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SVSD continues search for new super

SNOQUALMIE - The search to replace Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Rich McCullough began last week with two community meetings.

Public forums were held at both Chief Kanim and Snoqualmie middle schools so that the school board and search consultant Dennis Ray could solicit input from community members regarding leadership profile, challenges the new superintendent will face and qualities and qualifications he or she should possess.

Ray, a professor at Washington State University and specialist for the Northwest Leadership Associates, said about 20 people attended the meetings over the course of both nights. He feels the citizens' option to express their preferences for the superintendent's position on the district Web site may have accounted for the small turnout.

Community members can visit www.snoqualmie.k12.wa.-us to submit their input in a survey. Ray said there will be additional opportunities for the public to participate in the decision-making process once the nterviews begin in February. He said there would be a community forum with each of the final candidates that will allow community members to meet with them and give feedback to the board.

"People see the growth and change in the community as one of the challenges for the new superintendent," said Ray. "Fundamentally there's a very high level of satisfaction with the work of the district, the board and superintendent. People were not advocating that a huge change was needed. It's more a matter of finding someone to continue the kind of work that's been done in recent years."

Good communication skills was among the citizens' top priorities.

"They want somebody who can communicate well with all the various stake holder groups in the community and keep that high level of communication they've enjoyed," said Ray, who also met with staff and principals last week.

Secondly, they wanted someone who would focus on academic achievement and continue to develop education reform. Other concerns included the importance of continuing to provide good facilities and recruiting and retaining top-quality staff.

"There's a lot of satisfaction with staff, but there is a feeling that there will always be turnover in the years to come and they'll need someone with the ability to identify talented faculty and administrators," Ray said.

McCullough, the 2003 Washington State Superintendent of the Year, will leave some large shoes to fill at the end of the school year when he departs after serving 17 years in the position. He will begin teaching part time for Western Washington University's new superintendent certification program next fall. McCullough announced his decision to resign in early September.

He sees the new superintendent's biggest challenge to be the continuing growth and change of the district.

"That's the pattern in the Valley and probably will continue to be the pattern for the next several years," he said. "Another challenge is to sustain growth and improvement in the school district. We've had a lot of success in the last few years and it will be important to sustain that."

An advertisement for the position is still being prepared and should be posted on several Web sites for education professionals by the end of November or early December. Interviews will take place in February and the district hopes to make their top candidate an offer in March. He or she will assume the position July 1. The interview process will be conducted in two phases, the second of which will be open to the public.

"It's a very good job, it's probably one of finest jobs open in the state, at least so far this year," Ray said. "We expect a very talented pool of candidates."

McCullough agreed the board will see no shortage of applicants given the district's reputation and growth rate.

"It's just the best place I've lived. The size of the school district made it a place we could personalize, have relationships," he said. "We're not too big, but we're large enough to be excellent and small enough to know each other - to be able to work together as a family."

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