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Schulte to end tenure as Oak Harbor School District superintendent

Rick Schulte is ready for a new challenge.

Schulte, superintendent for the Oak Harbor School District for the past 20 years, publicly announced Thursday that he would be stepping down from that position by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Although his departure could come sooner.

On Wednesday night, Schulte was named one of three finalists for an open superintendent position with the Richland School District.

Schulte was one of 12 candidates who interviewed for the position earlier this week with the Richland School Board and made the cut.

He will return to the Tri-Cities next week to face another round of interviews. The Richland School District is expected to name a new superintendent by the end of the month.

“It is just the right time to move on to something new,” Schulte said. “We’ve come a long way as a school district and a long way as a community. The best years in Oak Harbor are yet to come.”

Schulte, 64, said his plan to not have his contract renewed after the 2013-14 school year was expressed to the Oak Harbor School Board on different occasions in recent years and he had shared it with some administrators around the state.

He said he wasn’t actively seeking a new job when the Richland School District came calling.

“They called me and said, ‘We heard you might be willing to move,’” Schulte said. “I said, ‘Well, maybe. Tell me more.’”

Richland School District is about twice the size of Oak Harbor’s with 11,700 students and 1,500 employees.

The Richland School District recently passed a $98 million bond to build five elementary schools and a middle school.

Schulte said his experience overseeing school construction projects in Oak Harbor, including the high school and stadium, were of particular interest to Richland.

Schulte came to Oak Harbor in 1987 as assistant superintendent and took over his current role in 1993 when Roger Woehl stepped down.

His streak of 20 years leading the same school district is believed to be the second longest active streak in the state.

Schulte said regardless of what happens in Richland, he doesn’t intend to retire soon and is keeping his options open.

He said leaving Oak Harbor, his home of 25 years, would be difficult.

“This has been more of a home for me than anywhere I have ever lived,” he said.

Schulte said he believes Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon would be a natural choice to succeed him.

Said Schulte: “We already have someone who has proven himself for six years, who is a great educational leader, who has a thorough understanding of school finances, knows how to work through tough problems, and is an active member in the Oak Harbor community. No matter who might interview for the position, there is no one we know better and have more faith in than Lance.”

Gary Wallin, president of the Oak Harbor School Board, praised Schulte and his contributions to the Oak Harbor school district in a release that was issued Thursday. He agreed with Schulte that Gibbon would be a natural successor.

Wallin said the school board would have this discussion soon, probably at the next meeting of the board on April 29.

 

Reach Whidbey News-Times staff reporter Ron Newberry at 360-675-6611 (ext. 5070), or rnewberry@whidbeynewsgroup.com

 

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