TULALIP — Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland and Assistant Superintendent Gail Miller were both feted by friends and colleagues at the Hibulb Cultural Center on Thursday, May 30, in anticipation of their impending retirement.
“It was turbulent time when they first took over,” Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. said, before laughing, “We had a betting calendar on how long they’d last, but nobody won, because it didn’t go nine years.”
Sheldon turned serious to praise the leadership and partnership between Nyland and Miller, just as Sheryl Fryberg, general manager of the Tribes, cited the complimentary strengths of Nyland’s “linear thinking” and Miller’s creativity.
“They’ve made so many connections, and we’re just grateful for our relationships with them,” Fryberg said.
Marysville School Board President Chris Nation credited Nyland with pushing him to run for that office only four years before, and echoed Sheldon in attributing the healing of the “fractured community” to Nyland’s influence.
“He’s always done the most he can to make sure that every child can be a success,” said Nation, who noted that, during Nyland’s tenure, the district saw the completion of an elementary school, an award-winning high school campus and a modular-constructed school building, the latter at zero cost to taxpayers. “He’s a shining example of how a good attitude can make for a better district and better people.”
Don Hatch Jr., a former member of both the Marysville School Board and the Tulalip Tribal Board, lauded both Nyland and Miller for their responsiveness to the public’s concerns, while local state Rep. John McCoy chuckled as he recalled how Nyland and Miller were just as active in contacting members of the Legislature about their own concerns.
“I hope they enjoy retirement, especially since they’re still young enough to impact the community in other ways,” Hatch said.
“I have every confidence that, if the new superintendent believes in their vision, the school district will continue to move in the right direction,” McCoy said.
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and Caldie Rogers, president and CEO of the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce, agreed with the Tribal members who commended Nyland and Miller for building bridges into the broader community, even beyond the Tribes and the city of Marysville.
“It was difficult to lead the school district through such tough times, but they passed that test and left a legacy,” Nehring said.
Rogers recounted how Nyland had responded “with white-faced anger” to Legislative budget cutbacks, on behalf of the district’s students, and described his work as so important to the economic climate of the region that the Chamber once named him their Businessman of the Year.
“Education is our business,” Rogers said.
Ray Houser, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning, will be taking over Miller’s job as assistant superintendent, and he joked that he felt like a kid who’s been left home alone by his parents.
“Larry and Gail have been so inseparable, and I’ve learned so much from them,” Houser said. “There’s no way I’ll be able to live up to your example, but I’ll do my best to honor you, and I’ll call upon you often.”
For her part, Miller plans to use her retirement to travel abroad, while Nyland aims to spend more time with his family.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” said Miller, who’s been happy to cede the spotlight to Nyland. “I like to lead from behind,” she laughed. “The nine years I spent in Marysville were the longest I’ve stayed put anywhere during my nearly 40 years in education. It’s all been wonderful. Ray and I came up together and worked closely with one another, so I’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”
“What a blessing it’s been to work with all of you,” Nyland told those in attendance, as he came close to tears while addressing his wife. “Thank you, Kathy, for letting me do this work. I’m looking forward to only working 30 hours a week in retirement, and I’ll be watching what I’m sure will be the great success of Dr. Becky Berg.”