A pair of community meetings kicked off the process to hire a new superintendent for the North Beach School District this week, as the two candidates were interviewed and new School Board member Jane Harnagy took the oath of office.
The meetings provided the public an opportunity to comment about the pending process to replace former Supt. Deborah Holcomb, whose contract was terminated by the School Board of Directors in March. The interviews were open to the public.
Harnagy on Monday officially assumed the Director 3 Board position vacated by Rachel Carl, who moved from the area. She was chosen by the other three remaining members of what should be a five-person elected board.
Harnagy is owner/operator of Murphy’s Candy and Ice Cream in Ocean Shores, and stressed her experience in business and raising children in the district as reasons for wanting to be on the board.
Once Harnagy was seated at a special meeting Monday morning, the board then interviewed the first of two superintendent candidates: Andrew Kelly, now superintendent with the Lyle School District and principal of the middle/high school in the south-central Washington town.
The District 5 director’s position remains unfilled after Marion Boenheim had to decline an appointment by the state Education Services District, which stepped in after the vacant school board position was not filled under a state mandated deadline.
At the community forum on Tuesday, the second candidate for the superintendent’s position — Richard Zimmerman, currently principal of Marysville Getchell High School — was interviewed just as the North Coast News was going to press. Zimmerman is a past principal (2001-05) at North Beach High School. He then was principal at Camas High School and at Auburn High School (9 years) before he began his current position in 2017. He’s served as an executive board member and past president of the Association of Washington School Principals.
To fill one of the two School Board vacancies, Harnagy was chosen by the remaining three board members — Doreen Cato, Jeff Wilson and Linda Poplin — after another special meeting last week in which both the new director and another candidate, Deborah Hughes, answered a set of about a dozen questions. Harnagy said in her interview that she thought “the school district is a little bit in crisis” under current circumstances. “The last few years, there has been a tremendous amount of chaos,” she said, citing a “variety of factors.” She called for a “need for consistency and stability.”
On Monday, Harnagy participated in the interviews with superintendent candidate Kelly, who has 27 years experience in public education, starting as a music teacher in Zillah near Yakima.
A Chehalis native, Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Central Washington University and a master’s in Educational Administration from Heritage University in Toppenish, WA. He completed superintendent’s accreditation at Washington State University.
Kelly cited his successes in turning around low-rated schools in Edgewood, WA, Portland, OR, and Reno, NV.
He worked three years in the office of the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, leading school turnaround efforts statewide, involving 285 schools with almost 250,000 students. Since the 2015-16 school year, he has been at Lyle, a district of about 300 students located on the Washington side of the Columbia River, between Hood River and The Dalles, OR. He noted that the district’s elementary school has gone from being in the bottom 5 percent to the top 5 percent and has recently been recognized as a “School of Distinction.”
Kelly said his experiences have shown that three elements working together are keys to student success: a culture that believes in the potential of each child to achieve, academic structure that empowers achievement, and strategies that are proven to produce results.
Growing up in Chehalis, Kelly said he has a love for Ocean Shores, where he would often visit: “I would love to put down roots and see what a great school district we can build together.”
In the morning session, Kelly personally greeted each of the 32 people in the room and later asked each what their concerns were with the district as a whole.
Kelly also handled what appeared to be his toughest question when asked twice by Board Chair Doreen Cato if he had something he wanted to tell the board that might not have been asked.
Kelly disclosed he had been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol while driving with his underage son. He said he now hosts sobriety meetings in town and was embarrassed about the March 2017 incident for himself and the community at large.
One of his more unique policies in Lyle, he said, was that they have decided to do away with school bells as a way to help students learn about time management. “There are no bells in life,” Kelly said when asked about the policy.