By Janet Eastman
After two years of searching, the Ashland School Board has hired Jay W. Hummel as superintendent to replace Juli Di Chiro, who is retiring in July after 13 years as head of the district.
Hummel is in charge of a school district on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho. There, the budget is about 40 percent less than Ashland’s yet it serves 45 percent more students and the on-time high school graduation rate is higher than Ashland’s.
The hiring announcement was made Monday night during the Ashland School Board meeting. Hummel was not present.
He starts July 1. Di Chiro will have time to work with him.
The vote was unanimous.
Hummel has been the superintendent of the Kuna Joint School District since 2005. He also has served as an assistant superintendent, high school principal, counselor, coach and English teacher since his education career started in 1978. Two years of that span were spent in Ontario in Eastern Oregon.
He earned his sixth-year superintendent degree from the University of Idaho. At the College of Idaho, he received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, English and health as well as a master’s degree in education and a K-12 administrator’s certificate.
According to the Kuna Joint School District website, the district has a budget of $27 million and 500 employees serving 5,000 students. There are seven elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and one alternative high school.
The on-time high school graduation rate in the Kuna district has stayed around 92 percent for three years and the district has met statewide K-12 goals in reading, math and language arts.
In comparison, ASD has a budget of $43.9 million and approximately 300 full- and part-time teachers, support staff and administrators, serving nearly 2,750 students. There are three elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, a K-8 magnet school and a K-12 learning center.
In Ashland, the four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2012 was 86 percent, which was a drop from 91 percent in 2011 and 89 percent in 2010.
Hummel was one of two finalists selected from a pool of 19 applicants during a second attempt this year to hire a new superintendent.
The other finalist in the second round was Russell Pickett, who has been superintendent for six years in Tenino, Wash., a district 10 miles south of Olympia with about 1,300 students.
Both candidates came to Ashland earlier this month for a series of final interviews and school tours after undergoing a process of screenings, interviews, reference checks and a visit by Ashland School Board members to their school districts.
The candidates visited Ashland schools on May 3. The next day, they were interviewed by committees comprised of community members, parents and staff, and later school board members.
This was the second time this year that the school district went through the taxing process of whittling down a field of superintendent applicants.
In February, three candidates backed out of consideration for the job after visiting Ashland. One declined during the final phase of negotiations. All would have had to accept a decrease in pay.
The budgeted salary for the new superintendent is from $120,000 to $135,000, according to Ashland School Board Chairwoman Carol Davis.
In the second round, eight candidates were from Oregon and 11 candidates were from out of state.
Davis said no one who applied for the job twice was considered, though four candidates did.
The district spent $15,000 for the Oregon School Boards Association’s help in advertising and promoting the job the first time, but was assisted for no cost this time around.
Hummel’s three-year contact was signed by the board members Monday night after the board meeting. The contract will be made public within the week.
“Jay is a pro-active education leader, collaborative and a person of integrity,” said School Board member Jim Westrick.
Board member John Williams added that Hummel has a history of staying with a school district.
Davis said Hummel was challenged with budget cuts and he partnered with technological and medical companies to create “competitive graduates.” “He’s an out-of-the-box thinker,” she said.
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.