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SPS board won’t be rushed to make superintendent decision, Haynes says

UPDATED: Thu., June 25, 2020

Spokane Public Schools S  (DAN PELLE)
Spokane Public Schools S (DAN PELLE)

Spokane Public Schools directors “will not allow ourselves to be pressured” into making a hasty decision on how to fill its newly vacant superintendent’s position, board President Jerrall Haynes said Thursday.

Following Shelley Redinger’s resignation Tuesday, the board received a letter from its teachers’ union, the Spokane Education Association, requesting that the district move quickly to make a decision on her replacement.

The SEA went one step further, urging the district to name associate superintendent Adam Swinyard as interim superintendent.

The board may eventually do just that, but Haynes said he and his colleagues will follow a deliberate process before making a final decision.

The board met in executive session Wednesday evening to discuss its options. In the regular virtual meeting that followed, observers half-expected to hear an announcement.

There was none. According to Haynes, it will be at least several days before one is made.

Haynes said the board will hold another executive session on Saturday. While no formal action can take place in that meeting, the board could hold a regular meeting the same day and take immediate action.

Redinger, who has led the district since the summer of 2012, was named Tuesday night as superintendent of the Richland School District in the Tri-Cities.

Her current 3-year term in Spokane is set to expire on Tuesday, but she agreed to stay on through the end of July to ease the transition.

“We understand that things have to happen pretty quickly,” Haynes said, “because at the very latest, we will be without a superintendent on Aug. 1.”

But the board has set no firm timeline to make a decision, and won’t be rushed.

Speaking for his colleagues, Haynes said, “I doubt that any of us would allow ourselves to be pressured. … But our board is committed to hearing from our community – input is welcome – but it definitely has to be discussed.”

Its options are limited.

In the past, Spokane has conducted nationwide searches for its top position, much like the one that brought Redinger from Fredericksburg, Virginia, back to her native Spokane in 2012.

Those are typically done during the school year, last several months and involve hundreds of stakeholders as a pool of dozens of candidates is winnowed down to a few finalists.

Faced with a short timeline until school begins, the district is expected to name an interim superintendent.

Then it would have the option to embark on a national search.

If it promotes from within, the board has only two plausible choices in associate superintendents Mark Anderson and Swinyard.

A third associate superintendent, chief financial officer Linda McDermott, resigned earlier this month to take a position at Washington State University.

Anderson holds seniority, but his main area of responsibility is capital projects, maintenance and long-range bond planning.

Anderson was the driving force behind the district’s landmark $495 million capital bond, which passed in 2018, but he’s nearing retirement and has little involvement with curriculum, which has become a major issue in the face of COVID-19.

Swinyard, the district’s chief academic officer since January 2017, has led efforts to adapt to the challenges of the coronavirus. Along with McDermott, he has been the face of the district in negotiations with the SEA.

“Dr. Swinyard’s experience with our district will allow us to move with clarity into the uncertain future we face,” SEA President Jeremy Shay wrote to the district on Wednesday.

As an alternative, the district could appoint Anderson to the interim superintendent role, allowing Swinyard to focus on the critical curriculum challenges ahead while also applying for the permanent position.

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