University Place schools chief announces retirement

Patti Banks
Patti Banks

Pierce County’s longest-serving public school superintendent will retire at the end of the school year. University Place Superintendent Patti Banks announced her departure at a district-wide staff meeting Wednesday.

Showing appreciation for Banks’ 18-year tenure, staff responded with a standing ovation.

“When you’re a small district you really can develop relationships with people,” school board vice chairman Rick Maloney said in an interview Friday. “They feel like they really know the superintendent.”

Maloney and board president Mary Lu Dickinson were there in 1997 when Banks was promoted from her position as human resources director.

Since then, Banks has helped increase student achievement, including among minority and low-income students.

The suburban district of roughly 5,600 students has had “remarkable progress” in closing the achievement gap among these demographics, Banks said.

This year’s new Smarter Balanced tests show that UP’s third- through eighth-graders scored 10 to 20 percentage points above the state average in English and math.

She said helping children succeed is her proudest accomplishment and something that couldn’t be done without the collaboration of staff and the community.

“I will miss the people of my school district,” Banks said Friday. “They are close to me.”

But after nearly two decades of having life revolve around the time constraints of a school year, Banks said she’s ready to shift focus to family.

The 65-year-old is ready to travel with her husband and spend more time with her two granddaughters, she said.

Banks made her announcement at the start of what will be her 19th school year to give the School Board time to find a replacement.

The board has scheduled three meetings for district staff and the community to offer input on a future leader.

The first meeting is set for Wednesday and is targeted at UP schools staff, although the public is welcome. A community meeting will be held Sept. 16. People can also comment during the board’s regular meeting Sept. 23. All meetings will be held in the Curtis Junior High School cafeteria from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

“We’ve got a strategic direction in terms of policy and strategic planning, so we don’t want to start from scratch,” Maloney said. But this is a good time to revisit with the community to hear where people want the district to go, he said.

The School Board doesn’t have a timeframe for when a new superintendent could be hired.

“We just want to do some listening first,” Maloney said.