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New Oak Harbor school administrator fills gap

"The Oak Harbor School District will have a new assistant superintendent as of July 1, with the start of a one-year contract awarded to newcomer Dave Peterson.Peterson was introduced to the school board at its regular meeting Monday evening. At least one Oak Harbor resident questions about the prudence of hiring what he referred to as a new administrator during a time of school budget concerns.Scott Hornung addressed the board, saying that he must have misunderstood about the school district's budget woes. He said he thought money was tight right now, but he must have been mistaken since there is money to hire Peterson.However, the assistant superintendent is not a new position, Oak Harbor School District superintendent Rick Schulte said in a telephone interview Tuesday. Sherry Fakkema has been the assistant superintendent for the past year, Schulte said, and now Fakkema wants to retire and only work part time. He's replacing Sherry, Schulte said. Petersen will be receiving the same annual salary as Fakkema received for the past year, plus the 3.7 percent cost of living allowance increase as provided for by Initiative 732, passed by voters last November.When asked the amount of the assistant superintendent's salary, Schulte did not answer that specific question. Messages left at school district offices Tuesday afternoon received no response.Peterson is coming to Oak Harbor School District from Arlington School District, which is north of Marysville, Schulte said. There, Peterson has been principal of the district's two alternative schools. Prior to taking over the principal position, Peterson was Arlington's curriculum director. Before joining the Arlington School District, he was special education director for the Fife school district.Fakkema will be heading up special programs for the district, a role she has filled in the past, concurrent with assistant superintendent duties, Schulte said. Her new title is yet to be determined.Schulte said the perception might be that a new administrative position is being created in the assistant superintendent job because the district lacked the ability to fill a number of administrative positions in the past. From 1993, when Schulte became superintendent, until last year, there was no assistant superintendent because there had been serious past budget constraints.Prior to the money shortage beginning with the 1993 budget, the district had had an assistant superintendent position filled for quite a long time, Schulte said. Schulte was assistant superintendent from 1987 to 1993. Before Schulte, Gene Medina filled the position for six or seven years, and prior to Medina, Ted Knudsen was the assistant superintendent for about another six or seven years, Schulte said.When Schulte took over as superintendent in 1993, the district had some serious budget problems, he said, so he left a number of administrative positions vacant.We didn't fill any of them because that was the status of our budget at the time, Schulte said.When the former director of elementary education left the district, Fakkema stepped into the role and was given the title of assistant superintendent. No one was hired to take the place of the former director of elementary education. In the meantime, the district office has had numerous added responsibilities, Schulte said, without adding the manpower to perform all the tasks.During the time we didn't have an assistant superintendent and didn't fill administrative jobs, there were some things left undone, Schulte said of being shorthanded. He said many new programs offered to students within the district warrant the need for the assistant superintendent position to remain filled.Since 1993, a sampling of the programs and services added for students include a program to serve the district's 32 autistic chlildren, a Life Skills program, Home Connections program, and an in-house program for behaviorally disabled children, Schulte said. Additionally, the district is also now faced with two new areas that previously didn't exist: construction and information technology. Finally, the new school lunch program is also going to require administration.It takes work, Schulte said. Just the school lunch program alone will have an annual budget of more than $1 million and will be serving about 4,000 lunches a day.That's the equivalent of nine restaurants, Schulte said to demonstrate the magnitude of the task.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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