Justin Irish has been at the helm at the Anacortes School District for just two weeks, but the new superintendent said this is definitely not a normal transition.
Uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on classrooms and funding this fall means changes are coming.
Normally, those changes would come after conversations with stakeholders and community members, Irish said. Limited meeting abilities and a lack of time means he’s put things into place faster than he usually would.
“Under normal circumstances, a superintendent wouldn’t come in and shuffle things around like this,” Irish said. “There are so many unprecedented issues at play, I am forced to make some decisions and engage people the best that I can.”
There have been some big staffing changes at the district in the past few weeks. Becky Clifford is starting this summer as the district’s director of inclusion.
She already oversaw special services, mental health support and school nurses, but with the resignation of Assistant Superintendent K.C. Knudson, her job description changed a bit, Irish said. She will now move into an assistant superintendent role and oversee teaching and learning and help with the creation of curriculum that will help all students, Irish said.
That way, curriculums will be more cohesive through the district, he said.
She is also tasked with overseeing the district’s equity policy, but everyone in the district will be asked to participate in improvements.
“Our race and equity work isn’t limited to one person,” Irish said.
Taking over the special education portion of Clifford’s previous job description is Whitney Early Childhood Education Center Principal Shannon Gilbert. Gilbert will continue to serve at Whitney but will also oversee special education and inclusion.
Angie Miller, who served as literacy coach and teacher, will take the role of director of teaching and learning.
Robert Pohl, the district’s director of technology, is will now also oversee the food and nutrition and transportation departments.
District Executive Director of Finance and Operations Dave Cram will take on some oversight of the human resources department, Irish said.
The Anacortes High School principal position previously held by Jon Ronngren is also open. The district is looking to fill that position quickly, Irish said.
A community forum with the top two candidates is 5:30-6:30 p.m. July 28 on Zoom (asd103.zoom.us/j/97211512558).
Moving people and changing jobs will only save an estimated $20,000, but it does put more leaders in place. That means there is a wide range of people in leadership positions working to make the district the best it can be, Irish said.
It also means he can focus more on the biggest issue right now — a safe start for school this fall, he said.