The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) board of directors voted unanimously at Monday’s meeting to put forward Dr. Traci Pierce as its preferred candidate for the district’s new superintendent.
Pierce, the deputy superintendent of instructional services for LWSD, has not been hired yet, but the board plans to hold a series of meet-and-greet events to introduce her to the community and ask for public input.
Board President Jackie Pendergrass said at the meeting that city mayors within the district are willing to host some of these events, but the district will also hold its own. She added that this as well as a final vote on hiring will not take place until early next year, after the holiday season.
The new superintendent will replace Dr. Chip Kimball, who will become superintendent of the Singapore American School on July 1, 2012.
AN INVOLVED PROCESS
Pierce said the formal interview process began at the end of October and beginning of November — about a month and a half after Kimball announced he would be leaving — but she didn’t learn about the board’s decision until Monday’s meeting.
“I’m thrilled. I’m very excited,” she said. “I have a love for this district.”
Pierce said the process included submitting a resume, making a presentation to the board and interviewing with trustees individually. She was also interviewed by the board of directors as a whole a couple of times — each time for several hours.
At Monday’s meeting, board member Ravi Shahani said the extensiveness and thoroughness of Pierce’s interview process would not have been possible with a candidate from outside LWSD.
District trustees decided to initially to look for an internal candidate because continuity and a smooth transition will be important to have when Kimball leaves as LWSD has a number of initiatives in place that will come to fruition next year. These initiatives include a grade reconfiguration and the opening of a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) school.
The district also conducted a community survey to learn what the public wanted in the new superintendent and one of the most important qualities mentioned was the ability to lead without losing momentum on these initiatives.
Board member Doug Eglington said he believes the board did their due diligence during their interview process, which included about six hours of interview time with Pierce.
“That has certainly provided us with a lot of important details (about Pierce),” he said.
Board member Christopher Carlson was absent from Monday’s meeting, but he wrote a statement regarding the board’s decision, which Pendergrass read aloud.
Carlson wrote that he believes the most important decision the board makes is in hiring the superintendent and bringing in someone from outside the district would hinder the district’s current and ongoing projects and initiatives as this individual would need to spend time getting familiar with district culture, employees, policies and procedures. He continued to say that having existing knowledge is critical in implementing these initiatives successfully.
“You can’t get that from an external candidate,” he said, adding that Pierce is already familiar with many people in the district and familiar with its practices.
And Pierce is already very familiar with the two big changes in the district as she is “deeply steeped” in the work involving the grade reconfiguration and the new STEM school. Though she knows if she is hired, her plate will become much more full.
“(The grade reconfiguration and STEM school) are just two of the many important things we have in the works and need to move forward,” she said.
Pierce said if LWSD hires her, she will work even more closely with Kimball than she does now to ensure a smooth transition.
The trustees admit that Kimball will leave some big shoes to fill when he leaves, but they are confident Pierce will step up to the task.
“Traci is talented, motivated, and cares deeply about students,” he said in a press release. “She has experience as a classroom teacher, principal and district administrator. She has been in charge of a number of departments, most recently supervising all instructional services, including schools, as deputy superintendent. The Lake Washington School District will be in good hands under her leadership.”
Pierce said her personal vision lines up with the district and that is to get students future ready and provide them with tools for a successful life — whichever path they take.
A CAREER AT LWSD
Pierce has been with the district for 17 years and her experience in the various positions she’s held were several points in her favor.
“There is not a position that she hasn’t held in the district, it seems,” said board member Nancy Bernard.
Pierce, who lives in Sammamish but in the Issaquah School District boundaries, has spent her entire career with LWSD. She started in 1994 as a language arts and social studies teacher at Inglewood Junior High School in Sammamish. She spent six years in the classroom and then served as an instructional technology staff development specialist for a year. Pierce then returned to Inglewood as assistant principal for a year before becoming the school’s principal. She eventually returned to LWSD’s central office and worked in various instructional leadership positions before being named chief schools officer in July 2007. Pierce has served in her current position since July 2010.
Pierce, who received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Washington (UW), said the first time she considered a career in education was in the second grade. The daughter of two teachers, she said she remembers both good and not-so-good teachers. Pierce said with the latter, she would think to herself that she could do a better job if she was a teacher.
“Education has always been a passion for me,” she said.
Although this was the case, Pierce hadn’t envisioned a career beyond the classroom initially. However, as her career progressed, she found herself looking at the bigger picture and taking an interest in students beyond her classes. When she went back to school, she decided to try the administrative route and received a master of education in educational leadership at City University.
“One thing led to another,” she said about her progression within LWSD.
Pierce eventually returned to UW to earn a doctorate of education in educational leadership and policy studies.
Pierce said her favorite things about being part of LWSD are working with her colleagues within the district to do the best they can for the students and then seeing the results of their efforts. She said she enjoys hearing from former students, who will contact her and thank her investing in them. However, she said being contacted by former students is universal.
“All of us have those instances,” she said.
Pierce is hoping those “instances” occur as the district’s new superintendent.