Popularsuperintendent marks first year anniversary

Published on Thu, Jun 10, 2004 by ack Kintner

Read More News

Popular superintendent marks first year anniversary

By Jack Kintner

“Hey! Hi, Dr. Derrington,” shouted students in Bill Wright’s fifth-grade class, looking up from their assignment. They were learning how to multiply and divide fractions by baking “fraction cookies” made from recipes they’d doubled or halved. The room smelled like chocolate chips.

Derrington quickly took a seat at one of the tables to have the assignment explained to her and, of course, to eat a few of the samples. In her first year as superintendent of the Blaine school district she’s tried to be on the campus a part of every day that her duties haven’t taken her out of town.

“This way I can see what’s going on as well as eventually maybe hearing about it,” she said, “because people will talk to you informally, sharing concerns about logistics or personnel issues, and especially ask questions. If I stayed in my office I’d never get this much interaction.”

Derrington said that each teacher in the district can expect to see her at least once every other week, and principals more often than that. She also meets twice monthly with her administrators, which includes those supervising classified employees as well as principals.

Elementary school principal Deb Cummings said that Derrington’s collaborative approach was one of the best things about working in the district this year. “She’s a true people person. I’ll bet she knows all 300 school district employees by name, not just teachers or others she sees frequently.”

Derrington has the administrators reading books together. They’re currently working their way through Daniel Goleman’s “Primal Leadership,” each person in the group taking a turn leading a discussion of a chapter. “Among other benefits, that kind of thing has us all talking the same language to one another,” said Cummings.
Derrington came to Blaine having served as superintendent of the Chimacum school district for eight years, a job she enjoyed. “But I ran into a recruiter at a meeting who asked if I was ready to move, and said he had some interesting opportunities. Then you have to ask yourself if your work is done where you are, if there’s still enough challenge to keep you growing.”

She and husband Don made their first visit to Blaine without letting anyone know they were here, “to kind of check it out on our own,” she said. They will celebrate their first anniversary as Blaine residents this July 1.

Derrington said she had some main goals for the year and feels good about each. First, she knew that after a lot of funding cutbacks on the local and state level that some kind of financial stability was needed. “We can’t have it all, but we’re on track with our priorities of small class size and quality teaching,” she said. The district also completed an audit process and a federal program review this past year as well as getting its four-year levy renewed by district voters.

Her second goal was to get to know the staff and community. She did this by maintaining a strong on-campus presence, making daily visits to the school campus and to other areas, such as the bus barns and school kitchens. In the community she’s been active in the chamber of commerce and has attended a number of other functions that don’t necessarily have much to do with the schools.

A third goal has to do with her administrative approach, one she calls team-building. She sees herself as a coach, an advisor or guide. “We changed the way we look at the budget this year,” she said as an example, “where I took a Power Point presentation around to various groups of teachers, administrators and classified staff to show them what’s involved.”

The “team” she works with most integrally is the school board, two members of which are new this year. “Last year’s funding cuts provided some surprises, so we want to anticipate those in the future as much as we can,” she said, “because you can’t have everything, but what you do have can be kept strong.”