Happy reunions for new Gervais superintendent
For incoming Gervais School District Superintendent Dandy Stevens, taking the post of district's lead administrative position is just as much returning to familiar grounds as it is entering the next phase of her career path.
A former educator at Gervais High School, there are still plenty of faces within the district she remembers from her teaching days. Some, like fellow administrators Ken Stott, Bob Martin and Sylvia Garcia-Valentine, are former co-workers. Others once sat across the classroom from Stevens and have since grown up and taken leadership positions within the district in the 15 years since Stevens has been gone.
"(Officer Manager) Becker Miller — she was a student of mine," Stevens recalls. "Michael Jirges, our board chair, was also one of my students in senior English."
The interconnected nature of the small district was part of the appeal for Stevens when she applied for the position, seeking a superintendent job that was intimate and close to home.
"I appreciate how connected they are to their community and how passionate they are about really making Gervais continuing to build on the successes they are having and make it even better," she said.
Stevens worked in the district from 1998 through 2003, serving a variety of roles within the high school. She taught English, oversaw the yearbook and worked in the library for two years and oversaw the state's first community bilingual quarterly newspaper published by high school students.
"It was called Community Connections and the kids were really invested in that, how was their audience different from the high school," Stevens said. "I was so appreciative to be able to have that experience, to be able to stretch and grow the kids and myself in that craft."
When she received her administrative license, there were no positions open in the district, so she took a position at West Salem High School for a year before moving to the Silver Falls School District where her father, Dick Kromminga, served as principal of Silverton High School from 1990 to 1999.
"There's a street named after my dad," Stevens said. "Kromminga Drive is named after him."
She served as assistant principal at the high school from 2004-2011, took over as principal of Mark Twain Middle School from 2011-2014 and has served as assistant superintendent from 2014-19, finishing up the last few loose ends before moving on to Gervais Superintendent on July 1.
After serving 15 years in one district, Stevens admits it was a very difficult decision to leave Silverton, but one that was necessary to take the final step of her career path.
"When the position opened, I really had to reflect," Stevens said. "Where do I want to go for the next eight years? What work do I want to do?"
After raising her family in Silverton and with her husband's business based in Oregon City, she didn't want to relocate for a job. With the Gervais position open after Supt. Matt Henry announced his impending retirement last year, it felt right, like a bookend, to finish her education career back in Gervais. After all, it was there where she gained much of the opportunity and confidence to pursue her career as an administrator in the first place.
"That district provided me with so many opportunities professionally," Stevens said. "I just had permission to challenge myself, go through national board certification, take my library media specialist endorsement. If you want to do that, try it."
Stevens wants to take that same approach as Superintendent and apply it to the next class of educators here in the district, giving them the opportunity she had two decades ago.
While her birth certificate reads 'Dianda,' Stevens said she received her nickname not long after she was born when her grandmother saw her as an infant and remarked, "Well isn't she a dandy?" The name stuck, and she's been known as such ever since.
"I don't think anybody knows me by Dianda," she said.
Growing up in Ashland, Stevens compares her childhood community favorably to that of Silverton and Gervais. With small towns and districts, it's much easier to see the impact of decisions on a closer level and develop relationships with co-workers and community members.
"What I like about small districts like Gervais, is that when you're implementing new ideas, strategies or programs to get to the next level, it's small enough that you can see your results really quickly," she said. "You can determine if those efforts are working and what we need moving forward."
And while it seemed like a longshot when she left the district in 2004 that Stevens would ever revisit in a professional capacity, she said sometimes these things just happen accordingly, and she's greatly looking forward to the return.
"I've learned to say never say never," she said. "Everything is just so interconnected."
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