District makes last-minute decision to hold a meeting in Warm Springs on Jan. 6

SUSAN MATHENY - The School District 509-J returned to Warm Springs on Jan. 6 for input on the superintendent search. Above, the board last met in Warm Springs Nov. 28. From left to right are Stan Sullivan, Courtney Snead, Chairman Tom Norton, and Superintendent Rick Molitor, who announced his resignation Nov. 14. A last-minute chance for public input from Warm Springs residents, on qualities they would like to see in a new superintendent, was arranged at the Thursday, Jan. 5, meeting of the School District 509-J Board of Directors.

Warm Springs input meetings had been rescheduled, then canceled following snowstorms, which closed 509-J schools. People had the option of giving input through an online survey, but only a few were turned in.

At the Jan. 5 meeting, three women spoke, urging the board to allow more feedback from Warm Springs residents.

Gina Bluebird said her concern was, "Surveys were the only way of getting information from Warm Springs, and surveys don't work well in the Warm Springs community. What can we do to reach out more?"

Ervanna LittleEagle said, "I understand there's a timeline (for making an applicant recruiting brochure), but the views of the tribal community is really important in this process, and I hope you give them that opportunity." "We only got three Impact Aid surveys back, and many families don't have Internet. The teachers input meeting was also canceled," LittleEagle added.

Madras High School teacher Melissa Wheeler agreed with the other women's comments, and said, "I know other teachers and parents who want to be involved." She handed in a stack of student comments from her room and another teacher's room.

Consultant Steve Kelley, from the Oregon School Boards Association, who has been hired to help develop the superintendent search, submitted a calendar for the search process.

The search calendar said a recruiting brochure would be approved by Jan. 11, and applications for superintendent would be accepted from Jan. 12 through Feb. 17. The 509-J District is trying to start recruiting early, in order to get the best pool of candidates before they are hired by other districts.

Board member Laurie Danzuka said she felt, "It's definitely important we get the information (from Warm Springs)."

But Board Chairman Tom Norton noted, "It's important we stay ahead of the curve on this (candidates)," and asked Kelley, "Do you see where we could fit a meeting into the schedule?"

Brainstorming with the board, Kelley suggested that the board hold off on approving the qualifications list, and if possible, hold the Warm Springs input meetings the very next evening, on Friday, Jan. 6. That way, the Warm Springs input could be included on the final qualifications list, and it would only delay the search by one day.

The women on the Warm Springs Education Committee said they would spread the word on KWSO Radio and emails, and would try to get a turnout. The meetings were quickly rescheduled for Jan. 6, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., in the Greeley Heights community room, and 2-6:30 p.m., at the K-8 school community room.

"The board will also have to approve the final qualities and qualifications list," Kelley said, noting a special meeting would have to be held Friday, Jan. 6.

In order to accommodate the quick action, the 509-J Board members volunteered to travel to the Warm Springs K-8 Academy for the special board meeting at 7:30 p.m., Friday.

On Friday, around 25 community and staff members attended and gave their input at the two meetings in Warm Springs.

At the special meeting that evening, the list of superintendent qualities and qualifications was finalized, and approved.

Desired traits included:

. Willingness to live in the local community and be involved with activities.

. Have knowledge about rural/diverse communities, with a special emphasis on the Native American and Latino communities.

. Able to bring a diverse community, board and staff together to find solutions.

. Has knowledge of working with Native American systems, including legal requirements.

. Build trust among all.

. Have successful administrative and fiscal management experience.

. Open-minded and able to communicate and connect with diverse communities.

. Have strong professional honesty, integrity, fairness and justice.

. Is passionate about meeting the needs of kids; connects with kids; likes kids.

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