Field Narrows to Three

By Oliver Lazenby

One of four candidates to be the next Blaine school district superintendent withdrew his application on July 26, and the district is now down to three semifinalists for the position. The remaining candidates are Christopher Granger, Christopher Nesmith and Rodrick Merrell.

John Steach withdrew his application after accepting a position with a private company, according to the school district’s website. Steach was the only candidate with previous superintendent experience.

Steach resigned his position as superintendent in the Evergreen School District in Vancouver, Washington, in March 2019 and received a $301,812 severance package from the district, according to The Columbian newspaper. The district did not explain why Steach resigned with a severance package. Both parties signed non-disparagement agreements and Steach agreed to never again apply for a job in the district, according to his resignation agreement.

Current superintendent Ron Spanjer announced in April that he would retire at the end of August. Spanjer served as the district superintendent for 13 years. His annual base salary (not including benefits), as of July 2018, was $163,592. The future superintendent will oversee all five Blaine school district schools and an annual operating budget of more than $30 million.

Here’s what we know about the remaining candidates:

Christopher Granger

Granger, the lone candidate from out of state, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. In 2012, he completed a master’s degree in educational administration at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and he completed a doctorate in educational leadership from the same school in 2014.

Granger worked as a high school principal at Vernon Independent School District in Vernon, Texas, from March 2015 to June 2016, and as a high school principal in the Sanger Independent School District in Sanger, Texas, from July 2016 to June 2017. Since July 2017, he’s worked as an assistant superintendent at the Bisbee Unified School District in Bisbee, Arizona.

Rodrick Merrell

Merrell has worked as a director of secondary schools in the Marysville School District since July 2018. He earned an English degree from the University of Washington in 1992 and returned for a master’s in education in curriculum and instruction, which he completed in 2000. He completed Western Washington University’s principal certificate program in 2004 and earned a doctoral degree in education policy and leadership from the University of Washington in 2018.

He worked as a principal at Langley Middle School and South Whidbey High School from 2006 to 2011, and as a principal at Mount Vernon High School from July 2011 to June 2018.

Christopher Nesmith

Nesmith is currently a 2022 educational doctorate candidate at Washington State University and a superintendent intern at the West Valley School District in Yakima.

Nesmith earned a bachelor’s degree in business education from Central Washington University in 2006, and a master’s of education from the University of Washington in 2010. In the years since he’s earned the following certificates: career and technical education director, professional administration and superintendent certification.

Candidate resumes are available on the school district’s website at bit.ly/2YgkPtc.

Opportunities for Public Feedback

Community members will have a chance to watch interviews with the Blaine school district’s superintendent candidates and give the school board feedback on the interviews on August 10 and 12.

At a public meeting on Saturday, August 10, the Blaine school board will interview each of the three candidates for an hour. That meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the school district administrative office at 765 H Street. A meeting schedule is posted on the district’s website.

Those who watch the interviews can let the board know their thoughts during an open discussion between 2:15 and 3:15 p.m. After that, the board will discuss candidates in a closed executive session from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., according to a press release from the school district.

Then, at 4:30 p.m., the board will start an open session in which it will announce more information about the second round of interviews, on Monday, August 12.

At that round of interviews, anyone who wants to will have the opportunity to ask the candidates questions during “stakeholder interviews.” The community interviews will last an hour each and take place at 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m., and 12:30 p.m., all in the Performing Arts Center, 975 H Street.

Elsewhere on campus, candidates will rotate through interviews with school staff, administrators and the school board.

At 3:15 p.m., the school board will meet in executive session in the district office to review feedback from the stakeholder groups and consider the candidates. After that, the board could resume an open regular session before 5 p.m. to take action on hiring a candidate, or it may recess after 5 p.m. and resume at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 14. The board could also decide to hire an interim candidate and continue its search.

During the August 12 executive session, the board will make announcements periodically about its anticipated timeline for calling an open session, in which it would take action. The board cannot take action in a closed executive session.

For planning purposes, the district is asking members of the public to notify the district office if they plan to attend the interview sessions on August 10 or 12.

For additional information, please contact the district office at 360/332-5881.

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