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May 21, 2022

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Search for Camas schools next superintendent goes nationwide


CAMAS — A good listener. An effective communicator dedicated to being transparent. A person who will engage the community, exemplify kindness and unity, work well with staff and lead a school district that helps students develop strong critical-thinking skills.

These are just a few of the top qualities Camasonians say they hope to see in the next Camas School District superintendent.

“(Someone who is) strategic, engaging and courageous,” Camas Mayor Ellen Burton said when asked what skills the next Camas schools chief should bring to the table during an Oct. 7 Camas School District forum that included current and former Camas mayors — Burton and Nan Henriksen — as well as David Ripp, executive director of the Port of Camas-Washougal; Tim Hein, president of the Camas Planning Commission; and other notable Camas stakeholders.

Forum moderator Steven Lowder, a retired superintendent who works with McPherson and Jacobson, the Nebraska-based administrator search firm leading the hunt for Camas’ next superintendent, had asked Burton and the other stakeholders to name the skills they hoped the next Camas superintendent would embody.

“(They) have got to be out in the community right now … ensuring (their) behavior is consistent with (their) words, because that’s what people watch,” Burton said. She said she also hoped the new superintendent would help bring people who might be “quieter, more marginalized” into the conversations that help guide the school district, which Burton pointed out is becoming increasingly diverse.

Building partnerships

Henriksen — often associated with shifting Camas out of its “one-mill town” mindset, bringing in high-tech companies and helping the town evolve into one of Clark County’s most successful and affluent communities — said she admired former Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell, who left in July to lead the nearby Vancouver Public Schools district.

“I was always impressed with Jeff Snell’s empathy for every student, no matter where they were,” Henriksen said. “(Snell) wasn’t just out there in the community, he was in the schools, talking to kids and listening to kids … and that was a huge gift.”

Henriksen said she hoped the district’s new superintendent also might demonstrate these “palpable” empathy and active-listening skills.

Burton, Ripp and the other stakeholders said building partnerships would be a critical part of any new superintendent’s responsibilities.

Community weighs in

Community members have had several chances to weigh in on the school district’s monthslong search for a new superintendent. The district held two, in-person “listening posts” in late September and launched an online “ThoughtExchange” in early October, which is now closed.

Though only a handful of community members turned out for the second in-person listening post, held Sept. 25 at Lacamas Lake Elementary School, nearly 400 had participated in the online ThoughtExchange, as of Oct. 11, which asked community members to weigh in on the school district’s “most important strengths and challenges.”

Lowder, who is leading McPherson and Jacobson’s hunt for a new Camas schools superintendent, said on Oct. 11 the search is “going really well,” and the district’s nationwide job posting, which went out on Oct. 1, had already garnered five inquiries and seven applicants.

The job posting, with a salary range between $210,000 and $235,000 a year, closes Nov. 3.

The Camas School Board will select finalists to interview by Nov. 22 and will interview top candidates the last week of November and first week of December. The board plans to select a new superintendent in mid-December and has said community members will have a chance to learn more about the top candidates before its final selection.

To learn more about the district’s search for a superintendent or to participate in the ThoughtExchange, visit


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