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New Arlington superintendent to upgrade standards

Dr. Kristine McDuffy, left, shakes hands with school board president Kay Duskin after being sworn in as the new superintendent of Arlington schools July 14 with board members from left, Carolyn Erickson and Bob McClure watching on. -
Dr. Kristine McDuffy, left, shakes hands with school board president Kay Duskin after being sworn in as the new superintendent of Arlington schools July 14 with board members from left, Carolyn Erickson and Bob McClure watching on.
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ARLINGTON The new superintendent of the Arlington School District is proud of her accomplishments as director of educational administration programs at Western Washington University, but she couldn't deny a tug in her heart to be back in schools.

"They asked me to help us change legislation on public education," said Dr. E. Kristine McDuffy, two days after being sworn in as superintendent of Arlington Schools on July 14.

She did that, and now she is back.

McDuffy is new to Arlington schools, but she is a Northwest Washington native through and through. She worked for the Lakewood School District for 14 years, beginning as assistant principal and finishing with five years as superintendent, from 1989 to 2003, and started as a business teacher in Shoreline. McDuffy earned her bachelor's degree from Western Washington University and a Ph.D from Seattle University. She grew up in Everett and married her high school sweetheart, a land surveyor. They have a 22-year-old son who works with his dad.

They have moved into the district from Conway.

"At Western, I redesigned the programs for training principals and superintendents. It was an exciting accomplishment."

But McDuffy missed collaborating with a community of teachers, kids and their families in the surrounding community.

McDuffy's new set of leadership standards will not only guide all educational institutions across the state, but will also help her and the students in Arlington succeed. She believes in aligning leadership standards with priorities, a common model for successful businesses.

"Basically it has to do with defining a vision and a mission and making sure everything we do contributes toward achieving those goals," McDuffy explained while sitting in her new office in the historic Roosevelt building on French Avenue with a view over the new Presidents Elementary School.

McDuffy's predecessor, Linda Byrnes said before she left that they chose McDuffy for her expertise in educational curriculum. That was the reason Byrnes had decided to retire she had accomplished her goal of upgrading facilities and now it was time to start a five-year project on a curriculum upgrade to improve the district's quality of education.

"I believe we have to establish clear standards and expectations," McDuffy said.

McDuffy was sworn in at the July 14 board of directors meeting, when she committed herself to "faithfully perform the the duties of superintendent/secretary to the Board of Directors of Arlington School District No. 16 in the County of Snohomish, State of Washington, according to the best of my ability."

She had already spent two months meeting district administrators and teachers, and the community.

"I was very lucky to have the flexibility in my previous job to start attending meetings here," she said. "Now I am ready to run. The past five years have prepared me well for this job."

Her work at WWU helped refine strategies for engaging the public in public schools.

"The days of making isolated decisions behind closed doors are long gone. We are owned by the community; we are stewards of the community's most valuable resources," she added.

That is one of her strengths that the Arlington Board of Directors liked, said the president of the board, Kay Duskin.

"We wanted someone who could continue the process of building the team among school personnel and the community," Duskin said.

"I think she has excellent people skills," Duskin added.

Indeed, McDuffy spent the past two months listening to people, asking district principals and teachers of what they are most proud.

"I believe it's very important to honor the past," McDuffy said.

As she looks toward the future, she intends to work with the board and her cabinet and leadership team to focus on the mission of improving student achievement. She will go to the teachers and staff, reviewing the district's mission, standards and expectations.

McDuffy has no intention of waiting for a new president of the nation to offer new guidelines.

"Every child every day is too important to sit and wait for the federal or state governments," she said.

"We have to raise the bar on achievement. We have to work on all ends of the spectrum of student skill levels."

For McDuffy, the 70-hour work week as superintendent is not a chore.

"I love the sporting events and the music as well as the academics," she said.

It's a joy to spend evenings watching the students perform, she said. Indeed, music is one of her family's favorite things, along with hiking and biking and kayaking and everything outdoors.

"We have a very eclectic taste in music," she said.

"I recognized a calling to make a greater impact," which set her path toward administration.

"I am thrilled and honored to be here," McDuffy said.

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