Outgoing superintendent Greg Lynch took the final minutes of his last school board meeting Wednesday to criticize the culture of negativity in Central Kitsap School District.
Lynch came down on the teachers' union for the way it handled concerns with his leadership last spring.
The district teachers' union, Central Kitsap Education Association (CKEA), voted no confidence in Lynch a year ago. Just under half the union's 689 members were present at a special meeting last June, and 73 percent of those present voted no confidence in the superintendent.
"I think there are better ways to solve issues other than direct confrontation that could cause either professional or personal hurt," Lynch said in the public meeting Wednesday.
Lynch tip-toed around calling out the teachers' union, but indirectly accused them of personally attacking him during his tenure.
"I'm also convinced that vote of no confidence didn't have anything to do with my performance," he said.
Lynch said he wasn't trying to assign blame but move forward in a positive and constructive way.
"As a learning institution I think we teach our students to attack ideas and concepts … not personalities," Lynch said. "I think as a school district we can't promote personalizing conflict, but we must focus on addressing concerns, and if there's a concern it needs to be addressed in a professional way."
Lynch told the board the feedback he received from community and staff after the vote of no confidence showed a different view of his performance than the union's vote.
He said he put out a survey to faculty and staff this winter — about eight months after the no-confidence vote — asking staff to "please grade the overall performance of the superintendent in support of students, staff and programs."
"Before I did that survey I was resolute in the fact that when the survey results came back, if the survey results were not what I thought they should be, I was prepared to step down from my position," Lynch said.
That survey received the highest rate of return for any the administration has put out in Lynch's tenure, receiving 404 responses, he said.
A selection of results from that survey provided to the Central Kitsap Reporter by the superintendent in April lists the responses ranked from A to F as follows — A: 36 percent, B: 41 percent, C: 17 percent, D: 4 percent, F: 1 percent.
After looking at those results, Lynch said he felt vindicated in his performance and felt that most members of the faculty and staff were satisfied with his performance.
"That told me something," Lynch said of the survey results. "That told me what I thought inside my own gut, that there's something more to the story."
Lynch was somewhat vague about what that "something more" was, but said he thought votes of no confidence were "embedded in our culture" in Central Kitsap School District.
He looked to the past to illustrate his thought, pointing out the union voted no confidence in three of the district's longterm superintendents in recent decades (Eugene Hertzke, Cathy Davidson and himself).
Lynch said from what he's seen votes of no confidence in superintendents are rare in Washington, but seemingly common in Central Kitsap.
Rich Wood with the Washington Education Association said their organization doesn't track every vote, but said a couple happen in the state each year.
"They do happen once or twice a year," Wood said. "I wouldn't characterize them as being rare necessarily, but I don't think they're necessarily common."
Wood said no-confidence votes take place when there is a "clear problem."
Votes of no confidence are largely symbolic.
CKEA President Kirsten Nicholson said the union's vote of no confidence last June was a "statement by members of the association saying we desire a different relationship with our superintendent than the one we had."
When the union voted no confidence in superintendent Davidson in 2002, the vote came primarily as an extension of problems with then human resources director Scott Menard, according to Nicholson.
The vote against Hertzke, Nicholson said, came within the first year or two of his time as superintendent, after which he responded positively to the criticism and went on to continue in his leadership role for 15 years.
Nicholson said she sat down with superintendent Lynch on Monday. She claimed there were a number of things Lynch recalled differently than she did and there were a number of points on which she and Lynch were forced to "agree to disagree."
In spite of her disagreements with Lynch, Nicholson said the union is committed to moving forward with incoming superintendent Hazel Bauman, who is set to begin work in the Central Kitsap district July 1.
Lynch announced in March he will be leaving Central Kitsap to be superintendent for the Educational Service District 114, one of nine regional state organizations set up to assist school districts with programs.