Leavell is named Bremerton School District Superintendent

Tina Mahaney, Teacher Bremerton Education Association president, gives a big hug to new Bremerton School District Superintendent Aaron Leavell. Board President Carolynn Perkins (right) shares a laugh with a meeting attendee.  - Seraine Page
Tina Mahaney, Teacher Bremerton Education Association president, gives a big hug to new Bremerton School District Superintendent Aaron Leavell. Board President Carolynn Perkins (right) shares a laugh with a meeting attendee.
— image credit: Seraine Page

Without much ado, the Bremerton Board of Education selected its new superintendent just one day after the new school year started.

At last night's Bremerton School District board meeting, Dr. Aaron Leavell was chosen to serve as the district's superintendent just one week after the board hosted a public forum to hear community input. Leavell had been serving as the interim superintendent until the board took action. The audience -- much smaller than last week's crowd -- clapped in approval, eliciting a broad smile from Leavell.

"I'm kind of speechless right now," Leavell said after the meeting. "I'm just thrilled to be their superintendent."

Last week, the Bremerton community filled the board room to give opinions on who should enter into former superintendent Lester "Flip" Herndon's position. The overwhelming consensus seemed to be that Leavell -- who was formerly the district's assistant superintendent -- would be an ideal fit.

Herndon announced his departure in the middle of August, and his last day was Aug. 31, leaving the district with little time to find a replacement or complete a lengthy search before the 2013-2014 school year began. Herndon's hope of leaving the district was no secret as he had applied for a few other superintendent positions over the last few years.

Board member Scott Rahm said he was impressed with the amount of community input and involvement in the process. Rahm said it was important to him as a board director to get several opinions from stakeholders in the community before the board made a final decision. He remarked he was also glad to get past the "acting" role Leavell had been temporarily placed in.

"It really shaped my decision," he said of the public input. "I feel I have all the information I need to make an informed decision," he said.

Dave Boynton agreed with his fellow board member and made it clear prior to the announcement that the board needed to be swift in its decision due to heavy decisions like the levy coming up. He was also concerned about the cost of a search, and said he personally looked into what a national search would cost. He was given a quote of $75,000, he said.

"We need to make a quick and decisive decision," he said. He also acknowledged the public input and said he was pleased by the abundance of phone calls and emails he received regarding the topic.

Leavell first started his teaching career in 1997 in the Bremerton School District, and he was born and raised in Kitsap County, another point many parents and educators made at last week's open meeting. His roots are firmly planted in the district, some said.

With a new assistant superintendent vacancy, another search will begin, and Leavell said that will be his first mission as the new superintendent.

"Now that will become my top priority," he said of the search. It may be an interim or permanent position, depending on the opinions he receives from board members. He hopes to have a decision by the end of the month, he said.

His contract and its details -- such as salary -- will not be official until the next board meeting on Sept. 19. Until then, he will work on negotiating his very first contract, he said.

Other top priorities will include directing focus on the levy, new Common Core State Standards, and the new teacher evaluations that have recently been put into place. Working with the budget will be another high priority on his list, he said.

The vote was well-received by audience members, and prompted some to come up and surround Leavell with hugs and congratulatory remarks.

Overall, Leavell said he is thrilled to serve the district in a new capacity. "I'm looking forward to the upcoming year," said Leavell. "I'm elated. This is a very exciting time for me and the Bremerton School District."


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