The heir apparent; Gibbon on track to succeed Schulte as OH schools chief

Superintendent candidate Lance Gibbon presented his vision for the Oak Harbor School District Monday night at the district administration building. Gibbon is expected to be named as Rick Schulte’s successor May 28.  - Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times
Superintendent candidate Lance Gibbon presented his vision for the Oak Harbor School District Monday night at the district administration building. Gibbon is expected to be named as Rick Schulte’s successor May 28.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

With a solid foundation in place and a groundswell of positive momentum, Lance Gibbon is interested in continuing to build on the successes he’s seen take place around him in the Oak Harbor School District.

It appears he will get that chance.

Gibbon spoke before an overflow crowd of more than 100 at the Oak Harbor School District office Monday night, sharing his vision for the Oak Harbor schools should he be chosen as the school district’s next superintendent.

Gary Wallin, president of the Oak Harbor School Board, said Tuesday that all indications point to Gibbon being named as Rick Schulte’s successor.

The school board met for two hours in executive session following Monday night’s public forum and weighed in on community input they heard from earlier in the evening and through nearly 200 responses to an online survey.

Although the board cannot officially make a decision until a public vote by members at its next school board meeting on May 28, Wallin said that board sentiments are strong toward Gibbon, who’s shadowed Schulte and served as assistant superintendent of the school district for the past six years.

Wallin said that Gibbon has shown a fiscally conservative approach and impeccable integrity just like his mentor.

“He’s been able to pick up the budget quickly,” Wallin said. “He has good people skills. He’s shown a lot of savvy.”

Wallin said the school board began evaluating Gibbon as a candidate to lead the district three years ago when they first learned about Schulte’s plans to step down as superintendent.

When Schulte decided in April to accept the Richland School District’s superintendent post beginning July 1, ending a 20-year reign in Oak Harbor, the board brought in a facilitator to assist in the superintendent search process.

Jerry Jenkins, superintendent of Northwest Educational Service District No. 189, guided the process under a short timeline that led to calling for public input from an online survey and from Monday night’s public forum, and asking Gibbon to share his vision of the Oak Harbor schools.

Gibbon’s presentation focused on laying out a road map for student success and continuing a journey started by Schulte.

“What my vision is not is radical change,” he told the crowd.

“It’s not a laundry list of new programs and initiatives. I would like to paint a vision that builds on the foundation of the quality staff we already have in place and that focuses on our resources to increase student success.”

Gibbon’s vision of the Oak Harbor School District is of “a caring community educating every child for success.”

He spoke of the significance of a students feeling connected to their schools and that they feel valued.

Gibbon talked about the importance of an adult connection at school, sharing from his own experiences how his high school choir teacher influenced him.

Gibbon, 44, also spoke about the importance of teachers in the Oak Harbor School District feeling valued and looking forward to coming to work.

Gibbon said he wants to continue to strengthen the school district’s relationship with the greater community.

Student learning, ultimately, is at the core of his focus, he said.

“That’s the heart of why I went into education,” said Gibbon, whose parents were both educators.

“That’s really what we’re all about.

“I would say that the way that we do that is through a sense of community and collaboration through partnerships. It’s teachers working together. It’s kids working together. It’s getting our community, our businesses, volunteers involved so we’re all working together for the same goal.

“I think that ultimately will result in our desired outcome, which is student success. Students graduating from high school. Students being able to do well on academic assessments.”

“But along with that, continuing our award-winning programs, our athletic programs, all the options for kids,” he said.

“All of these things together really is the total vision of student success.”

Schulte has described Gibbon as his natural successor. He thought Gibbon’s vision was consistent to some of his own beliefs.

“It does exemplify the continuity and change,” Schulte said. “It’s taken it to the next level.”

“I think we’ve come a long way in the years that I’ve been in Oak Harbor, but we’ve still got places we can go and imporvements we can make. And I think he outlined the direction that we need to go with that.”


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

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