New North Thurston superintendent must take care of the little things.
The North Thurston Public School search team, looking for someone to take the place of retiring Jim Koval, is going to have a difficult time finding the right person.
For the last 16 years out of 18, the district has been run by insiders, those who have come up through the ranks of the school district. The one time it tried to go outside of the district, the person hired, last less than two years.
And before that, John Gott led the district for 20 years.
North Thurston Public Schools is a difficult district to lead. It’s the largest school district in Thurston County, almost as large as Tumwater and Olympia combined.
It’s geographically large and comprises 13 elementary schools, three middle school and four high schools. The student population hovers right around 13,000. Olympia also has 13 elementary schools, but they average about 200 students each. North Thurston’s elementary schools average more than 500 students each.
The district is also very transitory. A large number of military families move in and out of the district. In addition, young families find housing in Lacey more affordable and stay until they can move into a larger house. These trends, along with the transitory nature of our times makes it difficult to teach school or run a school district.
A decade ago, the district changed its name to North Thurston Public Schools, in an effort to gain more public support. That effort failed.
Unlike neighboring districts Tumwater and Olympia, which have existed since before statehood, North Thurston is relatively new. It’s only 50 years old and came about when the South Bay and Lacey school districts merged.
In addition, unlike Tumwater and Olympia districts, there is no city of North Thurston. I’ve been after the district to change its name to Lacey for a couple of decades now in an effort to connect with the community. District officials say it’s only a little thing. But little things make a difference.
And, unlike Tumwater and Olympia, there is no Lacey High School. I’ve tried for decades to get the district to name a high school – Lacey, but they say it’s just a little thing. But little things make a difference.
North Thurston has always had a difficult time passing its maintenance and operations levy. It’s failed on the first try several times and has also failed a second time, more than once.
The bottom line is that North Thurston Public Schools has little or no connection with the greater Lacey community. Whoever is selected as the new superintendent will have to deal immediately with that problem.
And, whoever takes over the helm needs an understanding of the greater Lacey community and its relationship with its school district. It’s just a little thing, but the new superintendent will have to deal with a lot of – little things.
It’s best if they know and understand the community.