District selects 6 semifinalists for school’s top job

The Auburn School District Board of Directors last Monday selected six semifinalists to interview for the superintendent vacancy.

The Auburn School District Board of Directors last Monday selected six semifinalists to interview for the superintendent vacancy.

Preliminary interviews will be held during special board meetings starting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Those meetings are open to the public.

The six semifinalists are as follows:

• Patricia Adams, Superintendent, St. Helens School District.

• Elaine Beraza, Director of Department of Defense Domestic Elementary and Secondary Schools, Department of Defense Education Activity.

• Dennis Carlson, Superintendent, Lynden School District.

• Mark Davidson, Deputy Superintendent, Federal Way Public Schools.

• Dennis (Kip) Herren, Deputy Superintendent, Auburn School District.

• Michael Newman, Associate Superintendent, Auburn School District.

Final interviews and visitations are tentatively set for May 13 to 15.

School board President Craig Schumaker said the board will pare the semifinalists to three. Further interviews and public forums will follow. The board should make its final decision by the third or fourth week of May.

“It will probably be a special board meeting. We haven’t actually finalized it yet,” Schumaker said.

Auburn School Superintendent Linda Cowan set the process in motion in January when she announced her pending retirement.

The school board hired Northwest Leadership Associates of Spokane, headed by consultant Dennis Ray, to conduct the candidate search.

Controversy flared recently when an Auburn resident invoked the state Open Meetings Act to challenge the board’splan to conduct interviews in closed executive sessions with 24 community members and district employees invited.

Schumaker said the board’s plan was based in part upon the advice of its consultant.

“There were actually some concerns from our board about the legitimacy and legality of doing that, and we did consult legal counsel, and they assured us that it was appropriate to do that, based on their reading of state law concerning executive sessions and the opinion that was contained in the policy manual from the Attorney General’s office. We thought we were on solid ground,” Schumaker said.

“There was some conflicting information coming out of the Attorney General’s office,” said School Board Member Janice Nelson. “We were acting on what we thought was legal and what had been done in many other districts across the state and not been challenged.”

Schumaker said that Monday night Auburn School District Attorney Curtis Leonard laid out for the board a number of legally-defensible options: it could hold closed meetings with the board only, closed meetings with the board and a chosen panel of residents, or fully open meetings.

“We came down on the side of doing what was in the best interest of the district, its students and the community and decided to go with a completely open interview process,” Schumaker said.

Robert Whale can be reached

at 253-833-0218, ext. 5052,

or rwhale@reporternewspapers.com

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