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LWSD board of directors unanimously vote to hire Dr. Traci Pierce as new superintendent

Dr. Traci Pierce - Courtesy of LWSD
Dr. Traci Pierce
— image credit: Courtesy of LWSD

The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) board of directors voted unanimously Monday night to hire Dr. Traci Pierce as the district's new superintendent, beginning July 1.

Pierce is the current deputy superintendent of instructional services and will replace Superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball, who is leaving to become superintendent of the Singapore American School. While she has been officially hired, Pierce's contract for her new job has not yet been negotiated.

The search for a new superintendent began last fall after it was announced in September that Kimball would be stepping down at the end of the school year.

A SMOOTH TRANSITION

The board decided initially to look for an internal candidate because continuity and a smooth transition will be important as a number of initiatives in place will go into effect next fall, including the district's grade reconfiguration and the opening of a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) choice school.

Board member Doug Eglington said it would take two to three years for someone from the outside to become familiar with the district's staff and culture.

"Time we can ill afford," he said, adding, "We believe that Traci will grow into the position."

In addition, as deputy superintendent of instructional services, Pierce is already very involved in the grade reconfiguration and STEM school.

Both she and Kimball said they will work closely together during the next few months to see that things go well when Pierce takes over the job.

"I look forward to a smooth transition," Pierce said.

And although he is leaving soon, Kimball said he is committed to leaving the district in a good place. Becoming emotional, he called LWSD his home, noting the support he has received from the district's board, staff and community.

"I will work tirelessly till the end of my contract because I am committed to having a smooth transition," Kimball said.

Board President Jackie Pendergrass echoed Kimball's bittersweet words at Monday's meeting, saying she feels the board has made a wise decision in hiring Pierce but is sorry to see Kimball leave.

"I'm hoping this is my last (superintendent search) to be a part of," she said, referring to their hope of Pierce staying with LWSD for a long time.

Pierce ensured the board that they had nothing to worry about.

"I look forward to many, many productive years," she said.

BEST PERSON FOR THE JOB

During Monday's meeting, board member Nancy Bernard expressed her confidence in Pierce as Kimball's successor and said Pierce would keep the district on its current track without losing ground. Bernard also noted the successful working relationship between the current and future superintendents.

"Chip has put a lot of trust in Traci in the last few years," she said.

Bernard added that Pierce's name was always coming up when board members asked others within the district who should replace Kimball.

Trustees unanimously voted in December 2011 to put Pierce forward as their preferred candidate for the position and held a number of meet-and-greet events at the LWSD Resource Center and throughout the district's three cities to give the public the opportunity to meet with Pierce and provide comments to the board. The board received about two dozen comments from the public following these events.

Pendergrass, who attended a number of the meet and greets, said she became more impressed with Pierce and her intelligence, caring and charisma after each event.

Board member Christopher Carlson said after these events, Pierce remained the preferred candidate.

"We haven't heard very much (negative feedback about Pierce) at all," he said.

A GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP

Newly elected board member Siri Bliesner said although she was not part of most of the hiring process, she has been impressed with what she has learned about Pierce. Bliesner said she was pleased to learn that Pierce's leadership style was one of inclusion and collaboration and that she recognized the importance of transparency for the public.

"I look forward to working with Dr. Traci Pierce," Bliesner said.

After the roll-call vote, which was met with a round of applause, Pierce said a few words. Pleased with the unanimous vote, she thanked the board for their confidence in her and reiterated her commitment to serve the district, staff, community, parents and first and foremost, the students.

Pierce added that the LWSD board members are hard working and committed to serving students and that she is lucky for the opportunity to work with a high-functioning board.

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