Uncertainty about Scappoose School District board's long-term plans for top position prompts questionsCorrection appended

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Scappoose School District Interim Superintendent Paul Peterson, speaks during a school board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Some parents in the school district are concerned about a perceived lack of communication from the school board and its plans to hire a permanent superintendent for the 2018-19 school year.Some parents in the Scappoose School District are concerned with the lack of communication from the board of directors about its search for a permanent superintendent.

Over the past two months, the school board has held three closed session meetings to evaluate the performance of the current superintendent, Paul Peterson, yet has taken no public action following those meetings.

Several parents this week said they were concerned about the lack of transparency in the school board's process and want the board to be more upfront about its plans and decision-making.

"The concern that the parents have is that the school board has not been very open about what they're planning," Tanya Francis, a Scappoose parent, said. "I think for most parents we would like to see a full — like last year — a full panel of candidates to be interviewed."

In October, the school board met with Greg McKenzie of NextUp Leadership — a consulting agency the district contracted to help recruit a new superintendent following the departure of Stephen Jupe in 2017 — to determine how the district would work with the agency in its search for a permanent superintendent.

During those discussions, a majority of board members wanted to complete an informal evaluation of Interim Superintendent Paul Peterson before deciding on next steps.

Some parents felt the board should continue working with NextUp Leadership to get an idea of what other qualified applicants are out there and what they could bring to the district.

Ivy Freimuth, another concerned parent and member of the Grant Watts Parent Organization, sent an email to the school board following that meeting to drive home those sentiments. She explained that the school board has given the impression of not including parents or the public in the process by holding closed session meetings and not discussing its plans publicly.

"Why is everything being done behind closed doors in executive meetings? And when you ask about it, they say, 'We're not talking about it right now,'" Freimuth said.

She added that many other parents she's spoken to are concerned the board might not do its due diligence if it does not go through an open recruiting process for a permanent superintendent.

"It doesn't feel like they're being open with people, and people are concerned that they'll hire (Paul Peterson) without getting opinions from other people," Freimuth said.

Others, like Francis, said they just want to be informed about what direction the board will be heading.

"I would like to see, as a parent, the board just letting us know. This is the most important role in the school district and I feel the parents should be involved in the process and know what direction the board is heading," Francis said.

Earlier this week, the school board held another closed executive session, and after meeting for nearly an hour-and-a-half, the board once again returned to open session and took no action.

Following the meeting, board Chair Phil Lager presented a typed document to the Spotlight titled "Interim Superintendent Mid-Year Check-in" dated Tuesday, Nov. 12.

The single-page document outlines strengths and opportunities to improve and two brief paragraphs summarizing work Peterson has done in his five months on the job. It was not immediately clear what the district plans to do with the document or how it factors into its plans for a permanent superintendent search.

Peterson was not in the closed meeting when it went into session, but was present when the board returned before adjourning for the night.

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 earlier this year. Peterson had previously worked with the school district before being released early from his contract 2011. He worked for the Northwest Regional Education Service District from 2011 until this year.

An earlier version of this story had a misspelling of parent Tanya Francis' name. We regret the error.

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