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Interim superintendent promoted

Mike Nelson -
Mike Nelson
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By Brenda Sexton-The Courier-Herald

After deliberating for more than five hours Monday afternoon, members of the Enumclaw School Board decided to remove the “interim” tag from Mike Nelson's title. The Enumclaw native will take the reins as the district's new superintendent, moving up from the No. 2 post.

He replaces Art Jarvis, who had announced he would be stepping down at the end of the current school year, but departed early to accept an administrative post with the Seattle School District.

Nelson has been interim superintendent since Jarvis left.

Nelson's hiring puts an end to a long process that not only involved the five school board members, but more than two dozen representatives from the community. Eventually, three finalists were closely scrutinized: along with Nelson, the board considered Michael Green, the current superintendent for the Nine Mile Falls School District near Spokane, and Hertica Martin, executive director for teaching and learning for the Central Kitsap School District.

The board's selection didn't come easy, as Chris VanHoof held out for Martin, casting the lone dissenting vote. Earlier, Cathy Dahlquist had expressed concerns, but eventually sided with the Nelson majority.

With three hours of discussion behind closed doors on a federal holiday and at the start of mid-winter break, the board continued debate for two more hours in front of a small group of staff and community members in the district board room.

Nancy Merrill couldn't find fault with the outside candidates, but said time would be lost as those folks were brought up to speed in the district.

Lorianne Taff also felt that draw.

“Mr. Nelson knows this district. He knows the good, the bad and the ugly and he addressed all of those issues,” Taff said. She also noted Nelson's handling of the recent bomb scare at Westwood Elementary School was “instrumental” in her decision-making.

VanHoof's impressions of Martin couldn't be sloughed away. He called her a breath of fresh air for the district and a blessing to have applied.

“I think she's an awesome leader and can lead this district to a place that's above and beyond,” he said. “A great leader gets everyone to buy in. Right now I don't know in this district if everything's cohesive. I don't think there's a mesh yet. She captivated people.”

VanHoof said in his heart he believes Martin would have been the right choice.

Dahlquist vacillated between all three candidates and lobbied to table the decision. She fought hard for more time to allow the board a “site visit” in Enumclaw since Nelson was the only candidate to not be afforded that privilege. She said the past four weeks watching Nelson serve in the position has proven he can lead the district, but she wanted assurances he could unify and would allow the board to direct, not be directed.

Board President Dale Holland said in a perfect world all three would be working in the district in different positions tomorrow.

But Nelson's track record sold him.

“My touchstones are my four children in this district,” Holland said. He said he looked at the changes that have occurred since his eighth-grade student started kindergarten. He said Nelson was responsible for those changes and programs.

“I want those things to continue for my children. I want them to continue for all children,” Holland said.

The unknowns of the other candidates stood against, “what I already know and what I've already seen,” Holland said. “I love the heart Mike Nelson has given this district and will continue to give this district.”

The board plans to offer the position to Nelson and begin negotiating a contract agreeable to both parties.

Nelson is a known commodity, currently serving as the Enumclaw School District's interim superintendent. He was appointed to this position in January after Jarvis tendered his resignation. Before taking over the district's leadership position, Nelson served as assistant superintendent, a position he had been at since 1999.

Prior to arriving in Enumclaw, Nelson was the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Federal Way Public Schools. He has also been principal at Camelot Elementary School in Federal Way and an assistant principal at Bonney Lake Elementary. He also serves as adjunct professor for Seattle Pacific University, Central Washington University and Whitworth College. He began his career as a teacher in the Orting School District.

Nelson, an Enumclaw native, earned his superintendent certification from Seattle Pacific University. He earned both his master's degree in educational administration and his bachelor of arts in education from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

He was the primary author of a $2.2 million district grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and while principal at Camelot Elementary the school earned a National Blue Ribbon Award for School Excellence.

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