Port Townsend School Board picks Polm as new superintendent

By Leader Staff
Posted 5/20/16

John A. Polm Jr. says he's ecstatic about the opportunity to lead the Port Townsend School District as its new superintendent.

“From all the groups I was able to meet with, it was very clear …

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Port Townsend School Board picks Polm as new superintendent


John A. Polm Jr. says he's ecstatic about the opportunity to lead the Port Townsend School District as its new superintendent.

“From all the groups I was able to meet with, it was very clear this is a district that's on the right path,” Polm, 52, said May 20 after having accepted the position late on May 19. “I am overjoyed to be a part of that, especially in such a beautiful community.”

The school board voted unanimously May 19 to offer the position to Polm, who said he expects to start July 1.

“We're going to need a little help finding a house,” said Polm, who plans to sell his Bremerton house and move to Port Townsend with his wife of nearly 32 years. “We're hoping to get that handled this summer and be settled in the community before school starts.”

Polm, who has been the principal of Bremerton High School for the past six years, was selected from a pool of three finalists who interviewed with the board May 14 and toured the district between May 16 and May 18.

“We got to know John pretty well,” school board chair Nathanael O'Hara said. “I definitely think he's the right person for us right now. Our district is strong, we're in a great position, and he is the one who can continue us moving forward. I'm excited for that.”

Previously, Polm worked as a district administrator and basketball coach at Chewelah High School in eastern Washington, a district about the size of Port Townsend's. He has worked as a teacher and a principal in Washington since the mid-1980s.

“I think that he has those characteristics of being a good listener, of being kind, of being nice, as he said in many settings, but also of having a capacity to learn and grow and be a good partner with us as a board and with the administrators in our school district,” board member Jennifer James-Wilson said.

The board announced its decision just after 8 p.m., May 19, following two hours spent deliberating in a closed executive session.

Polm replaces Superintendent David Engle, who on March 1 announced his retirement, effective June 30. Engle, 67, was hired in March 2012 after beating some 22 other applicants in a search process that began in September 2011.

Engle is credited with many initiatives toward school improvement, most recently a bond to build a new Grant Street Elementary School, which 73 percent of voters approved.

Polm was the only finalist who has worked in Washington schools. The other finalists were Tina L. Goar, a former superintendent in Nathrop, Colorado, and James J. Herrholtz Jr., a former superintendent in Hubbard, Ohio.

In administrator, teacher and community interviews, Polm won high marks for being a good listener, thoughtful, steady and familiar with regional school issues. Regarding the fact that he has not been a superintendent before, Polm said he has worked in top administrative levels in previous school districts, recently completed his doctorate studies toward being a superintendent, and is confident he is ready for the job.

School board members praised the community's involvement in the selection process.

“I think we're so lucky to have so many people who came for the interviews, the community stakeholders who showed up for three days to listen to all three, the teachers, the community members at Blue Heron,” board member Connie Welch said. “I think we had some really good community involvement.”

Board member Keith White praised the involvement of students in particular, saying: “I would like to acknowledge the help that students in the high school have contributed to our deliberations and their willingness and, in fact, their zeal to take part in this and be professional and thoughtful in the way they listened to every candidate and asked them questions, reacted to the questions and then took it upon themselves to meet as a group without board members present and relay their expectations, their likes, their concerns about the candidates.”

Polm has three children, all adults. His 30-year-old daughter lives in Georgia, his 27-year-old daughter lives in Puyallup, and his 25-year-old son lives in Seattle.

(This story to be updated as more information becomes available.)