Bremerton School District Superintendent Aaron Leavell announced on Thursday that he will be leaving his post at the end of the school year to become the superintendent of Olympic Educational Service District 114.
Leavell sent an email announcement to the school community Thursday, saying that he will take the position, which is based in Bremerton and serves as a liaison between the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and schools in the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas.
“In this position, I will have the opportunity to lead the superintendents in our region and continue the high quality of support services that the OESD provides to local school districts, tribal and private schools. I am honored to have this opportunity and to lead such a strong organization,” Leavell said in the announcement.
Leavell will take the position from departing OESD superintendent Greg Lynch, who himself left the helm of the Central Kitsap School District in 2013 to take on the job.
Lynch said Leavell “is an excellent choice for many, many different reasons,” citing his longevity of working as a school administrator in Kitsap County for the last two decades. “He understands the challenges in the Bremerton School District and the school districts across the region.”
Leavell currently serves as the president of the Washington Association of School Administrators, which is an association supporting school leaders across the state. Having those connections will also help him in the job, Lynch said.
“We’re fortunate to have Aaron,” he added.
For his part, Lynch said that he’s thinking about his next steps after departing OESD at the end of June. He is currently the commissioner of the state’s Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission and has been in that role since being appointed by former Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Started in the district in 1997
Leavell has been superintendent of the Bremerton School District for nine years. He started as a teacher in the district in 1997 and worked his way up in administrative positions. Leavell spent three years as secondary education director for the North Kitsap School District before returning to Bremerton as assistant superintendent in 2012.
During his tenure, the school district’s voters have passed levies, including capital levies in 2019 and again this month that funded building improvements and will go toward a school and community multi-use fitness complex at Mountain View Middle School. In 2018, the district finally demolished the derelict old East High School on Wheaton Way while preserving and refurbishing the old gym on the property. Bremerton High’s performing arts center got an $800,000 update.
During his administration, the district debuted a “Grow Your Own Teacher” academy program that aims to launch the careers of Bremerton High students with an interest in education into the profession in hopes that they’ll come back to work in the district after college.
Also while Leavell’s been in charge, the district has been involved in an extensive legal battle with former assistant football coach Joe Kennedy, who sued the school district after he was ordered in 2015 to stop praying on the field after games. The school district won the case in federal court, but Kennedy appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his case this term.
In another court case during Leavell’s tenure, a federal jury in 2021 sided with a former Bremerton School District special education teacher who sued the district, alleging that in 2017 she was injured after being locked in a classroom with a 7-year-old student with autism who was known to be violent. The jury awarded her $546,000.
‘Instrumental’ to the district
Alyson Rotter, president of the Bremerton School Board, lauded the work Leavell has done in his time with the school district.
“He’s been so instrumental in the time he’s been here,” Rotter said, highlighting Leavell’s work in developing the “We Are Bremerton Model,” which was developed with national experts as a model for supporting school district staff, students and families.
Rotter said the board would meet in executive session in the coming days to discuss the district’s next steps for finding a leader and then have more information for the community at its upcoming meeting next week. She said that the discussion could include the possibility of appointing an interim leader.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult this time of year to find candidates,” she said.
Rotter said that she was grateful Leavell wasn’t going far.
“We’re just very fortunate that he’s still going to be in our community,” she said. “Our district will still benefit.”
Leavell was born in Bremerton and raised in Central Kitsap, graduating in 1990 from Central Kitsap High School. He joined the district in 1997 as a social studies teacher and coach at Bremerton Junior High School. In 2004, he became assistant principal of Bremerton High School and a year later, its principal. His peers voted him Washington State Principal of the Year in 2009.
“The past twenty-four years of service have been the best years of my life and I am eternally grateful to the Bremerton School District board of directors, staff, and families,” Leavell said in the announcement. “My family and I will continue to live in Bremerton and be active in the community we love.”
Kitsap Sun archives contributed to this report.
Kimberly Rubenstein is the local news editor of the Kitsap Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com or 360-792-5263. Support coverage of local news by signing up today for a digital subscription.