Following a three month national search, the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board has named Lance Gibbon the new superintendent of Snoqualmie schools. He officially began working for the district July 1.
“I’m excited about being a part of this school district and hopeful about the future,” Gibbon said. “I know this last year has been hard on just about everyone, but we’re on the recovery side, and Snoqualmie Valley is poised to do some incredible things for our students.”
Gibbon replaces retiring superintendent Rob Manahan, who had served as the superintendent since 2018.
Gibbon has spent 29 years in education as a teacher, principal and superintendent. He most recently served 14 years in the Oak Harbor School District, including eight as the district’s superintendent. He is a graduate of Central Washington University with a degree in music education and Seattle Pacific University with a doctorate in education.
During his tenure as Oak Harbor’s superintendent, the district saw increases in both test scores and graduation rates. Gibbon said he attributes his success to being student-focused and offering opportunities for students to interact with adults and each other.
“One of the things that’s important to me is every student has at least one adult that knows them, that connects with them, that students feel known as individuals,” he said. “Having a well-rounded education program gives us that chance to engage, and I think that’s really foundational to student success.”
Under Gibbon’s leadership, Oak Harbor was the largest school district in Western Washington to return for full-time in-person learning this past year. The district began last school year with preschool through fourth-graders in-person, and had returned all students beginning in February.
“The challenge with being the largest to do that is there isn’t a roadmap,” Gibbon said. “I think [reopening] is really a testament to the Oak Harbor team, and I’m certainly proud of the work we did.”
Gibbon said the Snoqualmie Valley School District will follow guidance from the state Department of Health regarding COVID-19 precautions when schools reopen this fall. The Department of Health currently requires masks for students and staff in indoor settings while students are present. Vaccinated teachers can go maskless when no students are present. Gibbon said these guidelines might change by September.
Aside from COVID-19, Gibbon said another long-term priority is adapting the district to the demand of a rapidly growing and diversifying student population.
“We have students of poverty, we have students of disability, English language learners and greater racial diversity in our community than before,” he said. “It is important what we provide for our students is meeting changing needs, and all students are getting their needs met as individuals.”
According to state data, about 10% of Snoqualmie Valley students are identified as low-income, 11% have disabilities and 4% are English language learners.
The growing size of the school district will also be a challenge. Over the last decade, the district’s enrollment has risen 16%, according to the district’s website. Gibbon estimates that 100 portable classrooms are being used districtwide, and said he wants to update the district’s long-term facility plan for both capacity limits and building conditions.
Despite these challenges, Gibbon said he is excited for the opportunity and looks forward to building relationships with the community and getting students back into classrooms.
“I like a school district that’s big enough that we provide a variety of opportunities, but small enough where we get to know each other and have a sense of community,” Gibbon said. “I think this school year is gonna be great and the future is really bright. I’m excited to be a part of the team.”