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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Three Cove superintendent finalists meet public

Three Cove superintendent finalists meet public

COVE — A power outage hit a portion of Cove early Monday evening for about an hour but did not prevent community members from receiving an illuminating look at what the future may hold for their school district. 

The three finalists for district superintendent talked about how they would direct the district and much more during separate meetings with community members, potions of which were conducted in dimming evening light due to the outage.


The finalists, Cove High School Principal Mat Miles; Mick Lane an administrator with the Langlois School District in Port Orford; and Bruce Neil, a principal in Milton-Freewater School District, also were interviewed by the school board in closed sessions and met with faculty and staff during their visits.

All three have strong Northeast Oregon ties, including Lane, who was a teacher and principal in the Baker School District for at least eight years in the 1990s 

“Those were some of the best years of my life. I loved living in Baker City,’’ said Lane, who was an elementary school principal and an assistant principal at Baker High School, during a portion of his time with the Baker School District.

Lane, 61, served as superintendent of the Langlois School District from 2008 to 2011, before retiring last summer. The past year he has worked part-time as the school district’s special programs director. Lane’s year of halftime retirement has energized him.

“I’m all charged up about the chance to be in charge again,’’ said Lane, who would look upon a move to Cove as a homecoming.

Lane said if he is hired this would be his last job as an educator. “It wouldn’t be a stepping stone. I would finish my career here,’’ Lane said.

The educator said he retired as a superintendent a year ago because the financial struggles his district faced had worn him down. His district had to cut 12 positions due to financial problems similar to what public schools throughput the state are facing.

To offset the financial difficulties the Langlois School District faced, Lane did things such as work to obtain grants for education programs. 

He said he would do the same in Cove.

“I would be a grant-writing crazy man,’’ Lane said.

He would employ a strategy he used in the Langlois School District, hiring professional grant writers who work on commission. They receive no money if a grant application is unsuccessful and a commission if it is.

Lane said his leadership style emphasizes relationships.

“They are the foundation for everything else.’’ 

As the superintendent of Langlois, which has 243 students, Lane strived to be out in schools meeting people. One program he had that allowed him to do this was “Traveling Tuesdays.’’ 

On Tuesdays, he would tell his secretary to put all calls on hold and spend most of his day visiting classrooms.

Lane said he got to know classes so well through this program that he was able to serve as a substitute when teachers had to be gone. 

 

Miles is completing his first year as Cove High School’s principal but, like Lane, he has more than a decade of experience working as an educator in Northeast Oregon. Miles came to Cove from the La Grande School District, which he was with for 11 years. The positions he had included assistant principal of La Grande Middle School, assistant principal of La Grande High School, curriculum director and special education director. 

Miles said the path he took to a career in education was unconventional. Miles said he was a poor student while growing up in Baker City. “I struggled in school,’’ Miles said.

He struggled because he didn’t like school or find it interesting. He credits his sixth grade teacher, Bob Smith, with turning his life around. Smith believed in Miles when others did not, overlooking his shortcomings and working with him after class. 

“He made me feel special ... I get emotional just thinking about him,’’ Miles said. “ … What a difference a teacher can make.’’

Miles did not go to college after high school but instead worked as a mechanic. He was paid well, but did not feel he was doing something he wanted to do for the rest of his career.

That is when a friend who was a teacher encouraged Miles to work as a volunteer instructor at a middle school in Ontario. Miles reluctantly said yes and soon discovered he had a passion for teaching.

“It was one of those life-changing events. I took a sharp right turn at that point,’’ Miles said. “From that point on, I never looked back.’’

Miles later earned a bachelor’s degree in education from EOU and a master’s degree from Eastern Washington University. 

He said his unconventional path to a career has heightened his sensitivity to students struggling in school. It also taught him about the importance of working hard to make sure that teachers are reaching students.

Miles said that working in the Cove School District over the past year has been a rewarding experience. “This has been the best year of my educational career,’’ Miles said.

 

Neil, like Miles, also knows what it is like to be an educator in the Cove district. Neil and his wife, Kelly, served as student teachers in Cove in the late 1990s.  “We loved it here,’’ Neil said. “Cove is a special place.’’

Neil said the school district has great academics and a rich athletic tradition.

Neil is presently the principal of Central Middle School in the Milton-Freewater School District. He has been with the school district since 2005 and earlier taught social studies at Pilot Rock High School from 1998 through 2005. 

Neil, who graduated from Enterprise High School in 1986, said he is happy in the Milton-Freewater School District, but said that when he heard of the Cove opening, he had to apply. 

Neil, as a middle school principal, makes a point of visiting classrooms every day at his school.  

He was asked during his presentation if there was a bullying problem at his school. 

“Every school has bullying behavior,’’ Neil said. 

He said such problems are addressed with an effective eight-step discipline plan.

He stressed that he and his wife, Kelly, would be involved members of the Cove community. The Neils have three daughters, ages 12, 9 and 5.

The Cove School District is looking for a successor to Jeff Clark, who is completing his ninth year as superintendent.

Clark announced in March that he will resign June 30 to take a position as superintendent of the Amity School District in Yamhill County.

The Cove School Board hopes to have a successor to Clark hired by mid-June.

 
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