Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady will be the new superintendent of Hood River County Schools.
Evenson-Brady, former assistant superintendent of the district, had been all but appointed last month, after the board narrowed its candidate list to one name — Evenson-Brady’s. The board then authorized the district’s legal counsel to negotiate a contract with Evenson-Brady’s attorney. Evenson-Brady left the district three years ago to become superintendent of Region 9 Education Service District, which serves Hood River, Wasco, and four other counties. She will start work July 1.
“I’m excited and thrilled to be coming back to Hood River County. It’s a real adventure,” she said.
The hiring decision was made final Thursday when the Hood River resident signed her three-year contract, which the School Board had ratified on Tuesday.
Still, Evenson-Brady is keeping her new job at arm’s length.
“I am an observer at this point,” she said. “I’ve tried to stay informed. I am not yet the superintendent and I also have a full plate with my job as Region 9 superintendent, which I will continue to do until July 1.”
“I can’t make any assumptions. The district has changed quite a bit,” Evenson-Brady said, in spite of the fact that she is a Hood River resident, she once worked for the district, and has sustained her contacts through her work at Region 9.
Evenson-Brady has formed a transition team, which will meet every two weeks. District and building administrators, classified and certified employees will serve on the team.
“They’re helping me make sure I am up to speed on the issues,” Evenson-Brady said.
But it is the new superintendent’s familiarity with the district and its employees that helped her stand out, according to Jan Veldhuisen Virk, board chairwoman.
“Pat will bring a lot of things to the district,” Veldhuisen Virk said. “She is a strong leader, and she has a history in our district, which will be really helpful in times we’re heading into.
“She has a present relationship with the administrators and teachers in our district which I think will be invaluable,” Veldhuisen Virk said. “She often thinks in ways that will allow us to make changes and be flexible. Pat is first and foremost an educator, and that will continue to be her priority: to educate kids in Hood River County.”
Trying fiscal times are a reality Evenson-Brady said the district and its patrons can endure.
“You need to focus on the positive,” she said. “Teaching is the most important thing we can do. It’s tremendously important. We have to remind (the community) of how vitally important that work is.”
Evenson-Brady will be a familiar face in classrooms starting in September. She has vowed to try to visit every classroom in the district during her first two years.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the new challenge. It’s been a great job at Region 9 ESD. I’ve had really good folks to work with.” Evenson-Brady submitted her resignation this week.
She has had to cut programs severely at ESD in her three years there.
“I learned a great deal about budgeting, how to downsize while maintaining staff morale and maintaining a quality agency,” she said.
She acknowledged that the process is somewhat different at a school district than at an ESD, which provides support services rather than K-12 core instruction.
“It’s different at a school district compared to an ESD where you can cut programs in hopes that the individual districts can pick some of it up. I mean, you can’t cut third grade,” Evenson-Brady said.
“The challenge is in the budget, but not just the loss of money but maintaining quality programs,” she said.
Evenson-Brady plans to emphasize communications and “maintaining support for the programs that are absolutely necessary.”
“Otherwise, you get a downward spiral, and we can’t do that in Hood River,” she said of a district she believes has “truly good people,” and one that has made great strides in test scores given the relatively high poverty and percentage of English as a Second Language learners.
“It’s a challenged population and still it has these improved figures,” she said. “What we have done here is unique. We have been able to focus on teaching. This district takes seriously the challenge to educate all kids.”
Evenson-Brady directly succeeds interim superintendent Rick Eggers, who will return to his assistant position on July 1. The previous superintendent was Jerry Sessions, who resigned Jan. 1, halfway through his second year with the district, following revelations he made payments to former athletic director Glenn Elliott that had not been authorized by the board.
Evenson-Brady said that she has heard positive comments about Sessions but wants to put the negative nature of his departure in the past.
“It’s a problem to be dealt with but not an overwhelming problem,” she said. “But it is old business. We have to ask, ‘what is our new business?’”
The former teacher most of all looks forward to her regular classroom visits over the next two years.
“It’s my plan and I’ll do my best to make it to every classroom. It says what is important: to emphasize the classroom, to polish it, and to celebrate it.
“I think people want good schools. They recognize that they’re part of the economic development of the community,” Evenson-Brady said. “Folks will recognize this as a really key ingredient of the good life in Hood River.”