New hires, student schedules are priorities for new principal Jim Severson

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Jim Severson is the new principal at Inza R. Wood Middle School. He comes to Wilsonville following two years as assistant principal at Rosemont Ridge Middle School in West Linn.The new principal of Inza R. Wood Middle School hit the ground running immediately upon his return from a family vacation late last month.

“I rolled back in from Minnesota at 4 a.m., and I was interviewing at 8 a.m.,” Jim Severson said. “It’s been good.”

Severson recently was selected from a field of six candidates interviewed. A 13-member committee that included teachers, administrators, classified staff, parents and a student interviewed each candidate and provided feedback. Candidates also submitted written essays, interviewed with the superintendent’s team, passed a reference check and completed a video-taped observation and live feedback activity with a teacher.

He comes to Wood from West Linn’s Rosemont Ridge Middle School, where he served as assistant principal for two years. Before that, he spent two years as principal of McKenzie Middle and High Schools in Finn Rock, Oregon, followed by five years as the principal at Neah-Kah-Nie Middle School in Rockaway Beach. Working in those smaller schools and districts has given him a deep appreciation for West Linn-Wilsonville, he said.

“Rosemont was a great place to start in the district, in regards to being oriented to a district philosophy which is so centered on kids and adult learning and community. It’s exciting to see what that looks like,” he said.

Severson put down personal roots in West Linn and its schools. He and his wife Karen have four children at primary, middle and high schools there. Daughter Morgan, 16, will be a junior at West Linn High School this fall, where her brother Jaxon, 14, will join her as a freshman. Son Thor, 11, will enter Rosemont as a sixth-grader while Leif, 9, will be a fourth-grader at Trillium Creek Primary.

“Living in West Linn was just a great way to connect to the community. The idea for our family is, we believe in the systems, the schools, the community we’re a part of,” Severson said.

Proximity was one of the best side benefits to his job at Rosemont. Severson was able to walk across the street from his house to his office at the school. He’s not fazed by the prospect of a 20-minute commute to work at Wood, though, and doesn’t see the distance as any deterrent.

“I love being part of the community that I live in. We’ll do the same thing in Wilsonville,” he said.

Since starting at Wood last week, Severson has focused on the community he will be joining. As of last Friday, he met several parent leaders and members staff members, with plans to meet any others. One of his immediate priorities has been to find a replacement for former assistant principal Josh Flosi, who last month accepted a position as assistant director of student services after working at Wood for four years.

Flosi’s replacement will not be Severson’s only hire, however. Two Wood staffers have taken leaves of absence and will need to be replaced for 2014-15, and district administrators added three staff positions at Wood.

“We’re well into the process of adding staff,” Severson said.

Creating students’ schedules for the upcoming school year is another immediate project, Severson said. He has been looking through recent yearbooks, too, looking at his new students and working to match names to faces so he can greet some kids by name, to their surprise, when school starts next month.

“I’ll start connecting these dots,” he said.

Severson has been receiving ample support from both Flosi and Wood’s former principal, Barb Soisson.

“Josh Flosi did a great job, preparing the way. They’ve been nothing but supportive,” he said. “This level of support, it’s a philosophical and a practical stance in the district.”

Severson is being similarly supportive at his former school as the search for his replacement continues.

“I’ve been split,” he said August 1. “Yesterday afternoon I was at Rosemont Ridge. (Principal) Debi (Briggs-Crispin) and I have this incredible relationship. Now that we’re both principals, that relationship will continue.”

Families shouldn’t expect a lot of changes at Wood when the school year starts.

“What’s happening there is really good,” he said. “Listening to some of the staff and how they communicate with children, I want to continue the work that Barb and Josh have done.”

He has aptitude and enthusiasm for the job as well as for the learners he will serve.

“Middle school is my favorite,” he said. “I think this notion of who middle-schoolers are is lore. I don’t see them that way. I see them as these amazing, bright, considerate young people. We want to understand full well where they are but know they’re so much more than that. ... We know that kids develop their notions of who they are as a learner between the ages of 11 and 13. We tend to that all the time.”

Severson said he has one question in mind, all the time: ‘How do I help people be successful and how do we do that?’

He said it’s a realistic approach when dealing with middle-schoolers

“I know middle school is tough. I recognize that,” he said. “We can still help our children navigate through that. I still see the richness in them.”

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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