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Eagle Point picks leader

Cynda Rickert, who started her career as a Spanish teacher and won recognition as Oregon's top school principal in 2004, is the Eagle Point School Board's choice to lead their district.

Negotiations between Rickert and the school board are under way, and the board may hire her as early as its next meeting, which is set for 6 p.m. today in board chambers at 9 N. Royal Ave., Eagle Point.

"I think the board recognized she was a good fit for what we were looking for, for the district," said Board Chair Teresa Hulla. "She has an incredible resume. Although she doesn't have superintendent experience, she has incredible leadership experience. She has an ability to articulate what it is she so firmly believes and has the ability to lead people down that same path, which is positive things for kids."

Rickert, 52, of Jacksonville, was named one of three finalists for the position in late March. The other two finalists were Crater High Principal Kirk Gibson and Rainier, Wash., schools chief Dennis Friedrich.

The board had planned to announce its top choice May 9 but chose to accelerate the process after staff and community meetings with the finalists.

"I thought we had a good group of finalists and would have been happy with any them, but Cynda rose to the top," said board Vice Chair Jonathan Bilden.

If hired, Rickert would fill the superintendency by July 1. She would replace acting Superintendent Kerm Bennett, who took the district reins after the board demoted former Superintendent Bill Feusahrens in June for reasons that have not been disclosed.

State law bars board members from discussing personnel decisions.

Rickert was hired as the school improvement director for the Southern Oregon Education Service District in 2004 to help schools meet the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, after serving as principal of South Medford High for about eight years.

Her first administrative position was dean at Hedrick Junior High in Medford in (1987), followed by a promotion to assistant principal and then, to principal at McLoughlin Middle School.

She began her career as a Spanish teacher in Iowa in 1975 and worked as a high school guidance counselor in Phoenix, Ariz., between 1980 and 1987. She has a master's degree in educational counseling from Northern Arizona University and an administrative certificate from the University of Oregon.

Two months before being hired by the ESD, she was named Oregon Principal of the Year by the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators.

Association members recognized her for the improvements she brought to South Medford High during her tenure. She established classes for freshmen to help them make the transition to high school; boosted the number of passing grades; created a program designed to help prevent students from dropping out; provided extra academic support for students learning English; and organized a school-wide discipline system that significantly slashed the number of discipline referrals.

Eagle Point School Board members said her broad experience bodes well for their district, which is seeking to improve its test scores and individual educational opportunities and increase expectations for students.

"She has really had the support of the staff in the places she has been and has shown really strong leadership," Bilden said. "She is going to inspire everyone around her, and good things are going to happen."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Eagle Point picks leader