news-venable-pMethow Valley schools Superintendent Tom Venable, left, confers with Methow Valley Elementary School principal Brian Patrick and Liberty Bell Junior/Senior High School principal Deborah DeKalb during Venable’s first day on the job. Photo by Marcy Stamper

 

New superintendent gets his bearings

BY MARCY STAMPER

School Superintendent Tom Venable had no signs of first-day jitters, despite “trying to identify and prioritize the millions of things to do.”

After several trips back and forth over the mountains last week from his previous post in Bellingham, Venable arrived in the Methow on Sunday night and reported for his first day of work as superintendent of the Methow Valley School District on Monday (July 1).

Venable is starting out by gathering information through organized meetings with the school board directors, staff and faculty, and community members. He met with the elementary and high school principals on Monday and also expects information to arise more informally as he gets to know people and the community.

Since he was hired on May 31, Venable has received calls from many people wanting to welcome him to the district and to offer input on the schools and on the Methow in general. One word that has come up repeatedly to describe the school district is “poised”—poised to take the next steps forward, he said.

On the morning of his first day, Venable was not prepared to share any themes, but he said he would begin to identify common threads about strengths and weaknesses in the schools over the summer and fall and then share his reflections.

One of Venable’s areas of focus is early-childhood education, to ensure all children have the social, emotional and academic development to be ready for kindergarten. “The state hasn’t funded full-day kindergarten, let alone from birth to early learning,” he said.

He will talk with providers of early-childhood education in the Methow and with families to see what needs are being met and where there are gaps. “Who is not being served, how and why?” he said.

Venable will meet next week with the leaders of the local Head Start program, which provides early-childhood education based on income eligibility.

Venable also plans to review and help develop strategies that grow out of the district’s strategic plan, which was adopted by the board in March after a series of focus groups with staff, parents and community members. “We need to think about the type of student and graduate we’re trying to develop,” he said.

Venable is also monitoring fiscal matters, but said the impact of additional funding for education in the budget passed last week by the Legislature is not likely to be clear for at least a week.

The personal logistics for Venable and his family are also falling into place. The Venables sold their Bellingham house after it spent just two days on the market and they have found a rental in Winthrop. Venable’s wife, Annie, and their children, Ingrid and Elliot, will join him here in August.