Kelly Shea hadn’t spent much time on the Olympic Peninsula in the past three decades.
Now — at least for the foreseeable future — he and his family can call it home.
The Sequim School Board of Directors on Friday unanimously voted to offer Shea the position of superintendent, the top administrative position in the district.
On Monday night the board approved a contract that will pay Shea about $130,000 annually, Sequim School board president Sarah Bedinger said. The contract is for three years but is renewed each year at the board’s discretion.
Shea, executive director of Human Services with the Mead School District in Spokane, succeeds Bill Bentley, Sequim schools superintendent for the past five years.
Bentley steps down from the role at the end of June.
“I’m not really a team player, but he makes me want to be on a team with him,” Bedinger said, moments after announcing the board’s selection Friday afternoon.
“There are things you can’t teach (and) so many things have to be done. How do you set the culture to move forward? You can’t do that without the right leader.”
School board directors picked Shea from a finalist group of four, each of whom made daylong campus visits last week.
Other candidates included: Robert Kuehl, assistant superintendent with the Tumwater School District; Mellody Matthes, assistant superintendent with the Tukwila School District; and Robert Maxwell, executive director of Special Programs with the Bethel School District.
“What stood out about Kelly,” board director Virginia O’Neil said, “was his passion for students and the innovation of his mind. I think he can take us from good to great.”
Board director John Bridge said he was impressed with Shea from the start.
“The first thing I wrote down on my comment sheet was, ‘Wow!’ (It was) his energy and the way he looks you in the eye,” Bridge said. “This guy’s a leader. What really stands out is you see that (connection) with all of the staff. That’s what we asked them to do, is lead all of the staff.”
Shea said his drive to become a superintendent of a public school district has been in the works for the better part of seven years.
Shea has five years of school district administrative experience after nine years working as a principal or assistant principal. An elementary school teacher in Spokane for 11 years, he worked as an elementary school principal for the Mead (1998-2004) and Central Valley (2004-2007) school districts before his current job as executive director of human services.
As a youth, Shea worked for three consecutive summers on his uncle’s farm in Sequim. Among his jobs were replacing irrigation ditch pipes. He earned his driver’s license in Sequim and learned to golf at what then was the Dungeness Golf Course (now The Cedars at Dungeness).
“It’s really about a family decision,” Shea said. “Both my kids are heading off to college next year. My wife and I can do anything we want to do. My wife wants to be near the ocean and I’m partial to the mountains. Sequim’s got the best of both worlds.”
Shea said he did plenty of research about Sequim’s school district, noticing both the district’s strengths and areas of possible growth.
“I see great potential,” he said.
Shea’s own educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from Whitworth University in 1986, a Master of Arts degree in teaching reading from Whitworth in 1994, a P-9 Principal Certification from Whitworth in 1998 and his Washington state superintendent certification from Washington State University in 2008.
Mead district boundaries include the northeast section of Spokane and outlying communities. The district’s 575 teachers serve about 9,500 students in 12 buildings.