Brian Wharton recently announced he will retire at the end of the 2022-2023 school year, after serving seven years as the superintendent of Yelm Community Schools.
Wharton, who said he loves his job, will retire at the end of June. He has been involved with the school district since 2010 and has been the superintendent since July of 2016.
He told the Nisqually Valley News that he plans to step away from his position to take care of his immediate family.
“In the last six to eight months, my family situation has changed dramatically as far as support is needed. I made the decision to retire as superintendent, but I’m not going to fully retire and go into full-time vacation mode,” Wharton said. “But I have to make time to support my mom and my sister, because they’ve supported me for 38 years, and let me put my job first. Now it’s time to reciprocate that.”
Wharton said it’s a decent transition time for the district to find a new superintendent. With everything running smoothly, and the district working to return to normalcy after the pandemic, this was the right time to move on, he said.
“I love coming to work every day,” Wharton said. “I have the same energy coming to work that I’ve had for 38 years to help kids, but I’ve got to put my family first right now.”
Following his retirement, Wharton plans to stay in the Yelm area with his wife due to their deep ties in the city. He also plans to stay active by becoming involved in “small bit parts,” which include teaching at the collegiate level, helping develop administrators and superintendents, or consulting.
The hiring process to find Wharton’s eventual replacement is underway. The school board decided to hire a consultant for the process. Northwest Leadership Associates will conduct focus group interviews this week. They will take into consideration responses from a community survey based on the hiring process.
Wharton said the board is committed to publicly conducting as many parts of the hiring process as possible, but said some portions will have to be held in private. While the public will be able to voice their opinion through different options like surveys or public hearings, Wharton said the hiring decision is ultimately up to the school board.
“It’s a wide open process from a qualification standpoint,” Wharton said. “I won’t speak for the board in any way, but I’ll give you my interpretation. I know they’re looking for somebody who is going to fall in love with Yelm, if they aren’t already in love with it.”
After Wharton’s departure, Yelm Community Schools will continue to support different groups and organizations, including Graduate! Yelm. He said the schools will continue to emphasize student support and community outreach, and noted the board’s biggest goal is to maximize student achievement.
“The ability for our community to step in and do things for our kids is really incredible,” Wharton said.
Student representatives will also continue to serve on the Yelm School Board after his retirement, Wharton said. He and the school board members understand the importance of allowing students an opportunity to share their voice.
“The first time I brought up the idea of student reps, the board said no. We continued to go to the state conventions and they saw the power of the few districts that had student reps,” Wharton said. “We created a model and we’ve had an amazing run of kids who have sacrificed quite a bit to help all kids. They added the one thing that every school board needs and that’s being able to see education through the eyes of the students. It’s not our future that we’re creating, it’s theirs and they take it so seriously.”
Longtime co-worker, and the district’s Communications Director, Teri Pablo, said Wharton has always instilled a team mindset into the people he has worked with, which creates a fun work environment for school district employees.
“When Brian took the superintendent role, I felt confident because I knew who I was working with,” Pablo said. “It’s about the team, and when we came together when he started in this role, he made it clear that we were here to achieve as a team. It wasn’t any one person. I think that’s always been what he’s brought to us. Every decision we make has considered what we’re doing for our students, community and families.”
Pablo added that all the new challenges the school district faced, from student safety to COVID-19 protocols, were worked on and resolved by Wharton and his team.
Wharton also doubled down on his team mentality. He said everything that gets done at the Yelm school district office is a team effort.
“The one thing for seven years, is we’ve been successful in creating a fabric of ‘we.’ I could have all of the great ideas in the world and if we didn’t have a team, none of it would happen,” Wharton said. “There is nothing we’ve done that isn’t the collective effort of a large group of people.”
Wharton added the school district has worked hard over the last seven years to create meaningful opportunities for kids so they can show who they are and what they’re about.
“Whether that’s going to plays, clubs, activities, sports, all throughout K-12, our motto has always been to try to find a way to say yes to our students,” he said. “It gives them a sense of belonging and potentially helps them become better students.”
Wharton said he’s thankful for his time as the superintendent of Yelm Community Schools and said he loves going to work each day to create a brighter future for the students within the district.
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