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Observer 11/24/14

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Jay Rowell ().
Jay Rowell ().

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

He is short on experience, but people who know him say he is long on poise, people skills and knowledge of the La Grande School District.

The educator in question is Jay Rowell, the next superintendent of the La Grande School District.

Rowell, the school district's personnel and curriculum director, was offered the superintendent's position by the board Wednesday. The board's vote was unanimous.

Rowell, who will accept, will succeed Dan Arriola, who will resign in two months to become superintendent of the Wilder School District in Wilder, Idaho. Arriola is leaving after one year with La Grande schools.

Rowell, 37, is completing his fifth year with the school district. He was an elementary school principal his first four years and has been the personal and curriculum director for the past year.

"I'm excited, I'm looking forward to it. He will make it work,'' said school board member Glen Herman.

Rowell said he is looking forward to the challenge.

"I'm excited. I have been moving in this direction the last several years,'' he said.

Rowell's name first officially surfaced as a candidate at the April 10 board meeting. School board member and former chairwoman Mary Miesner said then that she was concerned about Rowell's lack of experience. On Wednesday she voted with the others to offer the position to Rowell but said she remains worried.

"I'm very concerned about his lack of experience. I'm worried that we are putting too much on him too soon and will burn him out,'' Miesner said.

Miesner said because of Rowell's lack of experience it will be critical that the board be diligent in supporting Rowell.

Miesner said she believes that Rowell will someday be a very good superintendent.

To help Rowell make the transition, the board will form a mentoring team. The team will consist of two or three present or former superintendents. The mentors, who will be paid by the school district, will serve as consultants for Rowell.

Board chairman Ron Arritola said he has heard nothing but support for Rowell from the community and school district staff since his name surfaced earlier this month.

"That says a lot,'' Arritola said. "...I know that he is up to the challenge.''

Arritola said that naming Rowell as superintendent will add stability to the school district. This is important since Rowell will be the district's third superintendent in three years.

"We owe it to our employees to have some consistency. He is a familiar face. People know and trust him,'' Arritola said.

Arriola was pleased with the school board's decision. The superintendent said that the programs he has started will continue under Rowell.

"You won't miss a beat,'' Arriola said.

Arriola promoted Rowell to the curriculum and personnel director position last year.

"He is a very patient man and very sharp,'' Arriola said.

Rowell said he is anxious to share the good news with his family and friends.

"The only sadness I feel is that I won't be able to call my father,'' Rowell said.

Rowell's father, Jim, who lived in Lebanon, died last month.

People who work with Rowell say that he always appears calm and relaxed. Rowell attributes that to his dad.

"That was my father's personality,'' Rowell said. "He had a calm demeanor. He spoke when he had good things to say.''

Rowell does not have his superintendent's certification but is less than a year from earning it. He will be granted a conditional assignment permit from the state Teacher Standards and Practices Commission that will allow him to serve as superintendent until he is certified. Rowell's contract will be negotiated later.

Rowell came to the La Grande School District from the Lebanon School District where he taught at Queen Anne Elementary for 10 years. The grade school is the same one that he attended as a child.

Rowell and his wife, Teri, a media specialist at Greenwood Elementary, have two daughters.

Rowell has a bachelor's degree from Oregon State University and master's degree in multicultural bilingual education from Western Oregon University.

Reach Dick Mason at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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