Snohomish superintendent finalists to tour schools, meet staff

  • By Amy Nile Herald writer
  • Sunday, March 20, 2016 7:28pm
  • Local News

The Snohomish School Board invites the community to get to know three educators who are in the running for the district’s next superintendent so they can weigh in on the decision.

Each finalist is scheduled to spend a day next week touring schools, meeting employees and taking questions from anyone who asks during three evening meetings set for 7 to 8 p.m. at the school district administration offices, 1601 Avenue D.

Monday’s meeting will be with Duluth Public Schools Superintendent Bill Gronseth from Minnesota. Marysville School District Superintendent Becky Berg is up on Wednesday. Helena Schools Superintendent Kent Kultgen is coming from Montana to be available on Thursday.

Longtime Snohomish Superintendent Bill Mester is retiring in June, ending a 43-year career in education. He earns a $234,820 base salary and $284,813 in total compensation.

Berg said she wasn’t looking to leave Marysville, but following Mester in leading the the 9,900 students at Snohomish schools would be the “opportunity of a lifetime.”

“It’s a gem of a district,” she said.

Berg, 53 she hasn’t applied elsewhere. She led the district through dark days after an Oct. 24, 2014 shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School that left five teenagers dead. A lawsuit was filed earlier this week against the district and the shooter’s father on behalf of the victims’ families.

Berg said the tragedy steeled her resolve to make sure every student is taken care of, not just academically but in all aspects of their lives.

She has a doctorate in education from Columbia University and 30 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in school districts across the state.

Since 2013, she has managed Marysville’s $136 million annual operating budget and 22 schools with more than 11,000 students.

Gronseth, a Duluth native, is looking for a fresh start after decades in his hometown. The superintendent since 2012 has a bumpy tenure.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that a school board member in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit, later withdrawn, against the district and five fellow board members. They wanted to oust Art Johnston, in part, for allegedly trying to intimidate Gronseth.

Gronseth, 47, has also faced other tensions as dwindling enrollment forced school closures and budget cuts. Now, he makes plans and tracks progress to find ways to educate students with fewer resources.

“I really believe what gets monitored, gets done, “ he said.

Gronseth, an educator since 1993, expects to finish his doctorate in education at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in June. He oversees a $90 million annual operating budget, 14 schools and about 8,600 students.

Kultgen wants to head west, too. The man from Montana spent 25 years as an educator, but wants to see Big Sky Country in his rearview mirror just as quick as he can.

He’s got two grandkids in Des Moines and he intends to be there as they grow up. If there’s one thing educators are reminded of every day, it’s how fast the babies become teenagers and in another blink they’re grown.

Kultgen, 50, was a finalist to lead the Walla Walla School District in February. The Helena superintendent since 2012 said he shares with Snohomish a commitment to building strong relationships among teachers, parents and school staff.

“That’s key to educating our kids,” he said.

Kultgen earned his doctorate in education at Montana State University. The veteran superintendent has led three school districts in Montana.

He started his teaching social studies to middle and high school students in 1991. Now, he oversees a $77 million annual operating budget, 17 schools and about 8,000 students

After Kultgen, Gronseth and Berg visit Snohomish, the school board plans to meet Friday to discuss the candidates behind closed doors in an executive session.

School district spokeswoman Kristin Foley said she doesn’t expect a decision to be announced until at least March 28.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; Twitter:@AmyNileReports.

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