Gervais superintendent resigns, effective next year
The Gervais School District will begin the search for a new lead administrator after the announcement that current Superintendent Matt Henry will resign from his position at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
A notice to district staff and community members of the resignation was printed in the board packet of last week's May school board meeting. Henry said he came to the decision that, after working 31 years in education, and five years with GSD by the time of his resignation, he's ready to scale back his work load.
"I'm ready, after five years in this particular position, to look at something else," Henry said. "If I end up back in the classroom, maybe a half-time position, I'd be happy as a clam. I hate to say real estate, but I like real estate. Maybe even a community college. You never know what opportunities are out there."
With Henry's contract up and the district nearing the end of his five year Strategic Plan, it seemed like a logical time for him to finish his tenure at Gervais.
"He had talked about wanting to retire at the end of the five-year strategic plan he had placed," Gervais School Board Chair Mike Jirges said. "It wasn't a huge surprise, but we're thankful for his service."
Henry was hired for the 2014-15 school year to replace former superintendent Rick Hensel, who held the position from 2007 to 2014 before retiring.
Henry came to the Gervais School District after previously administrative stints at Siuslaw High School and Grant Union High School, and boasted extensive teaching experience prior to that.
"I've done every role under the sun in education," Henry said. "I've coached sports, I've been an adviser. I've taught for 17 years, which is more than most administrators have done."
Henry strived make the Gervais School District the top destination rural school district in the state, focusing on attracting young families to Gervais by providing early while focusing on expanding the district's career technical education programs at the high school.
"That's the foundation," Henry said of the focus at the elementary and pre-kindergarten level. "If you're not growing at the kinder and second-grade level, you're probably a dying district, so I really wanted to get us to focus there."
Henry's commitment to CTE, be it through horticulture, agriculture, livestock, machinery or childhood education, was meant to provide Gervais students with alternative career choices beyond the four-year collegiate path.
And with the continued crisis of school shootings around the country, Henry was particularly satisfied with updating the infrastructure of the district's security system, including cameras around the four schools and district office.
"With today's schools, safety (must be) a priority, and without my leadership, I don't think we'd have a crisis plan (and) 100-plus security cameras all over the district," he said.
As far as other successes from his time in Gervais, Henry included the elementary school's ELL Carmen West Award and its movement out of the Oregon Department of Education's Focus School list, which identifies high poverty schools in the bottom 15 percent of the state in need of additional support.
Henry's tenure as superintendent was not without its bumps in the road. He entered his position while the district was embroiled in a controversial decision to provide access to contraception to help combat the district's high teen pregnancy rates, followed by formal ethics complaints resulting from the board's handling of executive session topics.
Following the conclusion of tense labor negotiations between the Gervais School Board and the Gervais Education Association last year, the GEA declared a vote of no confidence from the teachers, and asked for Henry's resignation.
"That no confidence role had zero to do with this decision," Henry said. "It just sort of comes with the territory."
In the end, Henry believes he will leave the district in a position to further succeed moving forward.
"I will leave the district with a blueprint that can continue to work off of," Henry said. "I feel that's someone else's chance to take Gervais to where it needs to go next."
The school board will now take on the task of choosing Henry's replacement and will seek assistance from outside consultants just as the previous board did when choosing Henry.
"One of the advantages of knowing this far in advance is that it gives us time to know what we want to see in our next superintendent," Jirges said. "Having that time is a luxury in terms of planning and following through with that."