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News / Clark County News

Evergreen Public Schools takes step to seek new superintendent after Boyd’s retirement

Parents urge transparent and widespread search for John Boyd's replacement

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 24, 2024, 6:09am

With Evergreen Public Schools Superintendent John Boyd announcing his retirement last week, Clark County’s largest school district will again begin the process of identifying a new head honcho.

Boyd was appointed interim superintendent following the firing of Mike Merlino in December 2021 and made permanent superintendent in February 2023. He helped the district navigate post-pandemic enrollment decline and budget deficits.

He gave no specific reason for his sudden announcement, other than it was the “right time” and a difficult decision made with his family. He will retire from his position effective June 30.

Boyd is Evergreen’s fourth superintendent since 2017 — a fact not lost on the district’s community.

In a statement last week, Evergreen board President Rob Perkins said the board would have liked Boyd to stay longer.

On Monday, the board met for the first time since the announcement. In a quick special meeting, the board, with Boyd present, discussed the first steps toward appointing his successor.

“This is a good time to discuss what kind of process, in broad strokes, that we’re thinking about,” Perkins said at the meeting Monday. “I’m mindful of a lot of community members who have called for an open and public process for the permanent appointment.”

For the interim role, however, Perkins suggested using local superintendent search firms to identify good candidates: the same approach that identified Boyd as an interim candidate.

Board director Julie Bocanegra agreed, concluding the meeting with the sentiment that identifying a search firm needs to be the first step.

Beyond that, Perkins suggested a regional or national search may be necessary for the permanent role. Evergreen went without such a larger search process when it appointed Boyd to the permanent role last year — a choice criticized repeatedly at board meetings by some parents and staff.

Parent reactions

Parents and community members across Evergreen said last week’s news of Boyd’s retirement came as a surprise.

“I thought he was going to be here for at least five years, at least that seemed like that was his plan when he came in,” said Corrie Ward, a mother of five students in the district. “So for him in year two to be like, ‘I’m out,’ I just think, what’s up with that?”

The timing was particularly confusing, some parents said, as Boyd’s decision comes just weeks after the district announced nearly $20 million in budget cuts for the third straight year.

“I know the parents have given him heat, but at the same time, it’s just so interesting with the timing,” said Stephanie Wagner, another parent in the district.

Wagner and Ward both said they’d want to see a widespread, transparent search process for Boyd’s long-term successor, citing national searches conducted by nearby districts, such as Portland Public Schools and the Camas School District.

“My youngest will be in the class of 2037, I’m here for the long run,” Ward said. “We want to see an actual search for a superintendent, not just ‘Oh, hey, I know a guy.’”

Board director Gary Wilson suggested conducting a community survey for priorities in a new superintendent much like how Evergreen collected feedback about the district’s budget.

The district held a series of “listening sessions” in 2022 and 2023 to gather feedback on what people might like to see in a new leader prior to appointing Boyd its permanent superintendent. Words like “integrity,” “honesty” and “experience” were commonly referenced throughout the sessions.

Staff union finishes vote

At the board’s March 26 meeting — where it voted 4-1 on next school year’s budget cuts — Evergreen Education Association President Kristie Peak presented a resolution of no confidence in district leadership.

Peak said Tuesday the union completed its vote on the resolution: 92 percent of voting members supported the resolution, with 62 percent of all members of the 1,800-member union casting a vote.

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“The results clearly reflect the frustration educators are feeling with the lack of real solutions to issues they’ve brought to upper management again and again,” Peak said. “Members’ vote of no confidence in leadership, including the superintendent, school board and upper management stems largely from the continued absence of responsive, effective solutions.”

Perkins responded to news of the vote, saying he understands frustration felt by staff in recent years.

“While we are confident that the work done under Superintendent Boyd has us moving in the right direction, we know there is a lot to be done,” Perkins said via email Tuesday. “The board is committed to working together with all stakeholders towards supporting student success.”

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.