BY DON NELSON
An intense, compact process came to a quick, definitive conclusion last week as the Methow Valley School Board selected a new superintendent.
Thomas Venable was, to many observers, the probable choice after three days of in-school meetings and public forums during which all the finalists had a chance to talk about their ideas for leading the Methow Valley School District.
The board affirmed that prediction shortly after the final candidate’s appearance Friday night (May 31), coming out of a brief executive session to unanimously endorse Venable.
Board members were relieved, happy and confident. Word got out fast via the Methow Valley News and Grist websites. By Saturday morning, board member Mary Anne Quigley reported that she had been overwhelmed with positive responses by folks at the Farmers Market in Twisp.
Venable also is reportedly excited to take over the job on July 1 from Mark Wenzel, who will on that day become superintendent of the Anacortes School District.
Aside from board members and reporters, quite a few people attended all three evening meetings to hear Venable and the other two candidates, Gary Keeler and Bob Cooper. While the three finalists were similarly enthusiastic, energetic and praising of the district and community, they offered distinctly contrasting styles.
Venable, currently deputy superintendent of the Bellingham School District, brought an intensity and scope of interests that apparently impressed every “stakeholder” group he interacted with. Keeler, principal of Bear Creek Elementary School in the Northshore School District (Bothell), came across as personal, sincere, forward-looking and determined to not only finish his career in the Methow but also make it home for his family. Cooper, director of visual and performing arts with the South Kitsap School District, was exuberant, demonstrative and theatrical in his presentation, promising an active administration.
Each was impressive in his own way, and you could come away thinking that it would be great to have all of them working for the district in some capacity.
Overseeing the process was consultant Monte Bridges. I said it before and reiterate, hiring Bridges was money well spent. Without that kind of guidance and assistance, it would have been difficult and draining for the board to organize and execute a search in the defined time frame.
It’s an exciting transitional time for our schools and the community. I’m sure we all look forward to welcoming Venable and getting to know him better.
I’m not sure how to feel about this, but I actually got “carded” recently. Yes, it was to determine if I was old enough.
While dropping off bundles of our Methow Valley Summer publication at the North Cascades National Park ranger station in Sedro-Woolley, I remembered that I’ve been intending to buy a National Parks and Federal Recreations Lands lifetime pass for seniors. For $10, you get access to all federal lands that typically require entrance fees. It’s a great deal.
You have to be 62 to buy the pass, and the nice young ranger made me prove it with the proper identification. An AARP card wouldn’t have done it.
I’d like to imagine that the ranger thought I might not be 62 – 60, maybe, or a tad more. But it’s not like I was trying to sneak into a bar (I’m not saying I recall anything about that). I’m going to count it as one more advantage of continuing to add candles to the cake.