Puyallup’s school leader will retire
CHRISTIAN HILL; Staff writer
Puyallup Schools Superintendent Tony Apostle announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the upcoming school year, ending a 22-year career with the district, including eight as its top executive.
His pending departure means Pierce County’s two largest school districts are seeking new leaders. Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Art Jarvis announced in June that he would step down at the end of the 2011-12 school year.
Apostle, 60, didn’t provide a reason for his retirement in a letter he sent school directors notifying them of the decision, which comes just a month after he received a positive annual job evaluation. The board recently extended his contract through the 2013-14 school year. He declined for a third consecutive year an increase to his $201,400 annual base salary.
He wrote it was his privilege to work with dedicated and skilled employees. A district spokeswoman said he was unavailable for comment Thursday evening.
“Our schools are stronger today than they have ever been,” Apostle wrote. “We have improved every important aspect of our school system. Most importantly in these economically challenging times, the District is on a sound financial footing that has been achieved without sacrificing classroom excellence.”
Among the initiatives Apostle said he will focus on before his departure is improving the counseling program and reconfiguring grade levels.
Board members said his announcement wasn’t too surprising because Apostle had signaled for about a year that he was mulling retirement. Board President Cindy Poysnick said he didn’t give a specific reason for his departure but she said it could be to spend more time with family or pursue other opportunities.
She credited Apostle for avoiding the deep cuts being felt in other districts.
“It’s certainly going to be a loss for the community and the local education community that he is so respected by,” she said.
Poysnick said school directors will begin their search for his successor immediately, even with the potential of a new board majority being elected in November. Poysnick and another school director, Diana Seeley, are stepping down, and a third is facing a challenger.
“It could be very interesting,” Poysnick said. “But it’s within our realm to start the process, not drag our feet, because it is hard work.”
She indicated it would be a national search.
The president of the Puyallup teachers union was unavailable for comment Thursday evening.
In addition to Apostle’s budget decisions, board members praised his community involvement and leadership in student achievement.
“Bottom line, he did good things for kids,” Seeley said. She said after Apostle broke the news Thursday afternoon to administrators and principals, they gave him a standing ovation.
The last school year did wind down with controversy, however, over the job status of the Rogers High School principal. Scott Brittain was placed on leave while officials investigated accusations that he ignored administrators’ orders; he resigned at the end of the school year.
About 500 people packed a board meeting in May; several parents and students supported Brittain and criticized Apostle and the board.
Klaus Snyder, who is running for the school board in November, said Apostle “read the tea leaves” and realized his actions in the last year turned off some supporters, including his work on reconfiguring grade levels and the handling of Brittain’s discipline.
“I think he realized it was time to move on and that a lot of people in this district will look forward to some new leadership and a new direction for the Puyallup School District,” he said.
The Puyallup School District is the ninth largest in the state with more than 21,500 students. It has four high schools – including an alternative high school, seven junior high schools and 21 elementary schools.
Apostle came to Puyallup in 1990 as assistant to the superintendent and rose through the administrative ranks.
His South Sound roots run deep, having graduated from Wilson High School in Tacoma and beginning his career as an English teacher at Lakes and Clover Park high schools in 1974.
His wife Lori teaches third grade at Meeker Elementary School.
Apostle will stick around long enough to give a diploma to his youngest daughter who graduates next year from Puyallup High School. His other child graduated from the same school in June.
“One of my great pleasures during my tenure in Puyallup has been watching my two daughters’ progression through our schools,” he wrote in his letter.
Christian Hill: 253-274-7390 email@example.com