Ridgefield school board picks new superintendent

By Justin Runquist, Columbian small cities reporter

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The Ridgefield school board voted Friday morning to hire Nathan McCann, who oversees a small Arizona school district, to be the new superintendent of Ridgefield schools.

McCann, the current superintendent of Altar Valley Schools in Tucson, will start on July 1. The school board is still negotiating his contract, but it could be finalized by Tuesday, board member Joe Vance said.

After a series of interviews with finalists, the board members thought McCann came across as the best fit for the job, showing a passion for education and commitment to improvement, Vance said.

"He stated in one of our community forums that he thinks our district can be the best in the state," Vance said.

In his new job, McCann will move to a district about three times larger than Altar Valley, which has about 750 students. In a recent letter to parents, McCann described the challenges of dealing with a $443,000 cut to the district's budget, explaining that some important programs would have to take a hit.

Before taking his current position, he worked as a principal and at the high school and junior high levels in Arizona's Flowing Wells School District.

He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Vermont in 1995 and a master's degree from the University of Arizona in 2011.

McCann will succeed Superintendent Art Edgerly, who plans to retire in June after more than 30 years in public education. Edgerly has spent the last seven of those years leading Ridgefield's four schools, which together have about 2,200 students.

The school board chose McCann from among 30 applications.

Earlier this month, the school board whittled the field down to three finalists.

The other two were Mike Stromme, the associate superintendent of teaching and learning for Vancouver Public Schools, and Craig Hoppes, the superintendent of the Astoria School District in Oregon.

Stromme also is a finalist to be the next superintendent in Battle Ground. The Battle Ground school board may make its decision next week.

The school board members hosted a question-and-answer session with each finalist at the Ridgefield High School library in the three evenings leading up to the vote. Each time, the library was packed with curious teachers and staff, and the high school leadership team prepared questions as well, Vance said.

McCann told the audience he wants to move to Ridgefield with his wife and children because it has excellent schools and he likes the small-town feel of the community.