Superintendent resignation accelerates search process


South Lane School District’s search for a superintendent candidate took a turn Monday night when current Superintendent Larry Sullivan announced his resignation due to “serious health reasons related to cancer.” The announcement, made by Sullivan during executive session and later reiterated by the board in public session, means the interim superintendent’s final day will be Nov. 30.    

“It’s regretful that he’s leaving us because I believe he’s done a great job as superintendent here,” Board President Sherry Duerst-Higgins said when the board returned to regular session. “To me, this is very sad.”

The superintendent search had originally looked at a deadline of March to find a permanent replacement for Sullivan, who had initially taken the position in an interim capacity May 2018.

Following Sullivan’s resignation, the board consulted Steve Kelley, director of board development and executive searches for the Oregon School Boards Association, who was already present at the meeting.

Kelley provided the board with several options in how to proceed, including two timeline choices for the search for Sullivan’s replacement.

In choosing a temporary replacement, Kelley produced the list of desired qualities and qualifications developed during the search for an interim superintendent last year, which resulted in the selection of Sullivan.

Kelley made a distinction from the previous interim superintendent search, which looked for a candidate who could establish a solid foundation for moving forward in the wake of scandal.

“As I see it, [this candidate] is, ‘I bring you my superintendent experience and I’m going to rely on staff ... and help the board get through the next six months,’” he said.

The next interim superintendent will serve until July 1, 2020, which is when the permanent superintendent begins work.

Board members agreed that anyone taking the interim position should be ineligible from applying for the permanent position.

The board was hesitant to choose a candidate from inside the short-staffed district and Kelley told the board he could provide a list of retired superintendents by the board’s next meeting on Nov. 10.

“There’s already been a couple of names dropped,” Duerst-Higgins said in an interview on Tuesday.

Kelley and the board agreed that community input would be needed before adopting a list of qualities and qualifications desired in the new interim superintendent, one of the requirements before the board can conduct interviews in executive session.

“You could do it tonight. I think it meets the letter of the law, but I don’t think it meets the spirit of the law,” said Kelley.

After deliberation, the board voted to declare vacancy of Sullivan’s position and adopt the more expedient of the timeline choices, which would see a new interim superintendent hired on Dec. 2, and modify the date of adopting a list of interim superintendent qualities and qualifications to Nov. 11.

A special session is scheduled at the district office for next Monday, Nov. 10, at which the board invites community members to give input on a list of qualities and qualifications for the new interim superintendent.

“I also hope on Monday we can pick the list of candidates we’re going to go with,” said Duerst-Higgins.

Following the adoption of a list of qualities and qualifications, the adopted timeline calls for interviews to begin as early as Nov. 17 and a “top choice” candidate to be established by Nov. 25.

The current qualities and qualifications list for the interim superintendent follows and may be modified based on community input:

  1. Shows a genuine concern for and understanding of students and staff, focused on their success.
  2. A transparent, effective communicator who is also a passionate collaborator and team builder with respect for the district’s teacher-leaders and town’s stakeholders.
  3. Firmly committed to helping staff, parents and citizens build a district-wide and sustainable climate of trust and transparency.
  4. Understands their role as an interim and partners with the board to successfully complete the 2019-20 school year.
  5. Preferred experience:
  • Superintendent experience with like-sized school districts in Oregon
  • Not eligible for the permanent position
  • Experience as an interim superintendent, especially with school districts in crisis
  • Strong financial experience with Oregon budget laws
  1. Demonstrates a sensitivity and respect toward diverse communities in the school district while continuing to build positive relationships with everyone.
  2. Supports student success in all PK-12 academic areas and programs (including the fine and vocations arts (CTE), special education, alternative education, etc.).
  3. Demonstrates strong decision-making and problem-solving abilities; able to delegate responsibility to others; can make unpopular decision when necessary and communicate them clearly.
  4. Is approachable, accessible and listens to others with an open mind and accepts differences in opinion; has a strong “open-door” policy.
  5. Demonstrates strong personal honest, integrity, fairness and justice.

Monday’s special session meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.

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