School board opts to search for an interim superintendent
The Newberg School District board of directors opted to search for an interim superintendent for the 2018-2019 school year and laid out the basic parameters for the process it will use to select a replacement for Kym LeBlanc-Esparza at its regular meeting April 10.
The board voted 6-1, with director Mindy Allison the lone nay vote, to post the position as an interim one and keep it open until the position is filled.
"I've given this more thought than probably any single item on our agenda for years," director Todd Thomas said. "So I respect Mindy's vote."
The board also voted unanimously to approve a list of qualities and qualifications for the position that was developed by the personnel committee, which incorporated input from staff and parents at a public listening session Monday night, as well as from an online survey that had been posted and distributed to parents and staff via email the previous week. Director Debbie Hawblitzel, who worked with the personnel committee earlier in the day, said the meetings and especially the individual comments people made on the survey were especially helpful.
The personnel committee proposed a general timeline to post the position on Wednesday and agreed to tentatively schedule executive sessions to review applications, as well as potentially conduct interviews, as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. Those dates could change depending on the volume and quality of the applications received and possibly be followed the same evening by a public session to name a candidate "for the chair and vice chair to discuss contract terms."
The board's earliest opportunity to appoint an interim superintendent will then be at its April 24 meeting.
At the onset of the meeting, the board took public comment on the issue, with Newberg Education Association president and NHS teacher Gayle Grobey forcefully recommending that the board appoint assistant superintendent Dave Parker to the position.
"You have a superintendent right here in your board room, right here in the 'Berg,' right here in your own backyards," Grobey said. "You don't need to look."
Former district employee and current parent Dan Busch, who is now a middle school principal in the Tigard-Tualatin district, urged the board to move in the opposite direction and search for a permanent replacement.
During discussion of the motion, Allison expressed her preference to seek a permanent superintendent now because the district couldn't afford to wait to address the problems it now faces.
"It's going to put a lot on stall for a year while we have an interim," Allison said. "Then as we hire a superintendent, it's stalling again while they learn our system and learn our district. That's two years before I feel like we can make really good forward progress toward our goals."
In response, the rest of the board argued it was simply too late in the school year and too expensive to perform the kind of thorough and deliberate search the permanent position requires. They added that the best candidates will have already been hired by districts that had begun their searches in the winter and to use a truncated process to hire a permanent superintendent now would be risky and irresponsible.
In his public comments at the onset of the meeting, director Ron Mock said that because both Grobey and Busch had both played big roles in his children's lives, "there was no way I cannot listen to them," but yet he disagreed with them nonetheless.
In response to Allison, Mock expressed that going the interim route does not mean that the district would have to put everything on hold because an interim superintendent could still help the district address its pressing issues, especially if the board made that a priority in evaluating candidates and then correspondingly directed the focus of whoever it hires when setting goals for their performance.
The board discussed the issue for more than 15 minutes before directly addressing the proverbial elephant in the room, which is the potential solution of appointing assistant superintendent Dave Parker. The district has already decided to cut his position for next year and some on the board noted he would eliminate some of director Allison's concerns about an interim hire because he is already familiar with and invested in the district.
Several board members noted that in addition to Grobey's statement, they've received overwhelmingly positive feedback about Parker from employees, including classified staff, teachers, principals and administrators.
Director Bob Woodward certainly fell in that camp, but felt that because the board hasn't heard similar support from parents and the community, likely because they simply aren't as familiar with Parker, that left the board in somewhat of a bind.
"I want to support our teachers," Woodward said. "I want to support the people who are doing the work, but I don't want to leave our parents and our community left out and I think a lot of folks are feeling that."
Several on the board expressed support for Parker as a strong candidate, including Brandy Penner, Hawblitzel, Mock and Thomas, but also that the board needed to open the position to outside candidates, establish a hiring process and trust that it would produce the best person for the job, whether that ends up being Parker or not.
Mock was the most forceful in this sense, saying the board could not afford to appoint a superintendent "who looked like he's been installed by the employees of the district," but the rest of the board, outside of Allison, was pretty much in agreement.
"All we can do is follow these procedures and these protocols and decide the process," Penner said. "Then we have to wait and see how everything comes in. That's what we have to make sure remains clear, that this discussion is in no way a moving away from the overwhelming support that we've heard, but that we as a board sort of have our hands tied on certain things and we have to be transparent and we have to be open and honest and have the discussions that we've been having about qualities and see where it falls. I don't see what else we can do besides that, honestly."
School board seeks Zone 7 candidate
With an approximately $4 million budget crunch looming, the Newberg School District board of directors ares not only searching for an interim superintendent, but also candidates to replace outgoing director Debbie Hawblitzel.
Hawblitzel -- who herself was appointed to represent Zone 7 in 2005 before being elected in 2007, 2011 and 2015 -- announced at the March 20 board meeting that she will resign at the conclusion of the May 8 meeting due to an upcoming move.
The board is accepting applications through April and will then hold interviews in hopes of naming a replacement at the May 22 board meeting.
According to the board's own timeline for hiring an interim superintendent, which is somewhat flexible, it will likely have already chosen a replacement for current superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza, but the next director for Zone 7 will likely participate with the board in approving a budget for the 2019-2019 school year.
Applicants must be registered voters and reside in Zone 7, which stretches from First Street in the south to Crestview Drive on north, with Villa Road and Chehalem Drive as the east and west boundaries, respectively.