Board quiet on Simms’ contract

After two consecutive years of renewing Mercer Island Superintendent Cyndy Simms’ contract, the School Board has taken no action this year to retain her beyond 2009.

According to district policy, the Board meets in January and June to evaluate the superintendent’s work, whereby they can vote to extend her contract. But this year, Board members declined to address the issue.

The School Board hired Simms as superintendent in 2003 under a three-year contract that can be renewed annually. In 2004, the Board extended Simms’ contract until 2007, and in 2005 it was extended until 2009, where it now stands. During their most recent evaluation in June, the Board did not move to extend her contract.

“I’m fine with things right now,” the superintendent said. “We still have a lot in the works for the next two years, including the Big Ideas project, the district instructional improvement plan and changes in graduation requirements.”

School Board president Leslie Ferrell emphasized that, although they didn’t move to renew Simms’ contract, Board members were satisfied with the current situation.

Without mentioning Simms’ name specifically, Ferrell said that the Board “works very well together.”

Other Board members declined to comment on the superintendent’s work, referring all questions to Ferrell.

Earlier this spring, Simms 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. Although her decision came as somewhat a surprise to the Board, they openly accepted Simms’ choice.

“The Board considers it a natural and normal move for a superintendent to go on to a larger school district,” president Leslie Ferrell was quoted by the Reporter as saying at the time.

Simms was not selected for the position. If she had been, she would have began her tenure this month.

Ferrell emphasized that Simms’ decision to run for a bigger district, being “very typical for a superintendent,” didn’t affect the Board’s opinion of her work.

Although there was no movement to extend Simms’ contract in June, Ferrell reminded that there would be further possibility to do so.

“We have new board members coming in, so ... ” she said, referring to the upcoming election in November.

Ferrell is leaving the Board this fall, with Janet Frohnmayer running unopposed for her position. Board member Lisa Strauch Eggers is seeking re-election for Pos. 3, alongside incumbent Pat Braman, who is running for a second term in Pos. 5. Both women are unopposed.

In evaluating the superintendent’s job performance, Board members assess the degree to which Board policies and academic goals — or “Ends” — for the district are being met.

Since the Board operates through the superintendent, functioning as the chief executive officer, members view Simms’ performance as being identical to the district’s organizational performance. If accomplishments are seen within the district and the Board’s overall “Ends” are met, the superintendent’s work is viewed as successful.

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