The Seattle School Board voted five to two Wednesday night to clear the way for Dr. Larry Nyland to become the city’s permanent schools superintendent. Nyland grew up in Seattle and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He came out of retirement last July to serve as interim schools chief.
Just before Thanksgiving the board made public their intention to forgo a national search and offer Nyland the post. That decision has been controversial.
On a night when traffic was even worse than usual in Seattle, trains moved quickly near School District Headquarters in SODO. That irony didn’t seem lost on those who made it to the School Board meeting. In a city infamous for its ability to work through civic decisions at length, the vote to offer Nyland the superintendent position was on a fast track.
That didn’t sit well with most of the small number of the public in attendance. David Robison came as a representative of the Adams Elementary PTA. He says the board needs to do a better job gathering local input.
Robinson: “I actually teach management at UW Bothell, and one of the things that I warn against is analysis paralysis, but there needs to be some process. It doesn’t need to be endless, but there does need to be some informative process.”
Robison says despite his misgivings about the process, he’s encouraged by what he’s learned about Nyland. In his four months as interim chief Nyland has impressed many principals and teachers as well.
One concern Robison and others have raised is how long Nyland will be in the post. Seattle has had six superintendents in the last decade. Nyland has limited his total commitment to three years.
New school board president Sherry Carr acknowledged the communication process around the hiring was flawed. She said she intends to improve that. But Carr argues the greater issue is stabilizing a district facing constant leadership turnover at every level.
Carr: “This churn is a huge roadblock for us to gain any momentum and address the chronic problems in Seattle public schools. No successful and high functioning organization can sustain this level of chronic leadership turnover. Just simply we’ve got to stop it. We’ve got to stabilize the organization at the top.”
In a brief statement after the vote Nyland said he has a passion for the work of building systems to support Seattle’s teachers and 52,000 students. Board president Carr intends to finalize a contract by early January.