For a variety of reasons, Northshore School District was in turmoil in the spring of 2008. An economic recession saw declining enrollment and vast budget shortfalls, and the district was under leadership of an interim superintendent following the loss of Karen Forys to cancer the previous September.
Larry Francois, who will close out his eighth year as district superintendent on Thursday, June 30 when his contract expires, didn’t have much by way of stable footing during his first summer.
He steps aside for Dr. Michelle Reid, formerly of the South Kitsap School District, and in favor of a job with Northwest Educational Service District 189 where he will oversee several school districts in northwestern Washington.
Reid was sworn in on Tuesday, June 28, as the ninth superintendent since the Bothell and Woodinville districts merged in 1959.
In the eight years since Francois took over in June 2008, the district has seen far-reaching change.
Francois estimates around half of the staff has turned over since he was hired, and the district is in the process of instituting a handful of major initiatives in the next year.
North Creek High School, the district’s answer to leaps-and-bounds growth at unprecedented levels, is scheduled to open in fall of 2017, along with grade reconfiguration and redrawn school boundaries.
Francois will move on before the completion several the districts largest projects during his tenure.
“I will regret that I miss the opportunity to not see it all through,” he said.
The district is also looking at changes to better serve a more-diverse student population than when Francois arrived. A majority of the district’s students are Caucasian, but only around 60 percent. The district office’s close proximity to Muslim and Hindu faith centers has the district well aware of a shift in student needs.
Though the district plans to continue the process after a year collecting data from focus groups, Francois said he wished the district would have moved earlier.
Francois was also at the forefront of a move to standardize curriculum district-wide.
“When I came into the district, there was the term, ‘The 31 school districts of Northshore,'” Francois said. “Perhaps a little bit of a sense where every school did its own thing, in its own way.”
Finding a balance between the uniqueness of each school and consistent opportunity.
In his new position, Francois will oversee 35 school districts and a handful of private schools in five counties: Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom.