Crawford retiring, Chapel tapped to lead island schools

The Bainbridge district will see change at the top with the end of the current school year.

When Ken Crawford quietly announced his intention to retire, the school board didn’t look far for his successor.

Curriculum chief Faith Chapel will ascend to superintendent of Bainbridge public schools when Crawford steps down – or rather, sideways – at the end of this school year.

“I think you get to where you feel you’ve accomplished everything you set out to do,” said Crawford, 58, of his six years leading the Bainbridge district. “You feel like you’re at the top of your game, and you want to go out on those terms.”

He added, “Nobody on their death bed says they wish they’d worked more.”

Not that Crawford plans on leaving the planet soon, or even the district. Next July, he will assume a six-month post as “superintendent emeritus,” helping Chapel through her transition well into the 2008-09 school year.

The change in leadership was announced by the school district Tuesday. Crawford quietly approached the board in August with his desire to step down, said Mary Curtis, school board president. The board unanimously decided to tender the post to Chapel, 55, currently deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

“We know her expertise in education and her integrity,” Curtis said. “With Faith, we knew we were on solid ground. Quite frankly, we thought it would be foolish to look elsewhere when we had such a strong, strong candidate here.”

Said Chapel: “I was very surprised, and very honored, as you can imagine.”

For Crawford, retirement will mark the end of a 35-year career in public education. He began as a special education teacher and counselor in 1972, later serving as assistant superintendent of the Battle Ground School District.

He joined the Bainbridge administration in 1998, and was named superintendent in July 2002.

Crawford cited as his accomplishments stabilizing district finances, boosting reserves and improving the district’s bond rating to save money in financing capital projects.

He touted improvements in the quality of instructional materials, which he said had varied widely among schools within the district.

Crawford also said he was pleased to have improved relationships and communication within the district, instilling a new “sense of collegiality.” He credited the “good work” and support of staff in offices across the district.

Retirement will bring travel, he said, and he expects to maintain a home on Bainbridge.

Chapel joined the Bainbridge administration in 2001 as assistant superintendent for instructional services, following a directorship with Central Kitsap schools and administrative posts in suburban districts in three other states.

Chapel cited retaining and attracting top-notch teachers and staff as her principle challenge in her upcoming role as superintendent.

“It’s the people who provide the learning experience for students,” she said.

Other challenges include maintaining the district’s high academic standards, and preparing students for success in the face of rapid change and globalization.

“She could probably be a superintendent wherever she wanted to be,” Crawford said of Chapel. “She’s obviously vested in the community, and the system.”

Chapel will receive a salary of $132,000 per year as superintendent. The district has yet to decide how it will fill her current post of assistant superintendent.

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