School board will choose Wednesday between outside organization or in-house search team

The Gervais School Board of Directors will make a decision on Wednesday to choose the direction in which they will seek to replace outgoing Superintendent Matt Henry.

Representatives from the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA), along with those from McPherson & Jacobson L.L.C. each presented their pitch to the Gervais School Board in August to lead the search for a new lead administrator after Henry announced in May that he would be retiring following the end of the 2018-19 school year.

The Gervais School Board was scheduled to make its decision between the two organizations at last week's regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Thursday, but chose to delay their vote for a week after listening to an alternative idea from school district's administrators to conduct the search in-house.

"I only speak for myself, but having more of an internal control over that process would give us a greater sense that whoever ends up filling the position wasn't decided by someone who doesn't have a vested interest in this district," Gervais Elementary School Principal Creighton Helms said.

Helms, along with Gervais Middle School Principal Ann O'Connell and Sam Brown Academy Principal and Director of Special Programs Sylvia Garcia proposed to the board that the administrative staff of the Gervais School District could conduct the search for a new superintendent over the course of the next year.

The administrators said if the search was conducted by them, it would provide the district with substantial savings from avoiding an outside organization and a search committee that was intimately familiar with the community of Gervais.

"Our district is 65 minimum percent Latino," O'Connell said. "So when you look at those gentlemen walking through and trying to find us the right leader for our district, they aren't representative of our community. It would be nice to have Spanish speaking people on the committee."

The administrators proposed to have a smaller steering committee composed of the four principals, including Gervais High School Principal Ken Stott. Though Stott was not present at the time of the discussion, the administrators confirmed they had discussed the idea with him and he agreed with their plan.

There would also be a larger steering committee that would hear from the administrators and coordinate in the search for candidates, and help with outreach to the community.

"That would drive this process," Helms said. "I think that would be hard for a third party to come in and own this process with the depth of knowledge, history and emotions that would come from this."

Helms suggested that the administrative team has access to the same potential candidates that both the OSBA and McPherson & Jacobson advertised and the primary websites in which potential administrators search for new jobs — COSA and SchoolSpring.

"Ninety five percent of the candidates who would apply for the job will find it on one of those two sites," Helms said.

While the board directors were open to the administrators' proposals, they expressed hesitation on the administrators' ability to add such a large and important task to their already full schedules.

"It's a lot of work," board member Mike Jirges said. "My concern is if we give it to you guys, are you guys going to take it, run with it, take up all your time with it and burn out."

Of the two proposals the board heard in August, Jirges leaned toward the OSBA, which he said has a much more vested interest in successfully placing a superintendent in the district, which includes professional development training, continued service six months after the selection and if the new superintendent leaves within the first two years on the job, they'll do the search again for free.

"It's very attractive for me," Jirges said

Garcia suggested that the OSBA is likely able to provide much of those services with a new administrator anyway, and the administrative team said that while the work load would indeed be a lot, it was something they all had discussed in advance and agreed they could do.

"We would not be proposing this if we did not think we could do this," Helms said. "We'll get the job done."

The final concern from the board came from board member Jenny Jones who asked if the administrators had thought about if any of them had considered applying for the superintendent position and what that would do to the proposed committee.

"I'm just concerned if we have more than two who want to apply for it, then we have an extra heavy load on a few," Jones said. "Honestly, my only question is if that would be an issue."

The administrators agreed that any of them applied for the position, that person would be unable to serve on the search committee. Helms said they could still do the job search if one of their members decided to apply, but if more than one was interested, it would be too much work for the remaining members to accomplish.

As a result, the board agreed to let the administrators decide if they were interested in the position for a week. The board would come to a final vote on which search team they would go with at the top of their special session that was scheduled for Wednesday to discuss board self evaluation.

Phil Hawkins can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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