Kym LeBlanc-Esparza will finish out the school year, then return to Colorado

GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - Newberg School Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza will return to her native Colorado at the end of the school year after serving for six years in the district.

Newberg School District Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza announced last week that she will step down from her position at the end of the school year so that she can move back to Colorado and support her daughter, who is about to give birth to her first child.

LeBlanc-Esparza, who succeeded Paula Radich in July 2012, had informed the school board of her intentions in October, but made her plans public for the first time in a memo sent to parents Friday afternoon.

"Through a series of scans and MRIs, we've learned there are serious medical concerns and he will likely be a child with special needs," LeBlanc-Esparza said of her grandson in the memo. "I need to return home permanently to support my daughter and her family. I am grateful for our board's support as I worked through this decision."

LeBlanc-Esprarza described her decision as bittersweet considering the progress the district has made in several priority areas, including narrowing achievement gaps, increasing the graduation rate, better meeting the needs of all students and investing in technology and professional development for teachers so as to provide "an authentic 21st century learning experience."

She will continue in her role through June and said she is committed to following through with ongoing projects, including to work with parents, teachers and staff over the coming months the district expects to cut $4.3 million from the 2018-2019 budget.

"I have the greatest amount of respect for the team of teachers, staff, parents and board members doing important work for all kids in this community. We're doing great work together and I am confident that momentum will continue."

LeBlanc-Esparza is pursuing but has not landed a superintendent position in Colorado. Last week, she was named one of three finalists for the vacancy in the Woodland Park School District near Colorado Springs. According to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette, final interviews will be held Friday and Saturday and the new superintendent is expected to be named in March.

Newberg school board chairman Bob Woodruff said the board has not formulated plans to search for a replacement, but moving forward will be open and up front about the process.

"She let us know back in the fall really that she was making a mom decision, that she needed to go support her family," Woodruff said. "We've begun discussions and we're certainly looking at what our plan is for how to replace her and find the best superintendent for the district."

Woodruff said prior to last week's board meeting that LeBlanc's departure will be a big loss, which would be reflected in the superintendent evaluation the board was set to approve at the meeting.

"I wasn't there when the board brought her on, but she's somebody who really pushes and she's really pushed the district to make progress and a lot of that has been reflected in things like our increasing graduation rate," Woodruff said. "So it will be a loss to lose her and something that we'll need to really focus on as a board, to keep that energy going, keeping the positive things moving forward."

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