Marysville school board president steps down amid turbulent period for school district

MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Originally posted at MyNorthwest.com

The Marysville school board president has decided to step down just days after the human resources director resigned, continuing the turmoil-riddled saga within the Marysville School District.

Wade Rinehardt, who was elected as the school board president in 2021, has left his post. According to The Everett Herald, the decision — announced by Board Vice President Connor Krebbs at Monday’s board meeting — was met with applause by both parents and staff.

The district is currently facing a $17 million budget hole, with the board voting to shut down several schools in response.

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Earlier this month, Lisa Gonzales, the district’s finance director, called for the school board to place both the superintendent and head of Human Resources (HR) on leave.

“On May 30, I prepared and sent a 78-page document to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction regarding the need for an external investigation regarding falsifications, violations of the law, cronyism and a hostile work environment that is most prevalent with top leadership and HR directed to other executive directors, directors, legal counsel and other support staff specifically at the service center,” Gonzales wrote in a letter for the school board, obtained by The Everett Herald.

Gonzales was placed on administrative leave the following day — May 31. According to Gonzales, there was “no explanation” for the decision.

Once the school board decided it would open an investigation into Gonzales’ accusations, which can be seen in full here, Alvin Cooper, the head of HR, resigned without explanation. This decision came less than two weeks after Gonzalez specifically named him, among others, in her letter about district mismanagement. Rinehardt soon followed with his own departure.

Background on Marysville School District financial issues

In 2022, the Marysville School Board unanimously voted to appoint Zachary Robbins, Ph.D., previously a principal for Cheyenne High School in Las Vegas, as the district’s superintendent. According to the Everett Herald, community feedback collected during the superintendent finalists’ visit to Marysville suggested Robbins exceeded people’s expectations.

But just a year into the job, issues began to escalate when the district initially reported that significant budget shortfall of over $17 million. To fix the problem, all middle school sports were eliminated for the 2023-2024 school year. Forty-five teachers and administrators were also laid off to alleviate the shortfall.

The Marysville School District created a levy, urging voters to pass it, that would raise approximately $108 million over four years for the district and its staff.

“This is the most critical levy in the city’s, Marysville and Tulalip community’s history,” Robbins told The Lynnwood Times in February 2023.

But the levy failed to pass, which meant more budget cuts. Class sizes grew with fewer staff members, early learning programs were cut, available technology was decreased in classrooms and health support programs were limited in response, according to the district’s previous financial director, David Cram.

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More cuts were proposed as late as November of last year, including closing, consolidating or combining schools, getting rid of sports in the spring, closing schools’ pools, getting rid of librarians, not using paper in certain schools, not going on field trips and eliminating more jobs in the district.

“We are committed to collaborating to explore all options and propose constructive solutions to address these challenges,” Robbins said. “We believe, together, we can ensure a strong financial future for our school district and continue providing a quality education for all students.”

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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