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Community 'rock' Evans moves on

GHS principal fondly remembers 13 years of service, challenges


by: PHOTO COURTESY: GLADSTONE SCHOOL DISTRICT - Gladstone High School Principal Stu EvansGladstone High School Principal Stu Evans, who announced his retirement last week to a community stunned by his cancer diagnosis, leaves behind a legacy of accomplishments among staff and students.

Known for fostering core programs around reading, writing and math, while constantly developing programs around science, technology and engineering, Evans served as GHS principal for 13 years, the second longest tenure in the school’s history after founding Principal Pat O’Brien (1966-84). The GHS Class of 2013’s 93 percent reading and 88 percent writing scores put them among the smartest in Oregon.

In 2009, science teacher Kevin Zerzan received the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, along with $25,000. Also in 2011, David Kays received Yale University’s Distinguished Music Educator Award.

GHS Spanish teacher Brad Kuntz was one of only two educators nationwide honored with the 2011 Outstanding Young Educator Award by ASCD, an international educational leadership association. Kuntz was instrumental in helping GHS students and staff receive two statewide sustainability awards in the past few years for efforts to recycle, reduce and build school gardens.

“We have a really strong culture of a supportive community,” Evans said. “Awards help keep the rest of the staff motivated because everyone takes pride in the recognition, and it also helps create pride in the school.”

When asked how the school managed to receive so many awards lately, Evans laid out a formula that included getting several teachers national board certification and then allowing all staff to take chances.

“I tried to build a sense of strong collaboration and get people to think outside of the box for solutions,” Evans said. “If it doesn’t work, then OK, let’s try something else, so these folks are willing to take risks.”

Having fun with challenges

Superintendent Bob Stewart expressed how consistently impressed he was with Evans’ credibility with school staff members. A bond voters passed for the Gladstone School District in 2006 put more than $25 million of investments in GHS to expand its cafeteria, fix leaks, build a new technology center and other projects.

“Stu was somebody who stood out because of his strength of character and conviction,” Stewart said. “When we did the remodel of the high school, that was a major upheaval of all the people of the school. Stu kept his eye on the end goal of an incredibly improved school building, rather than on the day-to-day crises, and he wasn’t ever flustered.”

Evans admitted that the remodel was the biggest hurdle of his career.

“That was a big challenge, but that was actually a lot of fun and a big reward for the community because we got to see many key improvements,” he said.

But Evans’ proudest accomplishments are in fostering AP courses and Clackamas Community College teachers onsite during the day so that many GHS students graduate with 30 college credits. Many GHS courses appeared online during Evans’ tenure as well.

“Academic achievement has always been a big priority for me and my staff to make sure that students are college and career ready,” Evans said. “Every teacher does goal setting in the fall, but I required that every teacher write specific goals for improving their students’ writing skills. It’s a lot of work for the teachers on the front end for proficiency-based learning efforts, but it can really pay off in the end.”

Moving forward

Evans, 59, experienced a sudden illness on April 9, and after a cancer diagnosis, began radiation treatments last week, to be followed by chemotherapy. Cancer cells have invaded his colon, lymph nodes and liver, and doctors are telling him that it will eventually reach his lungs to kill him.

“The diagnosis puts a lot of things into perspective,” Evans said. “Knowing that my cancer is terminal was a big part of my decision, and if the best-case scenario is that I have five more good years, then I want to spend that time with my family and friends to get a new perspective on things.”

He and his wife, Ann, have three grandsons and three daughters, the youngest of whom graduated from GHS in 2002. Cards or messages of encouragement for Evans can be sent to GHS, 18800 Portland Ave. 97027, in care of Ellen Peck.

Evans puts his faith in a new team that’s stepped up to lead GHS: Vice Principal Patti Alexander is serving as interim principal, while Athletic Director Jere Applebee serves as an interim assistant principal.

“Patti’s always thinking of ways to help support kids,” Evans said. “Our staff just gets it and they want our kids to be well and have a better future, so as long as they keep those goals in mind, then I know that things will be in good hands. I’m extremely proud of them for hunkering down and working as hard as they do.”

Stewart noted that Evans was a good role model for his staff in building trust among peers.

“The word I would use to describe Stu is a rock who can always be relied upon,” Stewart said. “He was always advocating for the students who needed to be challenged as much as the students who needed special help. Stu was an advocate for all.”