HR School Board schedules three community meetings

Hood River superintindent search

A sense of deja vu clung to the discussion in Wednesday’s special session of the Hood River County School Board.

The topic was finding a new superintendent — a task most members of the board went through just two years ago.

One change from the process two years ago, when current superintendent Jerry Sessions was hired, is that more meetings for the community will be scheduled.

They will be Dec. 2-3 in Hood River, Odell and Cascade Locks. (Please see schedule below.) One of the meetings will have translation in Spanish.

“I heard loud and clear you want more community involvement,” consultant Jer Pratton told the board Wednesday. The special meeting was the board’s first formal conversation with Pratton about the procedures and timeline for the superintendent search, since hiring Pratton last week. He represents Oregon School Boards Association.

In his presentation to the board earlier this month, Pratton said he could go to work on the search as soon as the board wanted him to start.

“We are on a tight schedule,” board chairwoman Jan Veldhuisen Virk said Wednesday.

“Time is important,” Pratton said. “The next step is to collect information from people, and ask, ‘what is important?’ (in a new superintendent.)” Meetings will also be scheduled with district staff.

The plan the board and Pratton worked out Wednesday starts with community meetings in the first week of December to determine the qualifications the community wants in the new superintendent.

“You want a Cecil B. DeMille type of production rather than one or two people,” Pratton said, referring to “casts of thousands” film director. “You want people to believe they were part of the process,” Pratton said.

Board member Sue McCarthy said, “I want this to be an open process.” Board members agreed that citizens should be encouraged to attend any of the community meetings, no matter their place of residence.

“The meetings are interchangeable,” Pratton said. “The information is more important than the particular groups.”

Pratton will keep track of all that is said in the staff and community meetings and report it to the board.

“I’ll tell you which group each comment came from and how many times, whether it came up one time or 25 times,” he said.

The district will formally advertise the position in mid-December; applicants will be due by Jan. 27, 2003. Screening, by what the board is terming an “advisory committee” that will include citizens, would happen Feb. 5-7. Interviews would take place Feb. 24-28, and the board would make its choice by March 21.

About 20 people, including teachers, administrators, other staff, and parents, will serve on the advisory committee. The committee, which will be chosen by Jan. 8, will work with Pratton, who will present a recommendation for approximately six finalists to invite for interviews.

“I am a strong advocate of having a screening committee,” Pratton said. “You involve them, you educate them, and give them an understanding of what kind of candidates are available.”

That will lead to a new round of meetings in which the community will meet and talk with the candidates, just as the district did in 2001.

“We’re in this together,” Pratton said. “We want the best possible person for the job. You don’t want a suit off the rack. Only you will know about the district — the board and its community know.”

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