The search for a superintendent is on

Tahoma tries to stabilize after abrupt resignation

The search is on for a new superintendent for the Tahoma School District after Tony Giurado resigned unexpectedly at the end of September.

The Tahoma School District’s Board of Directors unanimously voted during the Sept. 30 regular meeting to accept Giurado’s resignation and appointed Assistant Superintendent Lori Cloud as the interim superintendent temporarily.

“The Tahoma School District Board of Directors and Superintendent Tony Giurado have discovered that, through the fault of neither party, Mr. Giurado’s considerable high integrity, skill, knowledge and experience are not the best match for the present needs of the district,” the board stated in a release. “The board and Mr. Giurado have agreed to separate and as part of that agreement, the board accepted Mr. Giurado’s resignation from his position as superintendent effective September 30, 2019.”

According to a legal agreement between Guiardo and the district, Giurado’s contract was set to end in the summer of 2021. Since it is being terminated early, the board has agreed to pay Giurado’s salary on the last business day of each month along with insurance premiums for him and his family, along with retirement benefits until 2021 or until Giurado obtains another position within a school district or education-related position.

The document did not give any reason why the board and Giurado decided to have the superintendent resigned other than the previously released statement.

Giurado didn’t serve with Tahoma for long. He was unanimously selected in May 2018 to replace retiring superintendent Rob Morrow.

The following weekend after Guiardo’s resignation, Oct. 4 – 5, the school board chose to seek an interim superintendent to oversee the district until July 2021. The plan was formally adopted by the board at the Oct. 8 school board meeting.

The board invited current Tahoma principals and other administrators to apply by Oct. 14. As of press time, the school district has not released how many internal applications were received.

“The first phase ended (Oct. 14) and the board will consider anything that comes in and will make a decision next Tuesday (Oct. 21),” Tahoma spokesperson Kevin Patterson said. “They are being pretty tight with the information.”

If no one from the district has applied or if the board doesn’t find a qualified interim superintendent from an internal search the district may need to begin looking at outside options.

“The process of trying to fill that position has to be discussed in open session,” Patterson said. “The only part they are focused on now is finding and internal candidate. If that doesn’t happen they’ll have to go to plan B. There is a range of things they could consider, anywhere from launching a formal search to looking at a retired superintendent to bring in on an interim basis … there would be a lot to talk about.”

If an interim is selected they would oversee the district until July 2021. According to a district press release, the interim superintendent would be provided support and mentoring in order to guide the school district through the remainder of the current 2020-21 school year.

Another option is to keep Cloud as an interim superintendent for the remainder of the current school year while the board conducted a formal search for a permanent superintendent.

“Cloud told the school board she would support what the board decides but prefers to return to her regular duties as assistant superintendent and director of finance and operations,” the district’s press release stated.

The plan is supposed to help bring stability to a district facing an election in November and two levy measures in February.

Three seats are up for election this November on the Tahoma School Board of Directors, District 2, District 3 and District 4. In two cases the current directors have chosen to not run for reelection, Didem Pierson, District 4, and Mary Jane Glaser, District 3. Incumbent Katrina Montgomery is running unopposed for District 2.

Malia Hollowell and Jamie Fairbanks are running for District 3. Pete Miller and Stormy (Lea) Rigtrup is running for District 4.

The board also reached a consensus at the beginning of the month to seek community support for two levies; a four-year educational programs and operations levy (EP&O) and a four-year technology levy.

The abrupt lack of a permanent superintendent was a “surprise” for Tahoma staff and teachers.

“It was a surprise and people look to the superintendent for leadership, obviously,” Patterson said. “So when the leadership is removed then that creates a gulf. But I think people need to keep in mind these are professionals. Those in the classroom are professional educators and they are going to come to work everyday and do their job, and that’s what they’re doing. I think they are all working very hard to make sure, whatever happens, it doesn’t affect the day-to-day education of the students.”