDBEY ISLAND — South Whidbey School District Superintendent Martin Laster resigned Tuesday, saying the school board made it impossible for him to do his job.

Laster sent his resignation via e-mail to school board members Tuesday morning, said board member Jim Adsley. The assistant superintendent, Daniel Blanton, and the superintendent’s secretary, Susan Nerison, also resigned.

"The board has chosen to withhold positive recognition of my accomplishments, withhold support from me, and take actions that damage the office of the superintendent and, ultimately, undermine our efforts," Laster’s resignation letter says.

Laster accused the board’s president and vice president of apparently being "on an unjustified campaign to get rid of me by, among other things, attempting to undermine me with my staff."

School Board President Helen Price-Johnson said the superintendent’s decision surprised the board and the district’s five schools.

"Dr. Laster’s resignation was not forced — it was unexpected," a statement from the board says. "And the district does not agree with Dr. Laster’s characterization of the circumstances leading to his departure."

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. today at South Whidbey Intermediate School to act on the three resignations and possibly appoint a temporary superintendent.

"We have good schools, good staff and a good community. I have confidence we will work through this challenging situation and continue to provide a high level of service to the students of our district," Price-Johnson said.

Resignation letters from Blanton and Nerison echoed Laster’s concerns. Blanton’s says the board has waged an "all-out effort to discredit the superintendent and anyone who would dare to stand by him."

Both Laster and Blanton were critical of how the board handled an independent audit of the district’s finances.

In January, Moss Adams, an Everett accounting firm hired by the school board, found that the district’s books contained "an excessive amount of errors" and did not closely track the budget with how much it actually was bringing in and spending.

The audit says the district’s business manager, who resigned last year, should take most of the blame for the financial problems. But the report also says the budget shortfall should have been identified sooner with greater oversight from top administrators.

School board members requested the audit after they were caught off guard last summer by the breadth of the district’s financial problems as the district began preparing this year’s budget.

South Whidbey, a district of 2,250 students, has a $16 million budget for day-to-day operations.

Laster was hired to lead the district in June 2000 and was the top pick from 29 candidates for the job. Before moving to Whidbey Island, he was the superintendent of the Darrington School District for four years.

He also served as a top official in several school districts in Alaska, where he was selected as Alaska’s school superintendent of the year.

Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or


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