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Next steps with long-term recruiting for full-time superintendent candidate unclear

Paul PetersonInterim Superintendent Paul Peterson returned to the Scappoose School District just over four months ago, and the school board of directors met in closed session this week to evaluate his performance thus far.

The results of the review and the board's next steps are not certain, however, as it took no follow-up public action during a school board meeting held Monday, Oct. 8.

Since 2017 the board has been working with NextUp Leadership, a consulting agency the district contracted to help recruit a new superintendent following the departure of Stephen Jupe, the district's most recent permanent superintendent.

During the Oct. 8 school board meeting, Greg McKenzie, a consultant with NextUp Leadership, spoke briefly with the school board about what the next steps in the search would be. Near the end of his discussion with the board, McKenzie mentioned kicking off advertising for a full-time candidate in January and then closing the application process in mid-February.

After hearing from McKenzie, board member Tim Brooks moved to continue the search for a permanent superintendent, an action seconded by board member Lisa Maloney.

The board struck down Brooks' action, however. Brooks and Maloney voted in favor of the motion, while four other board members voted in opposition, citing their uncomfortableness voting in advance of Peterson's review and noting that a board vote was unnecessary to continue the contractual arrangement with NextUp Leadership.

Peterson was hired in late May by a 5-2 school board vote to fill an interim superintendent role after a months-long hunt to permanently fill the position hit several road blocks. One of the board's top picks for the full-time position accepted a job elsewhere, and the other — former Interim Superintendent Ron Alley — had anonymous allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him before he ultimately withdrew himself from consideration. Brooks and Maloney voted against hiring Peterson in the temporary role earlier this year.

After the board conducted an hour-long closed session at the end of Monday's meeting, one McKenzie attended, it reconvened in public but made no final decisions. An agenda item labeled "Superintendent check in" was never discussed at length during the meeting.

It remains unclear what next steps the board will take in terms of the superintendent search. Lager said the board had not made a final decision after consulting with McKenzie.

During Monday's meeting, Peterson gave a short presentation outlining a 15-point plan of measurable goals he had previously identified for himself to complete over the year. Many of the items on his self-evaluation were marked as "on track" or completed, including conducting check-ins with staff on a regular basis, developing a strategic plan for the district, providing written communications to the board, and others.

Peterson formerly worked as district's superintendent but was released early from his contract in 2011 amid harassment allegations raised by three women administrators to pursue a position at the Northwest Regional Education Service District. The district ultimately settled the harassment claims for nearly $500,000.

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