Simms is finalist for Calif. District

Representatives from the Walnut Valley Unified School District, located in southern California, flew to Seattle on Aug. 20 to interview Mercer Island School District members about the possible appointment of Cyndy Simms as superintendent. Simms’ current tenure as MISD superintendent ends in 2009.

A select number of district faculty and School Board members attended the closed session. Simms was also present.

The main purpose of the meeting, according to the posted agenda, was for Walnut Valley School District representatives to interview Mercer Island community and staff members — as well as Simms herself — in order to asses the superintendent for the open position.

“This is the final interview, and the board will make its decision on Thursday [Aug. 23],” said Bertha Pimentel, Walnut Valley School District administrative assistant.

“We hope to fill the position starting in October,” she added. The representative could not say who Simms was competing against.

If Simms receives the Walnut Valley position, she will replace former superintendent Kent Bechler, who resigned on June 30 after serving for nearly five years. He has moved on to the larger Corona-Norco District, also in southern California.

This is not the first time that Simms, who was hired as superintendent in 2003, has interviewed for a position outside the district. Earlier this spring, she applied to the Bellingham School District for the position of superintendent. The Island resident announced the news in April after learning she was a finalist. She was not selected for the position.

The Walnut Valley district begins school on Aug. 27. An interim superintendent, Nancy Hogg, is running the district until a replacement for Bechler is found.

If Simms receives the Walnut Valley position, then it’s back to the drawing board for the district, which, before Simms, saw three superintendents come and go in just as many years.

In 2003, Simms replaced Bill Keim, who resigned after two years. His predecessor, Paula Butterfield, left after only eight months on the job. At the time, the district struggled to fill the open position with interims, which may yet again be the case this fall.

Finding a qualified superintendent is always a struggle, and with less than a month before school begins, even more so.

But School Board president Leslie Ferrell said the district wouldn’t have any trouble finding an interim superintendent if Simms leaves.

“No matter who’s in what position, we have a great team,” she said. For now, the Board is simply waiting to hear Walnut Valley’s decision.

“We’ll proceed once we know what’s going to happen,” said Ferrell. “If [Simms] does get the job, we would have an interim for a year and start searching for a new superintendent in December.”

The Walnut Valley Unified School District is located in the city of Walnut, approximately 15 miles east of Los Angeles.

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