Battle Ground, Ridgefield superintendent searches progress

Same consultants help districts attract candidates

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Battle Ground Schools community survey

About 220 community members completed online surveys requesting input about desirable characteristics for the new superintendent, challenges and strengths of the district.

What characteristics/professional skills are desirable in a superintendent?

• Community: 1. Effective communication and listening skills, effective with diverse groups. 2. Honesty, integrity, transparency, sincerity, accountability.

• Parents: 1. Honesty, transparency, accountability. 2. Financial knowledge/skill, fiscal transparency, problem solver.

• Students: 1. Leader who makes good decisions, cares for subordinates. 2. Experienced in running a school, well-qualified.

• Staff: 1. Communication skill, articulate, a listener, transparent. 2. Honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, trust builder.

What challenges/issues do you see ahead for the school district in the near future?

• Community: 1. Restoring trust. 2. Funding, success with levy, bond elections.

• Parents: 1. Regaining and rebuilding trust, including financial trust. 2. Funding, passing levies and bonds, being fiscally trustworthy and using resources wisely.

• Students: 1. Need more funding and financial accountability. 2. Regaining trust with the community.

• Staff: 1. Build trust, overcome problems of buyout, support transparency, bring unity. 2. Budget, passing levies and bonds, meeting unfunded requirements, proactive fiscal approach.

BATTLE GROUND — About 20 people have shown interest in applying for the position of superintendent of Battle Ground Public Schools.

With 13,000 students, Clark County's third-largest school district currently is headed by Duane Rose, interim superintendent. He was appointed in the summer after Shonny Bria, the former superintendent, left the district with two years remaining on her contract.

"I'm really pleased with how the search is going," Rose said. "The initial response is up to 20 candidates. And that's encouraging. Everything is on track."

Consultants Michael Boring and Albert Cohen from the firm McPherson & Jacobson are leading the superintendent search. The online application and promotional materials have been posted on McPherson & Jacobson's website since mid-December. Applications are due Feb. 10.

"We've been advertising the position and recruiting applicants," said Cohen.

To learn more

See the Battle Ground superintendent application

See the Ridgefield superintendent application

Although about 20 people have begun the application process, "most of the applications will come in the last week," Cohen said.

Bria fallout

The district's hiring process comes in the wake of criticism from the community over the way the school board handled Bria's departure.

Bria's annual salary was $154,699. She received a $401,715 severance package that had been negotiated in secret with the school board. After the board released the agreement June 26, community members expressed mistrust of the school board and the district. The district financed about $300,000 of Bria's buyout by leaving two administrative positions vacant for the 2013-14 school year. In an August letter, the school board acknowledged that it violated the public's trust in handling the deal.

Board President John Idsinga and board member Steve Pagel chose not to run for re-election. Two new school board members, Stephanie McClintock and Jim Pegoraro, were elected in November.

Community survey

In November and December, the district reached out to community groups and placed a survey on the district's website. About 220 people submitted online surveys. The responses were used to create a list of characteristics community members valued in the next superintendent. These characteristics include "ability to build trust," "a high degree of demonstrated honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, respectfulness and ethical behavior," "accountable for outcomes," "open, transparent, approachable, accessible and visible in the school and community."

When asked, "What challenges/issues do you see ahead for the school district in the near future?," community members, parents and district employees listed the top challenge as regaining and rebuilding trust. Students listed rebuilding community trust as the second priority behind needing more funding and financial accountability.

Ridgefield search

McPherson & Jacobson is also finding qualified superintendent candidates for Ridgefield School District, with 2,200 students.

Ridgefield Superintendent Art Edgerly announced his retirement at the Oct. 8 school board meeting. He plans to retire at the end of the school year.

Edgerly, who has led the district since 2007, began his career as a classroom teacher in Battle Ground 33 years ago.

The Ridgefield superintendent position closes Feb. 12.

The search process

The search is occurring concurrently in both Battle Ground and Ridgefield.

After the consultants screen the applications and check references, they will present their assessment of the candidates to the school boards in late February.

Names of applicants and semifinalists will not be released, but names of finalists will be released.

Four to six semifinalists will be interviewed in executive session. Shortly after, finalists will be announced.

In the week of March 17, finalists will visit the districts to meet constituents, with one day set aside for each finalist.

By the end of March, each district should release the name of their new superintendent. Both districts expect the new superintendents will begin working July 1.

McPherson & Jacobson has been hired to bring qualified superintendent candidates to three other districts in the state: Longview with 6,600 students; Morton with 310 students; and Orcas Island with 800 students.