Letters: Superintendent search and locker room wars

Thoughts about the district’s superintendent search

Our elected Snoqualmie Valley School Board Directors have asked the community for input on the superintendent selection.

The website states: “The SVSD Board of Directors is partnering with GR Recruiting to collect input from students, families, staff, and the community about the current strengths and challenges of the district and the desired characteristics, experience, and skills of a superintendent. The Board will consider the feedback as they make the decision to select a permanent superintendent and to understand current perspectives and priorities when updating its strategic plan.”

So far parents and other community members have answered questions in a generic survey whose results will not capture relevant and actionable input, and we’ve been asked to answer positive and happy questions in a focus group. This is not the legitimate and thorough superintendent search process that is warranted in this situation, especially with widening gaps in trust. What is the board’s purpose in these exercises which do not provide relevant public input? Why are they not considering any candidates besides the interim superintendent? Many districts employ interim superintendents for up to a year while they find the right candidate. Have they preordained one candidate because he will not challenge them or the district administration to make difficult decisions and changes? The district was making progress in some areas — decision-making was getting better and communication drastically improved. Will the interim superintendent be willing to make the hard decisions to mature the district to better our schools?

To move forward we need to have accountability and transparency about major hiring choices. The board should not unilaterally hire the interim superintendent without real due diligence including assessing other candidates and a full assessment of the skills of the interim superintendent. The survey and focus meetings have not fulfilled the need for public input.

The truth is that the superintendent many of us want is the superintendent we had. Dr. Lance Gibbon had the qualities and strengths we needed. What you’re putting us through now is painful in so many ways — a sense of loss, embarrassment because the post-separation negative and personal attacks on him by the school board are seen as so unprofessional, libelous and without basis — a very expensive settlement that could have been used for hiring multiple teachers, and ongoing consequences to the former superintendent who was respected. If there was no cause for termination, why did the accusations and allegations get published after a settlement agreement was signed?

Many district staff are fearful of similar retaliation if they speak up honestly and have reached out to me to agree privately and thank me for speaking out. Many parents are also hesitant to speak up as they are concerned for their students. So how do we move forward from here? How do we regain faith in our leaders and in the practices they follow? I honestly don’t know but I can say that the healing that needs to happen in the district will not occur if we stay on the current path rushing the decision of the permanent superintendent selection.

We need and deserve a full and thorough search process to seek the next superintendent — the kind of process all mature school districts do. Hire a professional search firm, set up real feedback meetings, have surveys inviting comments with a greater than 100-character limit — that’s what’s needed for the public to be honest and provide the input you say you want.

The school board was not satisfied with the outcome of their last superintendent selection process, but now tells us to trust their judgment as they rush into an expedited, less rigorous selection decision. It is truly more important than ever to make a good, well-grounded decision. We have an interim superintendent in the position so there’s no need to hurry. Earning back the support and trust of the public they represent in a fair, transparent and complete process.

The school board can and should walk the talk of real public input to this major decision.

To date there has been no presentation of the skills and abilities of the boards’ preferred candidate. No meet and greet, no Q&A, no review of his training, accreditations, resume or presentation of his particular vision for the district and what he would do to improve it. Nothing has been done to present his candidacy to the public. Generic survey questions about leadership are not substitutes for real opportunities to learn about and provide input on the single candidate you are proposing.

It is clear we need to involve the public and engage in a thorough process to reach the best possible decision. The healing and re-focusing forward that needs to happen in the district will not occur if we stay on the current path to rush the decision of the permanent Superintendent selection.

And, as we move forward and toward a better and healthier pathway, let us allow the same forward movement to Dr. Gibbon. To act professionally and to avoid legal risk to the district, remove the libelous and accusatory language in the official statements about the separation. Their presence only reminds the public of how this situation was mishandled and will remain a black eye on the reputation of this board and our district until corrected.

Our community deserves the best possible superintendent as well as accountability from their elected school board members who serve them.

Linda Grez

North Bend


School district’s policy about bathrooms and locker rooms

Snoqualmie Valley School District policy 3211P “Gender-Inclusive Schools” states in part:

• Students will be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender identity they assert at school.

• The district should provide the student access to the locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they assert at school.

• In any school activity [including] overnight trips, students will be permitted to participate in accordance with the gender identity they assert at school.

Make no mistake, 3211P allows boys to use girls’ bathrooms, strip and shower in girls’ locker rooms, participate in female sports, and overnight with girls on field trips.

Parents and grandparents, are you aware of this? Setting aside arguments surrounding “gender identity,” and that 3211P will also allow girls to undress in boys’ locker rooms, do you want biological males in bathrooms and undressing in locker rooms with your young daughters?

One of SVSD’s mission values is “mutual respect.” Yet policy 3211P not only disrespects the privacy, safety, and dignity of female students, it could also engender fear, uncertainty, and insecurity in them. This policy is monstrous and dangerous. It is an affront to all standards of decency and denies safe haven for young girls. In a civil society, officially allowing boys in girls’ private rooms is a red line that must never be crossed — especially in schools!

Snoqualmie Valley School District must renounce policy 3211P. All OSPI, WEA, WSSDA, WASA, ASCA, SBE policies and state legislation that 3211P is modeled after must be vociferously challenged and struck down. In the interim, SVSD should allocate a bath/changing/shower room in each school for those who demand adherence to 3211P, but keep all other such rooms separate; one for biological males and one for biological females — period.

Jim Keeffe

Fall City