What’s up with the Seattle School Board? On the day before Thanksgiving, the Board very quietly added to its agenda for this Wednesday’s meeting a vote on a proposal to turn Larry Nyland, the current interim superintendent, into the permanent superintendent. The move, engineered by board president Sharon Peaslee, came two days after the board met in an executive session to discuss the performance of Nyland, who has held the post since Aug. 1. But the move to make his job permanent through June 2017 did not sit well with some activists and parents. As a result, the board moved the decision back one week, to December 10. So what happened? And what will happen?
The complaint Why, some angrily ask, is there no open search for a new schools leader and such scant public input beforehand? “Sorry folks but I call—and publicly—bullshit,” wrote Melissa Westbrook on the Seattle Schools Community Forum. The education activist and prolific blogger added, “I have NO idea what is going on, but to do this with ZERO public notice or discussion under NO emergency situation is nonsense. The Board MUST hear that this is ridiculous and they must vote no.” Notes Stephanie Jones, executive director of Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle: “The district does need stability, but most of us would prefer to wait and see, and give him more time as the interim.”
The reason Peaslee tells Seattle Weekly that a decision must be made quickly by the board, for if by chance the seven-member body decides not to hire him, then a search would have to commence immediately. “If you want access to a good pool of candidates, you would need to move now,” says Peaslee. “We are not needlessly rushing. We are just making a decision that needs to be made.” A national search, which could cost an estimated $60,000 to $100,000, is an onerous option, adds the board president. “I’d rather not go through that process. It would destabilize the district, and the outcome is unknown. Nyland is by far the best qualified candidate we’ve seen.”
The outcome Peaslee claims she doesn’t know whether the votes are there to hand Nyland the job. But if, for the sake of argument, the board does keep Nyland, the district will hammer together a deal and submit it to the board on Jan. 7. The likely salary is unknown, though it’s worth noting that Nyland’s predecessor, Jose Banda, who left to head the Sacramento City Unified School District, was paid a $270,000 salary for the 23 months that he lasted in the position. Nyland’s current contract, which expires at the end of next June, pays him $1,537 a day instead of salary and benefits.