It was approximately 25 years ago, while I was working for the Whidbey News-Times as a reporter, that Rick Schulte came to Oak Harbor schools as assistant superintendent.
That was in 1987. I had just graduated from Western Washington University and started my job at the newspaper late that summer.
Schulte was named superintendent in 1993, toward the end of my first stint at the News-Times. He succeeded Roger Woehl.
On the occasions I covered Oak Harbor schools, I had the opportunity to interview Schulte and always found him personable, low-key, engaging and transparent about what has happening in the district at any particular time.
It seems I have returned to Whidbey in time to see Schulte step down as superintendent.
Schulte, 64, is among the top three candidates for superintendent in Richland, Wash., a larger school district. If he is gets that job, Schulte will be moving on after this school year ends. If he doesn’t get the job in Richland, Schulte said he will leave at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
After I ended my first stint at the News-Times, I had the pleasure of working for a couple of years as a contract employee producing the school district’s quarterly newsletter. I would meet with Schulte to plan for each newsletter. I enjoyed working for him as much as I enjoyed working with him. He was supportive and fair.
During Schulte’s tenure, Oak Harbor has passed levies, built new schools, created a school of choice, relocated the school district administration offices, built impressive new bleachers and transformed Oak Harbor High School into a facility with offerings that rival a community college.
Currently, he is steering the district through a dismal economic slump.
Schulte said his experience overseeing school construction projects seemed to be of particular interest to the Richland School District. That makes sense.
Schulte’s recommendation of Oak Harbor Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon as his successor is certainly an endorsement the school board should seriously consider.
“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,” Schulte said.
“No matter who might interview for the position, There is no one we know better and have more faith in than Lance.”
Whomever the Oak Harbor School Board names superintendent, he or she will have big shoes to fill. Schulte has served the Oak Harbor School District well, and his legacy of leadership will be long remembered and appreciated.
• Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher for the Whidbey News-Times. You can email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org