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Jewell School Seeks Committed Leader

JEWELL — The Jewell School District is moving toward a part-time superintendent and a part-time principal as the first permanent replacements to embattled former Superintendent Brian Gander, but it wants the top boss fully committed to good communications and every child. And some community members just want Larry Lockett to stick around. He is the retired Astoria High School principal serving as Jewell’s interim boss.

During a special meeting Monday called to finalize the characteristics, salary and other requirements of a potential half-time superintendent, the Jewell School Board set a tentative timeline with a hiring date of April 24, in time for the new superintendent to help in the search for a full-time principal.

The board approved setting the maximum salary at $70,000, with or without benefits, waived the requirement that once hired the candidate must live in the school district and authorized their search firm to spend $800 advertising the position online.

The posting for the superintendent’s job starts going online at the district’s and faculty search websites today. The proposed schedule has the district closing the application period in mid-March, interviewing candidates in April and making a decision later that month.

“My suggestion is once we get past spring break, we start the process for the principal selection process,” said Greg McKenzie, a facilitator with Window to Leadership LLC out of West Linn, chosen to assist the district in its search.

From Jan. 21 to Feb. 7, he hunted for opinions in the Jewell community about the ideal superintendent, interviewing approximately 75 members of the staff, faculty, parents and student body and also running an online survey.

“I need the words I use so I can start building that literature,” he said about talking to so many people and gathering so many diverse opinions about what Jewell has and wants.

He looked for patterns and found several: In a superintendent, Jewell residents want a good communicator who’s committed to serving all children, is honest, versed in budgeting and respectful to everyone, among other qualities.

Community members want the district to focus on financial stabilization, additional postsecondary educational opportunities, student safety and behavior, student and teacher development and administrative turnover.

“I don’t know if this person’s going to work 2½ days during a week … so I want to give them and you flexibility,” said McKenzie about the superintendent living in-district, adding that the subject can be further explored through interviews.

Many board members, and McKenzie himself, pointed to advantages of Jewell’s isolation.

“I would like that as kind of bait, that we expect the superintendent to take an active role … in the theory of education for the students of this institution,” said board member Brian Engbretson, adding that a candidate needs to understand the timber-dependent funding scheme of the district.

Board member Jennifer Blanchard said candidates need to be knowledgeable of and dedicated to the blended classroom concept putting multiple grades in one classroom. Jewell has several blended classes spanning several grades.

Some community members broached the possibility of the district scrapping the search altogether and looking in-house.

School board member Ginger Kaczenski asked, if Lockett’s interested, could the district stop searching. Sixth-grader Henry Samuelson approached the board and read a letter in which he asked to keep Lockett. McKenzie reminded those present that it’s entirely up to Lockett whether he applies.

There’s been a revolving door for administrators in Jewell’s recent history, including:

• John Seeley, who served as superintendent from 1999 to 2007, when he resigned amid internal audits by the Northwest Educational Service District and an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Clatsop County District Attorney into various allegations;

• Jerry Jones, who served as superintendent from 2008 through 2009 after the district had gone through a quick succession of about three administrators the year prior;

• Brian Gander, took over in July 2009 and resigned in June amid outcries from the community about his communication and management style;

• James Sager, superintendent of the Northwest Regional Education Service District, who stepped in momentarily from Hillsboro to run Jewell School and negotiate a legal separation agreement with Gander;

• Jim Carlile, a former superintendent from Knappa and a facilitator for Portland State University’s Center for Student Success who started in the summer as superintendent and principal, staying until mid-December; and

• Lockett, who has since been superintendent and principal of the school, staying on until July in the transition to a permanent replacement.

Jewell’s administration was also tasked Monday with putting together a candidate screening group of 12 to 15 community members and school employees, in addition to the five school board members.

This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.

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