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School board tabs Lake Oswego assistant superintendent Joe Morelock to lead district in 2018-2019

PHOTO COURTESY OF NEWBERG SCHOOL DISTRICT - The Newberg School District board of directors chose Joe Morelock as interim superintendent during a meeting held Thursday evening.

Just over a week after its own assistant superintendent, Dave Parker, agreed to be Forest Grove's next top administrator, the Newberg School District board of directors hired Lake Oswego assistant superintendent Joe Morelock to be the district's interim leader for the 2018-2019 school year.

Morelock, who has been assistant superintendent for academics and student programs at the Lake Oswego School District for the past four years and previously served as director of technology for the Canby School District, was approved by the Newberg board at a special session Thursday evening,

"Newberg has always been known for its incredibly supportive community and the quality of its schools," he said. "I am honored to serve the Newberg public schools as interim superintendent and look forward to meeting the staff and community to work together on building a bright future for our students."

Morelock holds a doctorate in education from Portland State University, a master's degree in teaching from Pacific University and earned his bachelor's degree in world languages from Lewis and Clark College. According to a release from the district, he has spent 25 years in public education, is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and has experience "working with culturally, academically and economically diverse students and families."

The school board, which was briefly down to six directors following the resignation of Debbie Hawblitzel at the conclusion of the May 8 meeting, voted unanimously to hire Morelock, who will replace outgoing Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza on July 1.

The board also appointed Lydia Keuler to replace Hawblitzel and represent Zone 7 through June 30, 2019. According to board member Melinda Van Bossuyt, Keuler was one of two applicants interviewed for the position. She will be sworn in at the May 22 board meeting.

"They were both terrific," Van Bossuyt said. "She's been attending budget committee meetings, so she's been around watching things going on and to learn."

The board had originally scheduled the special meeting Thursday to conduct interviews with potential replacements for Hawblitzel, but also took the opportunity to move on the superintendent hire.

"Joe brings a wealth of skills and experience that will benefit the school district," said school board chairman Bob Woodruff. "His personality and passion for education is a great fit for Newberg. I'm pleased to have Joe at the helm supporting out students, teachers and staff."

According to board secretary Gregg Koskela, the board received more than 10 applications for the interim position and interviewed four candidates.

"For an interim search, I felt it was very good, very thorough," Van Bossuyt said. "And I"ve done a few of these now, so I feel really good about it."

Parker did apply and was interviewed, but afterward told the board that he couldn't move forward until Forest Grove completed its process, which it did by announcing his hire on May 2.

"Personally, I would have been thrilled if he was going to stay," Van Bossuyt said. "He has to do what he needs to do for his career and I'm thrilled for him because he is such a terrific guy. He was a great leader in our district with the work he did, so I'm really tickled he got a permanent superintendent position of his own. We should all be happy for him."

At the same time, Van Bossuyt stressed that it was important both for the board to perform a search and to be diligent in its process. And in the end, she feels that Morelock is the right person to lead Newberg right now.

"I did the site visit for Morelock and I learned things that I was very surprised about," Van Bossuyt said. "We got somebody who's nationally recognized for his work in technology in education and who speaks three languages and has had a lot of success in the work he's done. I was very impressed and delighted the board decided to hire him."

Van Bossuyt added that while she had already been through a handful of superintendent searches in her time on the board, including an interim search prior to the appointment of Paul Radich, it was an important experience for the current board.

"Our board has really stepped up and they're doing a great job," Van Bossuyt said. "I've done all of this before, learned it, but it's really good for the community to have a lot of people on the board with this experience and they're going."

The district has scheduled an informal meet and greet session with Morelock at 6 p.m. May 22 at the district office and is encouraging staff, students, parents and community members to attend prior to the board meeting.

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