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Internal candidate Shay James to replace current Superintendent Matt Utterback

School board members have chosen Dr. Shay James to replace retiring North Clackamas Superintendent Matt Utterback starting July 1.

James, currently assistant superintendent of education foJamesr the North Clackamas School District, joined NCSD as its executive director of high school programs in 2016, when she earned an annual salary of $130,803. As superintendent, she will make a $230,000 annual base salary, and Utterback's annual base salary was $207,500 starting in 2018-19.

Two other finalists for the position included recruits from Nevada or Minnesota: assistant superintendents Debbie Brockett and Timothy Gadson.

Previously, James held several roles with Portland Public Schools, where she worked as a teacher, assistant principal, vice-principal and principal of Franklin High School. Before leaving PPS, James was senior director of high schools and college and career readiness.

James' rise to becoming the superintendent of Oregon's seventh-largest school district is a remarkable turnaround for the high school dropout from the Tigard-Tualatin School District. James said growing up in Washington County, where there were few other people of color, she was not able to complete traditional high school, but she eventually earned her diploma and advanced degrees by advocating for herself and enlisting allies in education.

"I had amazing grandparents that really had an influence in raising me, and they did everything that they could to keep me well connected to cuture, to heritage, to beliefs, and everything that they were supposed to do. However, growing up in a not very diverse community, and going to school in a place where I didn't see people look like me, it was difficult in school," she said.

James used her personal experience to illustrate how important it is for adults to stop what they're doing to help students who ask for it.

"We have to listen to what the need is and help to navigate the road that they need in terms of helping folks get back on track or even solving a problem," she said.



Before her 21-year career in education, James worked in the business sector. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in education at Portland State University, and her doctorate in educational leadership from Lewis & Clark College. Additionally, she taught as an adjunct professor at Washington State University for two years.

In October 2019, Utterback announced his retirement at the end of the 2019-20 school year, but delayed his retirement until the end of the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the coming weeks, NCSD plans to take action to fill the assistant-superintendent vacancy caused by James' new role.


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