A HEART FOR GROWTH

New Chimacum school superintendent emphasizes individual care, collective change

Laura Jean Schneider
ljschneider@ptleader.com
Posted 8/26/21

The new superintendent of the Chimacum School district has a taste for blueberries. 

“You’ve got to try some, before the birds get them,” Scott Mauk said, leading the way to …

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A HEART FOR GROWTH

New Chimacum school superintendent emphasizes individual care, collective change

Posted

The new superintendent of the Chimacum School district has a taste for blueberries. 

“You’ve got to try some, before the birds get them,” Scott Mauk said, leading the way to an outdoor pavilion.

Across from the blueberry bushes in the school garden, he sat at a dusty table and shared his vision for the district. 

Empowered staff. Collective thinking. An individual approach to every kid.

Mauk is adamant about supporting the school administration, from bus drivers, “who are the first face a kid sees,” to field maintenance, to teachers. 

He knows what its like to be in the shoes of those who are working with him: in 30 years of alternative and traditional education, Mauk has been a principal, athletic director, union leader, small school director, alternative educator, and teacher.  

“As I have moved through the system of public education, my concerns and aspirations of public education have remained the same,” he said. 

In order to support school staff in a way that was lacking for him, Mauk enrolled in school himself five years ago, earning a doctorate’s degree in executive leadership. 

Now, he’s taking on the role of superintendent for the first time.

A long-time Whidbey Island resident, Mauk raised two children with his former partner before remarrying. 

On his second honeymoon, he fell in love with Jefferson County at Finn River during September a few years ago. 

The community felt like the “old Whidbey, purpler, gritty, creative,” and Mauk realized he’d like to relocate. 

When the superintendent position opened up, he jumped at the opportunity. 

The decision as to whether Mauk would be an ideal fit for Chimacum was mutual.

“The school board and I more or less wanted the same thing,” he said.

Poverty. Mental illness. COVID fatigue. Trauma. It’s not going to be an easy switch back to in-person learning after such a chaotic school year. (Online-only classes are an option for grades K-12.) 

But Mauk applauds the work of each and every individual who kept Chimacum kids in school during arguably the toughest challenge in school history.  

In spite of multiple switches from in-person to hybrid classes, Mauk shared that there was “growth in core academic levels.”

Going forward, an individualized approach is going to be critical to each student’s success, Mauk said. Students will undergo an evaluation process to see where they are academically, and, Mauk added, he wants to discover what they’ve learned “that school didn’t teach them” in life since the pandemic. Social and emotional learning and support will be provided for all grade levels. 

“The trick is going to be flexibility,” Mauk said. 

Take kindergartners for example.

Enrollment numbers, which plummeted last year, have risen. The incoming class will be mostly 6 year olds instead of 5 year-olds, a significant difference in physical  development, social conditioning, and learning aptitude. 

They may be so excited simply to be socializing with other students that they may need some time to adjust to a traditional classroom. 

“My job is to be aware, concerned, and informed,” Mauk said.

While Mauk has only met a few kids and teachers since July 1, his first day as superintendent, he is enthused about the return to in-person classes. 

Chimacum schools will require masking for all individuals when indoors, and will be using rapid COVID tests to help curb any potential outbreaks. 

The student board, whom Mauk had high praise for, also requested rapid tests so public gatherings, such as homecoming, would be a possibility. 

The Chimacum School District has enrolled in the Learn to Return program offered by the Washington State Department of Health and the Health Commons Project. According to coronavirus.wa.gov, each school district that opts in is “assigned a testing strategist who works with the district to design a tailored COVID-19 testing program that fits its unique needs.” 

Mauk describes himself as hands-on in leadership style only as it relates to staying visible, and hands-off to allow trust and efficacy. 

In the new superintendent’s open letter to the community posted on the Chimacum school district website (csd49.org), Mauk shares:  “I plan to engage community members as volunteers and contributors to our vision and long-term planning. We will also create meaningful ways to incorporate student voices in all parts of our district. I look forward to continued cooperation with our Port Townsend friends and together supporting our own East Jefferson Rivals!”

Thus far, the school board seems “delighted about my leadership,” Mauk said. 

He wants the people involved at Chimacum schools to “experience joy, fulfillment, and purpose” in an environment where “kids can’t wait to get to school.”

“I have a desire to make the [school] system work for every single kid and adult.”

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