News

Oak Harbor schools superintendent accepts Richland post

Rick Schulte is moving on.

After 20 years as the Oak Harbor School District's superintendent, Schulte is leaving to take on the same role on the other side of the Cascade Mountains.

The Richland School District announced Monday that it has selected Schulte as its new superintendent. Pending contract negotiations, he will start his new job on July 1.

He had spent time in recent weeks in the Tri-Cities interviewing for the post.

Last week, members of the Richland School District came to Oak Harbor to learn more about him in an attempt to pare down the position's three finalists.

In conclusion, Schulte rose to the top of the district's list.

"Dr. Schulte is a talented administrator and an excellent match for the Richland School District," said Rick Jansons, president of the Richland School Board. "He's an outstanding educational leader and our system will continue to improve under his guidance."

Schulte, 64, had told the Oak Harbor School Board that he did not want his contract renewed after the 2013-14 school year.

Schulte came to Oak Harbor in 1987 as assistant superintendent and took over his role as superintendent 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.

"It is just the right time to move on to something new," Schulte said earlier this month. "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."

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

The Oak Harbor School Board meets tonight.

Schulte accepted his new job Monday afternoon and informed staff with an email.

"While I am enthused and eager to begin a new challenge and opportunity, I am simultaneously sad to leave behind a district and a community that have been so much of my life for so long," Schulte wrote. "I am acutely aware that when Richland evaluated me as a potential new superintendent, they were evaluating Oak Harbor School District as well. I am exceedingly proud of the Oak Harbor schools and its staff, students and community. I am so very happy to have had the chance to work here with all of you and to have enjoyed the great successes, and suffered through the occasional tragedies, with such a great group of people."

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

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