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Seattle School Board Offers Superintendent Job To Larry Nyland

Nyland_headshot_2014.jpg
Seattle Public Schools

Seattle School Board members offered the district's open superintendent job to the current interim, Larry Nyland, at a special meeting Wednesday night, aiming to slow years of staff turnover in top administrative positions.

The board's 5-2 vote calls off a planned national search for a replacement and opens talks to offer Nyland a contract, which would keep him at the head of Seattle Public Schools through June 2017.

Sixty six-year-old Nyland, who came out of retirement to take the job, is Seattle's fifth superintendent in the past decade. In that time, he would be the third to hold the post on a non-interim basis.

For Nyland, A Fraught Path Forward

If he accepts the offer, Nyland would inherit a district both invigorated by a growing population of students and deeply-challenged by a lack of classroom space in which to teach them; a district with test scores just above state averages, but in which Nyland says perhaps a quarter of the district's 52,000 students haven't achieved proficiency in basic skills.

Nyland would also be tasked with ensuring that a long-troubled special education program is brought into compliance with federal law and overseeing a school start times analysis with the potential to fundamentally alter the district's day-to-day operations.

In offering Nyland a permanent deal, board members hoped to slow the revolving door for staff in Seattle Public Schools' central office. Last week, board president Sherry Carr listed nine top administrative positions she says have turned over multiple times in the past decade, which several board members linked back to turnover in the superintendent's office itself.

The churn "has had a real effect on the morale of the people up and down the system," said Sara Morris, president and CEO of the Alliance for Education, which raises money for and partners with Seattle schools.

Additionally, Seattle Public Schools' collective bargaining agreement with its teachers union expires at the end of August 2015, meaning Nyland's contract term would cover the period of the district's next teacher contract negotiation.

The 'Interim' Tag And Public Engagement

Some parents and advocates said the board rushed through the process of formally offering Nyland the job without engaging with the public. Board members had planned to formally offer Nyland a contract during last week's regular meeting, but postponed the vote to Wednesday after public outcry.

Board members Sue Peters and Betty Patu introduced what they termed a "compromise" proposal, which would've extended Nyland's employment for a shorter term — a year and a half — and on a temporary basis. That way, Peters said, the board would've retained the option to perform a search should it wish.

It also would've allowed the public to weigh in on the decision, Peters said.

"Board members may be right" to hire Nyland, said Eden Mack, legislative chair for the Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations. "But nobody else has had an opportunity to weigh in."

Seattle Public Schools Alum Set To Take Helm

Nyland is a 1966 Roosevelt High School graduate who has served as an administrator in the Pasco, Highline and Shoreline school districts. He retired from the Marysville School District in 2013 after nine years as superintendent.

In Marysville, Nyland stabilized a district that had been rocked by a 49-day teachers' strike in 2004. In 2006, he aided the district in passing a $118 million bond issue, according to Nyland's Seattle Public Schools bio.

Nyland was working as a leadership consultant when Seattle's board offered him the interim post.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.
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