She was picked to lead Richland’s schools. Now she’s being paid to leave

The person picked to lead the Richland School District into the future is gone.

The district released the details of a settlement that ended Nicole MacTavish’s employment after months of rumors that she had left. She has been absent from the district’s events and board meetings in the past few months.

“We appreciate her service and wish her well in her future endeavors,” the district said in a prepared statement.

School board members agreed recently to extend Superintendent Rick Schulte’s contract for another school year, but it’s not clear whether he plans to retire at the end of that period.

Schulte, 70, ran the Oak Harbor School District for 20 years before heading to Richland in 2013. When he took the spot, he was the third superintendent in a span of four years.

“As a veteran superintendent, Dr. Schulte has decades of experience supporting school systems through the kinds of significant budgetary, labor and instructional challenges we are facing at this time,” the district said.

“Our school district holds deep values around educating each student for success. As we look ahead to the coming year, we are focused on working together to respond to the challenges we face and meet the needs of every student in our growing community.”

As part of the settlement, Schulte, MacTavish and the school board agreed any statement to the media would be agreed by everyone.

What is she getting?

MacTavish is getting a lot of extra money and assistance to help her find other work.

First, she’s getting a $62,000 lump sum, according to the agreement.

If MacTavish can find work in another district, the agreement says the district is responsible for paying the difference between that new job’s salary and $258,000. So if she gets a job that brings in $200,000 a year, the district will pay another $58,000 within 30 days of being informed.

Then for the next two school years, if she’s working, she gets the difference between her new salary and $250,000. If she’s not working, then she gets $200,000 each year for both years.

What’s next

MacTavish was picked to take over from Schulte in a search that started in late 2016 and ended in 2017, when they settled on her to fill the role of deputy and successor superintendent.

Much of the search was done away from the public eye at the suggestion of a consultant the district hired to help with the hunt. Administrators and consultants collected comments about the qualities they wanted, and they held a series of private interviews.

MacTavish led schools in Oregon and Idaho for about five years before returning to Washington.

Her most recent stint before Richland was in Nampa, Idaho, where she started as the executive director of teaching and learning, and then moved on to become the assistant superintendent, said the district.

Before she moved into administrative roles in the early 2000s, MacTavish worked as a high school counselor and later as an English teacher.

Once she earned her principal certification in 2002, she moved into administration at middle and high schools.

Richland doesn’t have any plans to replace MacTavish, an official said. Mike Hansen will remain the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.