Chimacum unions vote ‘no confidence’ in superintendent

Posted 5/1/19

The Chimacum Education Association and three other unions have cast “no confidence” votes seeking the ouster of Chimacum School District Superintendent Rick Thompson about the same time as the district’s board chairman announced he will not run for re-election.

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Chimacum unions vote ‘no confidence’ in superintendent

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The Chimacum Education Association and three other unions have cast “no confidence” votes seeking the ouster of Chimacum School District Superintendent Rick Thompson about the same time as the district’s board chairman announced he will not run for re-election.

Teachers union President Garth Gourley said 92 percent of the district’s certificated educators who participated voted “no confidence” in Thompson. He said members of the Chimacum Independents Association and the Chimacum Custodial Grounds and Maintenance unions also voted “no confidence” in Thompson.

“We need a new superintendent,” Gourley said. “Chimacum students and staff deserve better.”

For his part, Thompson announced no plans to leave. “I will continue to work with dedication and passion, in a collaborative and transparent manner with the board, staff, students, parents and community members to address the challenges in our district,” Thompson said. “I am also committed to working with our great staff and the education associations in a positive, productive manner that advances student achievement, and invests local, state and federal taxpayer dollars wisely.”

Among the concerns Gourley cited about Thompson’s leadership include what he called a “lack of vision” for Chimacum’s schools, “continued intimidation” and “lack of respect” for educators, declines in student enrollment and an alleged lack of transparency in the decision-making process.

Chimacum’s turmoil has been developing. During the board’s March 13 meeting, Chairman Mike Gould announced he would not be running for another term this fall, and told those in attendance that he’d failed to live up to his own standards for chairing the board.

“Great leadership lights the path to allow organizations to become exceptional,” Gould said.

Gould later told The Leader his decision wasn’t spur-of-the-moment, but developed over several months.

“It seemed apparent I am not the right person to help my beloved school reach its potential,” Gould said. “When we are not part of the solution, we have to have the self-awareness necessary to get out of the way.”

The start of the 2018-19 school year saw the Chimacum School District report its steepest year-to-year drop since at least the 2012-13 school year.

The Fall 2018 total of 812 students for the Chimacum schools represented a 10.4 percent year-to-year enrollment drop.

Gourley told The Leader he’d rather not speak to the specifics of his intimidation charge, “as that could identify certain members,” but he elaborated on the concerns that have been raised regarding Thompson’s decision-making.

“After being told, and preparing for, the departure of one principal from our district, we were told suddenly that two would be leaving,” Gourley said. “Members were not given any information as to why, even though this means that we’re continuing to set a trend of high turnover with our administrators.”

Katie Enlow resigned as principal of Chimacum Creek Primary Dec. 21, while Chimacum High School Principal Brian MacKenzie is departing the district at the end of the current school year, as part of the middle and high school grades’ consolidation into a “secondary school” for the 2019-20 school year.

Gourley additionally described “a lack of respect for the people, students, families, climate and culture” of the community, which he characterized as tying into the transparency issue.

“Staff are continually being reassigned as our district hemorrhages students, often with little to no input as to their reassignment,” Gourley said.

Gourley explained the “no confidence” vote was the result of a process that began in January, when locals completed a climate survey which was presented to the Chimacum School Board “in an attempt to start the conversation.”

January also saw the union memberships vote to conduct a vote of “no confidence,” which was subsequently conducted Feb. 26.

“It was decided by the membership that we would need a threshold of 85% ‘no confidence’ from the three unions, in order to communicate with the board,” Gourley said. “Once the votes came back and we were at 92%, we communicated with the board and requested an executive session to discuss our actions, in hopes of respectfully and professionally beginning the process of replacing Mr. Thompson. That request was denied.”

Board Chairman Gould, who has described his own leadership style as “decisive,” said in an interview last month that his style may have “hurt feelings,” a consequence which he concluded is “not consistent with the expected leadership protocol” for public schools.

Gourley said CEA members, having been denied a closed session with the board, voted April 12 to share their concerns publicly.

“Now we look to the school board to do the right thing, for our students and community, and begin the search for a new superintendent,” Gourley said.

Thompson responded to Gourley’s statements by saying he remains enthusiastic about serving as superintendent, and expressing his appreciation to the school board for “affirm(ing) their continued confidence in me to lead the school district” during its March 13 meeting.

The following is the statement the school board issued March 13:

“We, the Chimacum School Board, would like to publicly reaffirm, we have full expectation and complete confidence in the ability of both the superintendent and all district employees to work together in selfless collaboration to serve the students and families of the Chimacum community. We believe it is the paramount responsibility of both parties to do so.”

Board President Mike Gould told The Leader April 25 the board stands by the above statement to this day.

Thompson pointed out that, during his time as superintendent, the district has developed a balanced budget in spite of declining enrollment, produced a cost-effective facilities plan, and aligned grade levels according to its “safest and best” facilities.

“The district continues to bring in additional resources and expertise to deliver engaging educational opportunities,” Thompson said, adding that the CEA collective bargaining agreement has been settled, while other agreements are currently being negotiated. “We have worked hard as a district to improve the climate in each school. I am committed to developing solutions to the decline in enrollment. The visioning process is moving forward. I look forward to working collaboratively with all of our stakeholders.”

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