Richland schools may get a $350,000 break. Deputy Superintendent MacTavish finds new job

The Richland School District may save up to $350,000 under a settlement agreement with its former deputy superintendent.

Nicole MacTavish has landed a job with the Reynolds School District in the suburbs of Portland as its chief academic officer.

And under her agreement with Richland, the district won’t have to pay as much because she’s found a new position.

MacTavish was on the cusp of becoming Richland’s superintendent when district leaders decided to cancel her three-year contract to lead the 13,700-student district.

As part of that deal, the district agreed to pay the difference between her salary at a new job and $258,000 during the first year.

If she had been hired as Richland’s superintendent she would have started at $181,000 annually.

But under the agreement to break the contract, the district said it would either pay her $186,000 to stay on in a different administrative role or the difference between $258,000 and her new salary at a different district.

MacTavish mug
Nicole MacTavish

In the next two years, the $258,000 drops to $250,000. If she leaves her job with the new district, she’s guaranteed $200,000, under the settlement.

While MacTavish’s exact salary with Reynolds district wasn’t available Monday, the position she filled was advertised to pay from $137,000 to $175,000.

Assuming she makes the maximum, the Richland district will still be on the hook for $233,000 over three years under the settlement.

Reynolds School District

The Reynolds School District is similar to Richland in several ways.

It has 10,800 students with two high schools, three middle schools and 11 elementary schools just outside of Portland, and includes Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village, North Gresham and East Portland.

On Aug. 28, Superintendent Danna Diaz, who was hired last year to lead that district, introduced MacTavish along with another new administrator during a school board session.

“We’re excited to have two new members of the executive team,” she said.

MacTavish will be working in similar areas to what she did in Richland for two years.

She will plan, develop and assess educational programs.

Richland departure

The agreement limited what Richland school officials can say about her departure but a Herald investigation found it came within three months of a controversial meeting over possible cuts to special education.

MacTavish was picked in 2017 and signed a contract in March 2018 to become the new superintendent.

Richland School Superintendent Rick Schulte 2017
Rick Schulte

She began to run into problems in late March, when a union president claimed the district, and MacTavish in particular, was targeting the special education program and paraeducators for large staffing cuts.

At an April meeting about the special education strategic plan, parents and school district employees criticized her for seeming “defensive” and “condescending.”

That meeting was the last one recorded where she introduced herself as Superintendent Rick Schulte’s successor.

Since the settlement announcement was made, it’s been unclear whether she found another position or would stay on with the Richland district.

Schulte agreed to stay on for another school year and expects to retire at the end of June 2020.

The Richland board is putting together a citizen’s committee and hiring a search firm to help pick his replacement.

They hope to have Schulte’s replacement in place by the end of March.

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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.