Search process begins for new school district superintendent

Colosky will retire at the end of this school year.

Come springtime, the Mercer Island School Board expects to have a new school district superintendent hired to replace Donna Colosky, who will retire at the conclusion of the 2021-22 school year.

After the final school bell has rung, Colosky will continue working alongside the district staff into the summer to help with the transition to the new superintendent — who will be selected from a pool of internal and external candidates — according to board President Maggie Tai Tucker. Colosky announced her retirement last May after spending 36 years working in public education, including the last four as Mercer Island School District’s superintendent.

To commence the search process for Colosky’s successor, the board has hired consultant Lydia Musher of Tradition Search Partners to provide vital assistance by interviewing parents, teachers, administrators, students, community members and others regarding what qualities they wish to see a new superintendent bring to the district table.

Before Musher came on board the week of Jan. 10, nearly 1,500 community members had participated in a ThoughtExchange interactive survey that the board launched last fall, and rating high on the list are: a strong communicator who believes in transparency and someone who is focused on academic excellence and possesses integrity.

Musher met with the five-member school board and two Mercer Island High School student representatives during a special Zoom meeting on Jan. 13 to provide a status update following her initial interviews.

“Overall, everyone I have spoken with has been uniformly and intensely passionate about the academic success and well-being of the children on Mercer Island,” said Musher, adding that the interviewees’ thoughts traveled heavily along the same lines as those people who took the survey.

Musher revealed a robust list of nearly 79 interviewees with community stakeholders during the week, including boardmembers, student government leaders, teachers, principals, district administrators, parents, PTA presidents and more. She had about 55 more interviews scheduled in the coming week, including one with a diversity, equity and inclusion interest group and some parents of students with special needs.

Following her next round of interviews, Musher plans to provide the boardmembers with a written report of her meetings by Jan. 21. After receiving feedback, she’ll draft a ranked list of priorities in choosing the next superintendent, to be followed by a job description.

Posting the position will be the next step, and Musher anticipates that to occur by the close of the business day on Feb. 4 at the very latest. Tucker said they’ll post the job in national publications, on the Washington Association of School Administrators web site and a host of other locations. In addition, Musher will attend a national conference of superintendents Feb. 17-19 in Nashville, Tennessee, on behalf of the district and will be actively recruiting candidates, Tucker added.

Musher said she’ll most likely begin interviewing candidates by phone on Feb. 11 with the board conducting its own set of interviews soon after and into the spring. At the Jan. 13 meeting, Musher said that the boardmembers’ collaborative process and trust in one another will be crucial in achieving unanimity when voting time arrives.

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