MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Marysville teachers, parents rally against superintendent, school board

Feb 6, 2024, 4:19 AM | Updated: 1:56 pm

Image: Marysville parents and community members rallied on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 ahead of a school b...

Marysville parents and community members rallied on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 ahead of a school board meeting set to take place. (Video capture courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Video capture courtesy of KIRO 7)

Parents in Marysville rallied and complained to the school board Monday night, expressing displeasure with Zachary Robbins, Ph.D., the current superintendent.

They claimed the district is suffering from many financial problems under his leadership and teachers, staff, parents and other members of the community are now rallying for new leadership. The school board unanimously extended Robbins as superintendent after the school board meeting.

“He’s got two years on his contract. OK, he’s got two years to get it straightened out,” one woman said at the meeting Monday. “So many people are telling you, ‘We are not happy.'”

Earlier Monday, community members spoke out about what they have been seeing in Marysville’s schools recently.

“We have questions, area parent Jalleh Hooman said to KIRO 7. “And when they’re not willing to engage in a dialogue and have a question and answer round, then I don’t know that there’s enough that they just can just prerecord and put out there that is going to answer the questions we have.”

In a press release sent out Monday and republished by KIRO 7, the school district claimed its previous $17.5 million deficit had been sliced to $5.9 million but added that “we do not have enough revenues to pay for expenditures.” The statement went on to discuss the complexities of its finances.

“School district finance is complex. As any organization operates throughout a fiscal year, the bottom line budget numbers fluctuate as revenues come in and expenditures go out, which can create confusion, especially for those not directly involved in the day-to-day financial operations of the school district.”

That didn’t sit well with at least one parent.

“So, it’s really disrespectful, in my opinion, to make it seem like we’re not smart enough to understand,” Hooman said.

This comes after the Marysville Education Association overwhelmingly voted “no confidence” in Robbins, as well as the district’s chief of finance.

“We have a superintendent that hasn’t even got his Washington State Certification,” Amy Hill, a parent in the school district, told KIRO 7. “It bothers me because it’s showing you don’t respect your community enough to just go ahead and get it.”

Previous coverage: Marysville Schools approve budget amid $18 million deficit

Image: The service center for Marysville School District

The service center for Marysville School District (Photo courtesy of Marysville School District)

Issues began to escalate in 2023

Around this time in 2022, the Marysville School Board unanimously voted to appoint Robbins, 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 district’s financial director David Cram .

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.”

More from Marysville: Police hunt for armed suspects after Marysville shootout

Other past hardships in Marysville

Financial experts within the district claimed years of declining enrollment, bargained agreements that added to the salary schedule and grants that will no longer be available from the state as just some of the reasons for the financial crisis the school district is currently in.

“(The school district) will continue to meet with labor groups now and in the future to help develop an understanding of the district’s financial status and budget,” the Marysville School District said in a prepared statement. “The board of directors understands the financial challenges facing our school district and appreciates the dedication of Superintendent Robbins not only to the success of our students but also to work through the difficult financial times that he inherited coming into the school district. We support his efforts.”

The Marysville School District has had its fair share of hardships and controversy as of late. In 2021, a group of parents called for Marysville School District leaders to resign after multiple death threats were made against students of color in two separate incidents, according to The Everett Herald. Marysville had three superintendents in operation at different points in 2021, according to The Lynnwood Times, before Robbins was voted in by the board in 2022.

Contributing: Kelly Bleyer, KIRO Newsradio; KIRO 7; Steve Coogan

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

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