Members of the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors told the community this week that the decision to part ways with Lance Gibbon as superintendent was due to his lack of focus on teaching and learning.
Before working for Snoqualmie Valley, Gibbon served 14 years in the Oak Harbor district, including eight as superintendent. He left Oak Harbor as superintendent at the end of the 2021 school year.
The Snoqualmie school board’s reasoning came in a scathing 640-word letter sent out to district families where the school board offered mostly vague insights into its sudden decision to terminate Gibbon mid-way through the school year.
“This had nothing to do with someone stepping on someone’s turf or a coup,” Board President Melissa Johnson said at a meeting Thursday. “This was not a good fit for our district and not a good fit for achieving our mission and vision — and teaching and learning.”
The letter, signed by Johnson on behalf of the board, comes after Gibbon was placed on leave in September. His official separation came last month, less than two years after he was hired.
Concerns arose immediately with Gibbon’s leadership skills, the letter says, “particularly his perceived focus on matters of his public persona rather than attending to the substance of teaching and learning.”
A lack of focus on “teaching and learning” was referenced twice in the letter as a reason for Gibbon’s dismissal. School board members reiterated that reasoning again at a board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 8.
Board members also pushed back against claims that their decision to fire Gibbon, who has a background in music education, was over a difference in support for art, music and sports programs.
“That is absolutely unrelated to this,” said Carolyn Simpson, another board member. “Dr. Gibbon was not as focused on teaching and learning as we would have expected a superintendent to be,” she said.
Both Johnson and a district spokesperson declined to make additional comments to the Snoqualmie Valley Record.
The letter goes on to say that Gibbon demonstrated a lack of engagement with district leadership. The board said it was concerned his actions would lead to a significant loss of staff, if not addressed. Board members said the situation with Gibbon continued to worsen, even following a mid-year performance review.
A settlement was reached, according to the letter, with Gibbon officially leaving the district on Nov. 15.
The need for a settlement and quick departure, the letter said, “speaks to the seriousness of our concerns about the amount of damage we felt that Dr. Gibbon could have done had he been allowed to stay.”
Gibbon took over as the superintendent of Snoqualmie Valley School District just months prior to the 2021-2022 school year, overseeing the return to in-person learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic. He replaced a retiring Rob Manahan, who served three years before stepping down for health reasons.
Prior to his time at SVSD, Gibbon had nearly 30 years of experience working in education.
In an email to the Snoqualmie Valley Record, Gibbon said while he respects the board’s right to choose its own leadership, he noted it was “disappointing that the Board chose to resort to allegations and personal issues” after they had “already reached an agreement for an amicable separation.”
Gibbon said it is not unusual for superintendents and school boards to have differences in philosophies, acknowledging his priorities and style were not in line with what the board wanted. He said it is best for him to move on and not be a distraction to the district or its students.
He went on to say it was a privilege to serve the students, staff and families in the Snoqualmie Valley, calling the work he has done consistent with his well-document track record in public education.
“I will always value the relationships and accomplishments we made during my time as superintendent in Snoqualmie Valley. I’m grateful for the many people who have reached out to me with messages of support and encouragement during this difficult time,” he said. “This is a special community and I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of it.”
Gibbon was recruited through a nationwide hiring process, which Board Vice President Geoff Doy said Thursday was thorough, despite being done virtually during the pandemic. While Gibbon did not meet the board’s standards, Doy said, the choice to hire him initially received universal support.