As School District Wobbles Due to Future Budget Woes, School District Super Peter Bang-Knudsen Resigns for Medical Reasons

Parents of Bainbridge public school students received a bit of a jolt over the Christmas holiday season when Schools Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen announced that he is taking a medical leave of absence for the remainder of the school year, and has submitted his full resignation effective June 30, 2024.

Peter Bang-Knudsen - image credit - Kitsap Sun
Peter Bang-Knudsen – image credit Kitsap Sun

Bang-Knudsen has been on the job since 2016 and his decision comes on the heels of district-wide discussions over the potential closure of schools due to significant budget cuts for the upcoming 2024-25 school year. Due to decreasing enrollment and increasing costs, the district is anticipating having to reduce its expenditures by $3.5 million-$4.5 million in the next school year.

As a potential cost-savings approach, the Bainbridge school board is discussing three options: 1) close Ordway Elementary School and Commodore Options School; 2) close one of those two schools; 3) close Commodore only. The school district has some 640 fewer students enrolled than it did at its enrollment high-point a decade or so ago. The board is receiving input from the community and parent-teacher organizations while it weighs the options now on the table.

Meanwhile, to fill Bang-Knudsen’s role, the school board appointed Assistant Superintendent Amii Thompson as BISD’s Acting Superintendent. Thompson will serve in an interim capacity until this time next year before the board begins a search for a permanent replacement for Bang-Knudsen.

“After extensive consultation and personal contemplation, I am writing to inform the community of my need to take an extended medical leave,” Bang-Knudsen said in a prepared statement available on the district’s web site. “As a consequence, I will be resigning my position as Superintendent. This has been a very difficult decision, and I came to this conclusion by balancing my long-term well-being with the needs of our district to have strong, stable leadership at this time when there is extensive, important, and difficult work to be done,” he said.

“It has been my great honor to serve as the Bainbridge Island School District‘s superintendent for the past eight years,” he added. “I am thankful for our impressive administrative team, skilled educators, and the dedicated staff that work every day to honor and nurture the unique skills, talents, and passions of every student.”

“I am also thankful for our Board of Directors who supported me, and worked with me as a team, to support the success of our students and staff.  The hard work and dedication of the School Board is an example of community service that truly serves our community, and our students.”

Amii Thompson - image credit Bainbridge Island Review
Amii Thompson – image credit Bainbridge Island Review

Thompson has worked at BISD for more than 20 years in a variety of roles, including Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for Elementary, principal of x̌alilc Elementary (formerly Wilkes Elementary) and taught first and second grades. “Relationship-building is at the core of her work and her student-focused leadership is in alignment with our District Improvement Plan,” the board said in a prepared statement. “The board is grateful for Amii’s willingness to step in and we have the utmost confidence in her.

“The board has decided to wait until around this time next year to begin the hiring process for a permanent superintendent. The superintendent search process is time-intensive and a key aspect of the process is receiving input from students, staff and the community. Given all that BISD is facing for the remainder of the school year, we do not feel we have the collective capacity to run a meaningful search,” the board said. “As such, Amii will continue as acting superintendent through the 2024-25 school year. Amii is ready to hit the ground running once school resumes in January.

Peter Bang-Knudsen with students - image credit - BISD website
Peter Bang-Knudsen with students – image credit BISD website

“I recognize this is a lot to process,” Board President Mark Emerson said. “This news adds a layer of complexity to the magnitude of work BISD is doing to address the anticipated budget shortfall for the 2024-25 school year and to educate the Bainbridge community on the two BISD ballot measures in February. However, I believe in BISD’s leadership team and its ability to continue this necessary and important work. The Board of Directors is also committed to doing our part and helping out when and where we can.”

“It is my greatest hope that the entire BISD community can unite to solve the budget challenges at hand. We are a smart, talented and creative community that strongly believes in our schools. With that said, I ask that you approach BISD administrators from a place of collaboration, kindness, and the understanding that they are working countless hours to set BISD on a fiscally stable path. No one (including the school board) wants to be in this situation, but here we are. Our duty to our students is of the utmost importance and it is imperative that we work together for the longevity of our district,” Emerson added.

“Your voice matters and we know that your questions and messages regarding school consolidation/closure come from a place of wanting the best for our students, staff and our district,” he further noted. “Amii is committed to leading a thorough process that engages all stakeholder groups as we navigate a collective path forward. She will send out a separate communication in the coming weeks that outlines this process in more detail.”

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