A good choice

The Mercer Island School District Board of Directors has chosen a new superintendent of schools. Interim Superintendent Gary Plano was chosen this past week over two other highly-qualified finalists. Plano has been serving as the interim superintendent since Dr.. Cyndy Simms resigned last summer. Prior to his appointment as interim, Plano was the associate superintendent of instruction, taking over from long-time Mercer Island School District administrator, John Cameron. Cameron worked with Plano for a year before he retired.

Despite his experience with Island schools, Plano was not an automatic choice for the job. The primary function of the School Board is to hire and supervise the superintendent of schools. Thus, it was in the best interest of the board to conduct a thorough search. The School Board did its due diligence by hiring a search consultant to conduct a national search — not for show — but to ensure they would hire the right person. The job applicants were vetted through a long and rather arduous process that included several interviews with administrators, school staff and the community. The process validates the selection of Plano.

The past few superintendent searches have been closed to public scrutiny. The identity of candidates was shielded in order to protect the positions they held. It was felt that if the identities of applicants were not protected, they would be reluctant to apply. With that in mind, the board did their best to include the public while encouraging qualified candidates to apply for the job. The board held public meetings to gather input from the community on what attributes they wanted in a new superintendent. The community was also invited to meet and talk with the three finalists and give their impressions to the School Board.

We believe the School Board made the right choice in hiring Dr. Plano. He has been an educator and administrator in western Washington school districts for many years. He has held teaching and leadership positions in Mukilteo and Kent. He holds a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Policy from Seton Hall University.

He is well liked, competent and experienced in the particulars of managing a school district as well as the issues unique to Island schools. He is already immersed in the school district and can continue work that has already begun. His comments after being hired for the job are gracious and insightful:

“They’ve supported me by cheerleading and helping pave a pathway for me to be successful,” he said of the district. “Without this, a superintendent cannot do the job well. You can only affect change when people want you in that position.”

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