Former Woodburn School District interim superintendent takes on a position at North Marion School District.

COURTESY PHOTO: NORTH MARION SCHOOL DISTRICT - North Marion High School's new CoPrincipal of Teaching and Learning Bill Rhoades.North Marion High School's new CoPrincipal of Teaching and Learning, Bill Rhoades, has a piece of advice to offer amid the COVID-19 pandemic: "There has never been a time when it has been more critical to move forward together and to build belief in ourselves and what we can do."

Rhoades, who started at the High School on July 1, may be new to North Marion, but he's been an educator for more than 40 years and has served as a school superintendent for the past decade.

"For those of you who do not know him, he is well known in the education community for his leadership, mentoring teachers and principals, leading Woodburn School District and West Linn-Wilsonville School District, and he has achieved in those districts many of the goals that we set for ourselves," North Marion Superintendent Ginger Redlinger says.

Rhoades' Achievements in Education

When Rhoades was the Superintendent of West Linn-Wilsonville, the graduation rate increased from 88% to nearly 95%, laying the groundwork for the district's continued success over the years, and culminating in the highest graduation rates in the state in recent years, explained West Linn-Wilsonville Communication Director Andrew Kilstrom. Rhoades is especially proud of being a part of the work in Woodburn that saw the flourishing of dual-language programs and graduation rates rise to be among the highest in Oregon.

In West Linn-Wilsonville, Rhoades supported school leaders in an effort to establish a dual-language program rooted in Spanish and World Language Programs in Spanish and Chinese. The program started with kindergarten, and each year, as that group of students progressed, a grade level was added to the program. Now that the very first cohort of students is in Grade 9, so the program has broken into its first year in high school.

Rhoades also is a pioneer in equity, providing fair opportunities for all students, regardless of race, disability, or socioeconomic background, Kilstrom noted.

"Equity is a part of everything we do, and I know Dr. Rhoades was a big part of that, creating that culture here," Kilstrom said.

Rhoades's professional roles have included the top role in a district and a lengthy succession of academic positions that he leveraged to create change in his district. That wealth of positions includes leadership development professor, assistant superintendent, chief academic officer, middle school principal, director of secondary education, strategic planning facilitator, director of K-12 curriculum and instruction, high school assistant principal/activities director, and high school teacher.

Serving a range of school districts in Oregon, positions Rhoades has held included the principal of Valor Middle School of Woodburn School District, the assistant superintendent/chief academic officer of Bend-La Pine Schools, the assistant superintendent of Hillsboro School District, and, finally, the superintendent of West Linn-Wilsonville School District, a job he held from 2011 to 2016, the year he retired. But Rhoades didn't stop there. 

He supported equity-focused leadership development through the non-profit Chalkboard and Stand for Children. He returned to the K-12 workforce as an interim superintendent for a year at both Woodburn School District and Yamhill Carlton School District, offering strength and leadership during a particularly difficult time for each district. He's learned and studied the pedagogy of mathematics with the Teacher's Development Group, literacy (studying highly regarded reading comprehension experts Ellen Keene and Lucy Calkins), and science with support from Portland State University staff in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.

"I believe the children, staff, families, and communities I have served would describe me as an eternal optimist who genuinely believes in our ability to achieve beyond what many, if not most, believe is possible," Rhoades said. "I try to do this through capacity building, by thinking systematically, by engaging key partners, by building trust, by building competence that empowers, and by believing in people until they come to believe in themselves. My reputation is for bringing energy, experience, enthusiasm, and a strong work ethic to the organizations I serve. Thanks to incredible support and mentoring over the years, I have developed a resilience that allows me to care deeply and persist through the ups and downs of this incredibly rewarding, but evolving and challenging, work."

Rhoades is quick to say that much of all that he has achieved was as a part of a team, a lesson that Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Jay Mathisen recollects Rhoades sharing during a run one snowy day in Sunriver. Specifically, Rhoades reminded Mathisen of the value of teachers' input on a project.

"Collective agency is unwrapped when teachers are included in the leadership thinking in ways that enhance the whole of the improvement process and increase their levels of commitment to the journey (Trammell, 2016)," Mathisen notes in his chapter, The Power of Gifts from Supervisors Who Share in the book Joyful Resilience as Educational Practice: Transforming Teaching Challenges into Opportunities. 

Now, Rhoades has brought his optimism, his 40-plus years of experience, his achievements (made possible through teamwork and feedback from teachers), and several advanced degrees to the North Marion School District.

Rhoades' Extensive Educational Background

Rhoades usually goes simply by Bill or Mr. Rhoades. But he could easily go by Dr. Rhoades, as he has a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Oregon, writing a dissertation with a focus on equity in education: "Assessing Early Literacy Development in Spanish Speakers When Spanish Is the Language of Instruction."

He has two administrative licenses, as well as a Master of Science Degree, Interdisciplinary Studies (Education, Biology, and Geology) from Western Oregon University, a Resident Teacher Master's Program from the University of Oregon (Curriculum and Instruction), and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biological Science and Health Education from Western Oregon University.

As a highly educated and experienced school administrator, Rhoades could have flown far away, but, instead, he has remained close to his hometown, Woodburn. He graduated from Woodburn High School in 1974. So much has happened since then. Yet now he's helping to lead a high school in our beloved Aurora, just eight miles from his hometown.

"While this range of experience and opportunity has helped me to understand, empathize, and see situations from multiple points of view, it is important for me to note that my experiences have also helped me to better find common ground within and among our communities, while accounting for and appreciating our diversity and the complexities of our work together," Rhoades said. Once again, he noted, "This has never been more critical than now."

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