Tuesday, May 9, 2017

OPINION: Leadership at Lake Washington School District

UPDATED, 5/11/17. An aspect of LWSD culture is promoting executives from within. For local governments is this always good policy?

Note an excerpt  from City University of Seattle, Student Profile, Academy School of Education, March 3, 2012.

"In the Fall of 2011, the board [presided by President Jackie Pendergrass and influenced by Superintendent Dr. Kimball] decided they were going to focus on internal candidates only so the grade reconfiguration transition could be smooth and initiatives like the STEM choice school could be continued without a hitch. Dr. Pierce is known in the district for putting students first and leading through inclusion and collaboration. The board of directors voted unanimously to hire Dr. Traci Pierce as the district’s new superintendent, beginning July 1, 2012."  

Looking back, was hiring our Superintendent without a regional or national search good policy considering the district's size and budget and importance of the position?   Why rush the decision without leaving time for a community task force and consultant advice? Running the district smoothly and without a hitch for one-four year initiatives is critical and challenging...reference grade reconfiguration and passing bonds. Yet, hiring a Superintendent is a seminal event with long-term consequences.  We are fortunate and blessed Dr. Pierce is proving to be a strong leader.     

During last night's Board meeting two students from Lake Washington High School eloquently described personal "inclusion" problems at their school. To watch the students speak (during "Public Comment") and the Superintendent respond, advance the video to about 44 - 45 minutes. This meeting is a good opportunity to watch our Superintendent, Board President Dr.Christopher Carlson and V.P. Siri Bliesner in action. At the meeting Siri recommended emphasis in "executive limitations" for mathematics next year. (EL7.) Both are strong leaders and we are lucky to have them.


Of note:  The meeting doesn't start until minute 13 of the video. Toby Brenner, the Principal of Frost El. gives a terrific presentation at the beginning of the meeting. He was hired by Associate Superintendent Dr. Jon Holmen. Jon's job is "the meat and potatoes" of LWSD. We are very lucky to have him, as well.

Bob Yoder
Redmond Learning Community

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Jon Holmen, LWSD administrator ran for Olympia School District superintendent as one of three finalists The job was posted on December 6, 2011 after Superintendent Bill Lahmann announced his retirement on November 2, 2011. The selection was made in March, only four months later.

Holmen was selected following a national search that resulted in 30 applicants Of those, 21 were educators from Washington and five were called for preliminary interviews before the board. The board then selected three finalists, who each spent a day in the district March 20, 21,and 22 for meetings with employees, community members, and student. The winning candidate was selected late in March.

The LW School Board's process was less transparent, took much longer and was less engaging. Jon Holmen was never considered. LWSD Board of Directors interviewed and selected their finalist behind the closed doors of Executive Sessions. Closed Government. The Board selected only one finalist, Traci Pierce so the public had no choice or basis for comparison. Pierce attended four "meet and greets" as the Board's "preferred" and only candidate. In addition, over 40 district residents took a survey.

Jon Holmen, as Special Services administrator reporting to Deputy Superintendent Traci Pierce was one of three finalists running for the vacant superintendent's job at Olympia School District in Olympia, WA. Mr. Holmen, 38, has been with the LW district since 2007. This was learned from a story by reporter Linda Pemberton of the Olympian Education Blog. I emailed Jon to learn verify and learn more.

On March 21, 2012. Jon Holman responded:

"Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me with your questions. I am almost 2 years into my [educational leadership] program at Seattle Pacific University. I will complete my Superintendent credential this coming June and hope to finish my doctoral studies sometime in 2014. LWSD uses the title Coordinator which is not generally an administrative position in other districts. To better specify my role within the district the term administrator more broadly defines my work".

As for my history with Lake Washington, I started in 1999 as a teacher. Additionally I have served as an elementary assistant principal (Sandburg and McAuliffe), elementary principal (Smith) and am currently in my role in the central office."

According to Permberton, "he was recently promoted to Lake Washington’s Director of School Support for the Redmond area next year, and is scheduled to complete his superintendent credential in June."