MARYSVILLE – Since he took over as acting, then interim and now superintendent of the Marysville School District, Jason Thompson has emphasized trying to heal old wounds by involving and communicating better with the public.
So when five people, including two school board members, spoke Monday about the process of him being named “superintendent” not involving the public more, he was humbled.
“I do listen. I will listen. My door is wide open. I will stand up for every single kid,” he said after the board approved his nomination with Tom Albright, Pete Lundberg and Mariana Maksimos voting in favor and Vanessa Edwards and Chris Nation abstaining.
Most of the people in the audience stood, cheered and clapped after the vote.
“Why not let the public in on the conversation?” Nation asked before the vote.
He said the community has asked the district to be part of the process and making a decision without that could make them think their voice does not matter.
Edwards felt the same way as did three audience members, who agreed they weren’t following what they had been preaching.
Kona Farry said if the district wants to build trust there needs to be two-way communication. The district needs to interact with the public, not make top-down-type decisions.
He added that the district wasn’t transparent during the process, after previously saying it would have a nationwide search to permanently fill the position. The process lacked public input for a “monumental” position.
Ray Sheldon was the only member of the audience who spoke in favor of moving forward with Thompson. “What I see is very good,” he said.
Albright said the board has been talking since August about making Thompson the permanent superintendent. “We’re not of one mind” on selecting Thompson, Albright said before the vote.
Also, prior to the vote, Lundberg said, “Jason has shown me that he is the right person” for the job.
He went on to say Thompson has built trust with the Marysville Education Association, which represents the teachers, and with the Tulalip Tribes.
After the vote, he said, “I’m bullish on this board. We don’t always agree. We don’t think exactly the same.”
But he said having diversity of opinions is a strength.
“We check and balance out each other,” Lundberg said.
The board and district obviously have been impressed with Thompson’s work since he officially took over as interim for Becky Berg July 1. He had been acting superintendent for six months before that when Berg quit working in January due to health concerns.
“Although there are some details to work out, we are very pleased with Mr. Thompson’s leadership over the past eleven months and feel he is the right person for the job at the right time,” said Albright, board president. Thompson said in a news release: “My focus for this school year is on relationships and building trust across the organization; adult to adult, adult to student, student to adult, and student to student along with district and school staff providing exceptional customer service to all stakeholders.”
Despite his interim role, Albright said Thompson has already made some positive changes.
“He has worked hard to bring stability and positive change and has made some tough decisions necessary to improve the educational environment for our students, families, and staff,” Albright said. “Some examples include finalizing a yearlong process of engagement with stakeholders; responding to what was learned by restructuring positions at the district to bolster communications and engagement and address student safety and security; creating a focus on improving relationships and building trust throughout the organization; working to create a culture of customer service; and completing successful negotiations with teachers in uncertain state funding times.”
In other school board action that night:
•The Equity, Diversity and Indigenous Education Students of the Month were named: Leah Stacy of Kellogg Marsh Elementary, Hudson Reyes of Cedarcrest Middle School and Jaycynta Myle Gifford, a freshman at Heritage High School.
•Marysville Together Coalition coordinator Greg Kanehen gave a presentation on that organization. He said they work within the community to help kids say no to tobacco, drugs and alcohol. He said the community can help by showing kids these things are not OK, not the social norm, instead of being so tolerant. He said the coalition has classes that involve parents and children – the whole family. They learn to engage in cooperation rather than conflict. The group works with all types of family issues: abuse, neglect, dysfunction, mental health, depression and suicide awareness. For more go to marysvilletogether.org.
•Board members talked about attending the Washington State School Directors Association meeting. Lundberg said Highline has had remarkable success with equity, a goal at MSD. Maksimos said she was impressed with teachers getting to really know their kids. Nation said by all going to the same sessions they were able to get more depth on topics by debriefing. Thompson said the district needs to find the niche for every kid. And Albright said education is changing fast, and he is excited about the changes ahead.
•Donneta Oremus, director of Career and Technical Education, talked about a $62,000 federal grant to support that program.
•Director Nancy Smith discussed a state grant for almost $323,000 for that program. She said a parent council formed to help guide those programs will probably next be looking into how to incorporate science into the curriculum.
•Finance director Mike Sullivan was given the OK to write off bad old debts related to some parents not paying their share for kindergarten. Sullivan said since contracts weren’t signed the district can’t take them to collections. Thompson said proper systems should have been in place.