Set to resign on June 30, Valley Superintendent Dr. Mark Selle will leave behind a much larger and more diverse district than the one that hired him 14 years ago.
Since July 1999, Selle increased the Valley School District’s total enrollment through expansion of new and innovative programs to more fully serve all families in the district. In the first seven years enrollment increased by 237 percent (with a 17 percent increase in traditional enrollment although there was 0 percent population growth).
The district expanded to teach children one month of age to high school students through major programs Selle spearheaded during his time as superintendent like Columbia Virtual Academy (2006), Paideia High School (2010), and the Valley Early Learning Center (2012). The district also formed the VL Transport with Loon Lake School District that now partners with 10 other public entities.
Additionally, in 2005, Selle helped lead the campaign to pass a $4 million bond levy that lead to a $12 capital project to expand and modernize the Valley School and build the new CVA building, among making other district-wide facility improvements.
“I am a builder, that is who I am; I am an entrepreneur, I make things grow,” said Selle, a doctor in Educational Leadership.
As the part-time superintendent at Orient School District for the past eight years and former Kettle Falls middle school principal, Selle has over 24 years experience in leading successful campaigns for passing multiple bonds and levies at Kettle Falls, Orient, and Valley school districts.
Selle said his greatest achievement regarding facility improvement in Valley was modernizing and expanding the entire Valley School. He also said he believes adding the gym, although it was a large expense, helped pass the bond with the highest approval rate for any Valley levy at 77 percent.
“We had the worst gym in the league and now we have the best,” Selle said.
Overall, Selle said a most significant accomplishment while serving at Valley is his success in forming collaborations with many school districts and public entities across the region that have allowed them to offer improved services to the greater public by pooling resources, and saving taxpayer dollars at the same time.
“I am most proud of finding ways for public school districts to cooperate together instead of compete,” Selle said.
CVA is a co-op of 14 different public institutions, and Paideia High School is a collaborative high school between five non-high districts. Paideia will be graduating its first seniors in June.
However, in the recent years, Selle has faced challenges as superintendent as state and federal regulations continue to escalate.
“It is a challenge trying to maintain local vision of what education ought to be in midst of state regulation and increasing federal legislation,” Selle said. “As an entrepreneur and always thinking outside the box to be innovative, the regulations are stifling.”
Despite its growth over so many years, VSD had a Reduction in Force for over 35 positions in Spring of 2012 due to changes in legislation of how the alternative learning programs are funded and the lack of support from state legislation. In result, the district eliminated Community-Based Instruction and projected a 50 percent decline in enrollment for CVA-Valley, although enrollment was higher than expected and many positions were brought back for the next school year.
Then in the fall of 2012, VSD faced three findings during its Washington State Accountability audit for Sept. 2009 to August 2011 although Selle and the district have tried to dispute all three claims.
Selle said he believes public education policy is going the wrong direction and wants to make a difference from the outside of the school district walls, working closely with legislators on fighting for kind of education parents most desire for their children.
“I will continue to develop myself as a writer and speaker with a focus on education and what I believe education ought to be,” Selle said.
“My passion for education will not go away,” he added.
After Selle announced his resignation, the Valley School Board of Directors appointed current Chief Operations Officer Dennis Killmer as interim superintendent for the next year whom Selle is confident will carry on the vision of the district well.
He also plans to help the district in any capacity possible.
“The Valley community is fantastic,” he said. “I will continue to be here and be a part of it.”
Selle will also remain with Orient School District at least one more school year because he did not want to leave Orient “high and dry” being such a small district with limited resources, giving them more time to transition.
Before Valley School District, Selle was the principal and superintendent intern at Kettle Falls School District from July 1996 to June 1999. Before that, he was the was the president of Achieve Educational Services in Edmonds, WA that governed a Private K-12 school, tutoring services and SAT Test Preparation Program.
Selle has a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and Philosophy from Gonzaga University, a Masters in Education in Educational Leadership from Seattle Pacific University where he also earned his principal certificate, received his superintendent certification from WSU in 1999 and Ph.D. in Educational Leadership in 2004, also from WSU.
Selle, married to fellow educator Angela Jackson-Selle and father of seven, is originally from Newman Lake.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: Mark Sells speaks at a past new building dedication on the Valley district campus.