The Chehalis School District is in good hands. New Superintendent Christine Moloney brings a wealth of experience. In these chaotic and unpredictable times, her leadership is expertly guiding CSD through the storm.
Moloney grew up in the little town of Sunnyside in Eastern Washington but spent her summers with relatives in the Puyallup valley picking berries. She also spent a year as a Rotary Exchange Student in New Zealand. It was an incredible adventure that broadened her view of the world.
While she was abroad, her parents moved the family to Puyallup, to be closer to extended family. “I came back to a totally different school,” she recalled with a laugh. Fortunately, Moloney adjusted to her new community well.
She went on to earn her Associate Degree from Pierce Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Earth Science with a teaching certificate for grades 4 – 12 from Pacific Lutheran University, with honors. “I loved the sciences and I loved history, so I went for both,” she said.
Teaching was a family tradition. “My mom was a bilingual kindergarten teacher,” Moloney said. “She taught in Central America when she was younger. I followed in her footsteps, but the real reason I became a teacher was that I had some phenomenal junior high teachers that really made a significant difference in my life. They didn’t just stand up and say, ‘Here’s your work.’ They were teachers who did simulations and archaeological digs — Lots of hands-on. I wanted to be like them because they made a difference and they made it fun.”
Moloney started her career as a substitute teacher in Franklin Pierce and Bethel School Districts. At Bethel, she had a long-term substitute position overseeing students with behavioral disorders. “It was amazing to have that experience,” she said. “There were 12 boys, myself, and two paras. I really learned from the kids and, as I was inspired by my high school teachers, I wanted to inspire them. I went to school every day with a smile on my face.”
From there, Moloney was hired for a full-time teaching position at Spanaway Junior High School. “I never thought in a million years I’d be in a junior high school,” she said with a laugh. “I thought you were off your rocker if you wanted to be in junior high, but it turned out to be amazing.”
Spanaway Junior High was the lowest-performing school in the district at the time. Moloney was part of the team that changed that. “That experience ultimately showed me I could make a difference, and it led me to believe I could make even more of a difference for kids as an administrator, “she said.
Moloney was one of only 15 Washington State educators to travel to Ghana, Africa on a Fulbright Hays Scholarship. “We spent a full summer there writing a curriculum on Ghana,” she recalled. “That was an amazing part of my journey.”
Upon her return, Moloney enrolled in City University of Seattle where she earned a Masters in Educational Leadership with a Principal Certification. Her career path continued its uphill climb from there, with a variety of new roles, responsibilities and experiences.
She became Dean of Students and Educational Specialist and then Assistant Principal at Spanaway Junior High. This was followed by Planning Assistant Principal, and then Principal at Cougar Mountain Junior High. “At Spanaway, it was all about turning the culture around, but at Cougar Mountain, we built the school from the ground up and created our own culture,” she said.
She went on to become Principal of Puyallup’s Aylen Junior High, followed by Director and Executive Director of Instructional Leadership positions. “Puyallup was fun because my grandparents had lived about three blocks from Aylen Junior High and my mother student-taught there in 1963,” she said.
“I still have her staff handbook,” she added with a smile. “It’s a great read.”
Moloney was the first graduate of City University of Seattle’s doctorate program in 2014. “My dissertation was an incredible experience,” she said.
“At the same time, I’m glad I only did it once,” she added with a laugh.
After graduation, Moloney became the Chief Academic Officer in Region 3, overseeing 7,500 kids in 10 K-12 schools. This led to the role of Region 14 Area Superintendent.
In any position, Moloney focuses on three key things: Relationships, Rigor and Relevance. “It’s purposeful that I say relationships first,” she explained. “If people don’t know you care, they don’t care what you know – and that’s especially true for students. We don’t just set the bar high; we have to have the supports and the scaffolding for students to reach it, and we have to provide tools and strategies for them to do so.”
For Moloney, “Rigor” means quality of instruction. She explained that “Relevance” means, “How does this relate to what the child wants to do in the future? What are their goals? What do they want to become? Our job is to create that relevance for that child, so when they graduate high school, they’re prepared to do whatever their goal is in life.”
In early 2020, Moloney received a call from an educational consultant, asking her to apply for the Chehalis School District Superintendent position. “I kept hearing these great things about Chehalis,” she said. “Everyone I talked to had nothing but fabulous things to say about the community, each other, and the schools.”
Moloney was excited about the opportunity. “It just felt right,” she said.
Not only did they like the area and community, but she and her husband felt that Chehalis School District was the best place for their 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. “I’m an educator but I’m also a parent,” Moloney said. “The Chehalis School District is where I want my kids. The people here are really smart and exceptionally kind. I’m excited to be part of the important work we’re doing.”
Vision for the Future
Moloney has many goals for the district. Chief among them is a student achievement initiative preparing every child for post-secondary education and beyond. “It’s very important to support our kids and provide them the tools and skills to complete their post-secondary education or training,” she said. “Career and college readiness are key.”
She is also excited to continue the good work that’s already been done in Chehalis by supporting and enhancing the current team, systems, culture and vision. “I want to make sure that our staff are supported and given the tools and resources they need so they can be the very best for our students and our children,” she said.
Moloney believes that if this is done well, it will create equitable classrooms where each child is successful, both in school and in their life and career choices. “When we prepare students for the future, that future is connected back to our community and the school district,” she said. “When we give them the best education possible, they can come back to be part of that circle of giving, which creates a very strong community.”