School board votes to start superintendent search

The South Lane School Board voted on Monday, Feb. 19 to begin a search for an interim superintendent who would be in place by July 1, a search for a permanent superintendent to begin work by July 1, 2019 and re-affirmed Kyle Tucker as acting superintendent through June 30 of this year.

The work session, lead by Oregon School Board’s Association (OSBA) Director of Board Development Steve Kelley outlined a training session as well as a discussion surrounding the search for a new superintendent.

“Can you run a search this late in the year? Yes you can. Have I run searches this late in the year? Yes,” Kelley said. “My recommendation to you is, don’t rush it. You really don’t have enough time.”

At least two superintendent searches are underway in the state of Oregon for districts comparable in size to South Lane—Crook County and Scappoose. Other districts including Forest Grove, Reynolds, Oakridge, Klamath County and Reedsport are also searching for superintendents. According to OSBA, the ideal time to close a search for a superintendent position is in February.

Kelley informed the board that current applicant pools for superintendent positions were not “very deep” and directed the board to decide whether or not to launch a search for an interim or permanent superintendent.

Board member Merlene Martin asked Kelley if the attention surrounding superintendent Krista Parent’s pending retirement would affect the applicants for the position.

“It will,” Kelley said. “I’ll be blunt, it will.”

The school board reached an agreement with Parent earlier this year outing her retirement from the district on June 30, 2018. The move came after a complaint was filed regarding a personal relationship between Parent and a district employee. A subsequent investigation determined that Parent had not violated school or state policy. In August, an anonymous letter was given to the school board in support of Parent and a handwriting analysis funded by the same resident who filed the initial complaint, concluded that Parent likely wrote the letter. District staff, including 110 employees and 17 administrators, spoke out in varying degrees asking the district to investigate the letter.

Kelley noted that “putting time” between Parent’s retirement and the search for a permanent superintendent would be beneficial to the district.

“People have shared with me that the experience we have gone through, some people are referring to the last few months, I refer to it as the last several years in this district,” board member Jerry Settelmeyer said Monday night. “The concern that has been shared is the culture of the district was led by our former, by our superintendent. That culture includes Brian (McCasline) sitting there, Chad (Hamilton) sitting there, Garrett (Bridgens) not sitting there and Kyle (Tucker) sitting here and everybody else in the district that has been present and has lived through what’s going on so that superintendent is not sitting with us tonight but all the rest of the district is sitting with us.” Settelmeyer went on to clarify that he supported staff but felt the board had “healing” to do in the district.

The word ‘healing’ was mentioned eight times in the first 30 minutes of the meeting Monday night with Kelley informing the board it could include a desire for candidates to take the need into account when searching for a new superintendent.

In two separate timelines, Kelley presented search options to the board. One option would allow the board to search internally before reaching out to external candidates while the other option focused on garnering candidates from both inside and outside the district in one process. Both the board and Kelley expressed the complications of navigating the process without offending current acting superintendent Tucker as well as the importance of involving the district staff. 

In a timeline the board described as “aggressive,” qualifications and qualities for candidates would be approved at the board’s March 5 meeting with input from district staff and community members. Reviews of applicants and interviews would take place during executive sessions and, because the board has three budget meetings scheduled in May, a final decision on an interim superintendent would be made by the end of April or beginning of May.

Settelmeyer made three separate motions to search for an interim superintendent with assistance from OSBA at an approximate hourly rate of $120, initiate a search for a permanent superintendent and re-affirm Tucker as acting superintendent. The district has to complete a Request for Proposal to obtain a firm to conduct the permanent superintendent search. For the service, OSBA charged $8,750.

While Oregon law defines the work session as a public meeting, the board did not take notes for the first 58 minutes of the meeting. When asked by Settelmeyer if the board needed to take minutes, Kelley affirmed that it did under public meetings law.

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