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Superintendent search casts a wide net

A screening committee and the five members of the Eagle Point School Board will enter 2020 ready to find a new superintendent by the time 12-year veteran Cynda Rickert retires in July.

“We’re just excited to get into it and get it done,” said Dan Hodges, chair of the School Board. “Hopefully we get it right.”

Hiring power rests with the School Board, but until then members of the screening committee, who were chosen earlier in December, will play an active role in recommending candidates to fill the 4,000-student district’s superintendent position.

“It’s exciting,” Hodges said. “It actually is one of those deals where you feel bad that you can’t just bring everybody.”

When the district requested applications for the screening committee, 63 people applied and 21 were chosen, including three business owners, five parents and community members and four school administrators.

Steve Kelley, hired this summer as a consultant from the Oregon School Boards Association, will train the screening committee members on how to advise the board while they sort through superintendent applicants in January. Those meetings will be open to the public.

The committee and the board are expected to use a set of 12 desired qualities and qualifications for a new superintendent — “the lens by which you look at the applicants,” Kelley said.

“This is the foundation of the rest of the search,” he said.

Those 12 qualities and qualifications were determined by community feedback collected through an online survey and events held last fall.

Nearly 340 people participated in the survey, answering at least one of the three questions. The largest share were parents, students and community members.

They ranked the qualities they thought most important for an incoming superintendent, and gave feedback on what they thought is working well and what needs improvement across the district.

“Committed to serving all kids and putting children first; Background in teaching and building administration at multiple levels; Promotes effective, transparent, two-way communication while demonstrating good listening skills,” were among the priorities the School Board eventually drafted into a one-page document.

Hodges said the new superintendent will need to be aware of the district’s history and how the community has called for more communication from top-level leadership.

“There’s a lot of people that feel like we need to do a better job of reaching out to the community,” he said.

That’s relevant, considering that the greatest share of survey respondents rated “update facilities” as a high priority for district improvement. More than 70% of voters rejected a $95 million bond proposal in the election Nov. 6, 2018.

“This superintendent will have to understand how badly we got beat,” he said. “It was resounding.”

The district also had a salary survey done, examining districts of a similar size and contract length, to arrive at a prospective range. According to a board document, the salary will likely fall between $130,000 and $140,000.

Kelley will collect applications for the superintendent position until Jan. 15.

Prospective candidates won’t become public until the board narrows the list to about three finalists, Kelley said. The finalists will be called in for interviews, likely in March, and will participate in meet-and-greet events. A finalist forum will be open to the public.

“This board, I believe, is very committed to the community engagement piece,” Kelley said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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