Education news

LA CONNER — The La Conner School Board rejected calls Tuesday from its employee unions to dismiss Superintendent Whitney Meissner, saying it intends to honor her three-year contract.

In a prepared statement, the board said it will take steps to help guide Meissner’s growth as well as the growth of the board.

“After taking all perspectives to heart, we are focusing our efforts to move in a positive and productive manner,” said the statement emailed to the Skagit Valley Herald. “We also expect and trust Dr. Meissner to continue to listen and learn, and to become a better leader through this process. In her first two years as a superintendent, she has achieved the goals the School Board has asked of her and she has served the children of our community with passion and dedication. We believe that she will approach the next phase of her growth as a superintendent with the energy and desire to succeed.”

Meissner has been embroiled in controversy since June, when members of the La Conner Education Association and Public Schools Employees union overwhelmingly issued no-confidence votes against her.

What has followed has been weeks of back-and-forth between union leadership, the board and Meissner.

In its statement, the board outlined five ways it intends to move forward, including developing superintendent performance goals “with strong expectations and accountability around relationship-building, demonstration of empathy, and leadership style changes” for Meissner, as well as having her continue to meet with union leadership.

For its part, the board said it is “engaging with outside resources to support us in our development as a school board.”

“We accept responsibility and apologize for the ways in which we as the School Board have contributed to this situation,” the statement read. “We were unable to listen well enough, fast enough and it took us too long to determine how to navigate this complex conflict. We have not always had clear communication within our School Board and we did not always speak with one voice.”

Going forward, the board said it would develop a “clear and safe” process for concerns to be addressed quickly, fairly and consistently.

“We cannot change anything that has happened before, but we can and will become a stronger, better-functioning Board as a result of what we are all going through now,” the statement said.

The unions said Tuesday their position on Meissner has not changed.

“The loss of trust in Superintendent Meissner is too great to be repaired,” they said in a statement released to the Skagit Valley Herald. “The damage done to relationships, morale and school climate is too significant to be overcome.”

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,, Twitter: @Kera_SVH,

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