March 15, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande School District Superintendent Jerry Sessions is bound for the wind-surfing capital of the northwest.

Sessions accepted a position as superintendent of the Hood River County School District Thursday. Sessions, who is completing his second year as La Grandes superintendent, will take the reins at Hood River on July 1.

It was a difficult decision to make. We have a good community, a good school district and a good staff, Sessions said.

Sessions, who enjoys distance running, is not a wind surfer. He said he might give it a try in Hood River.

The Hood River School District has 3,700 students, about 1,000 more than La Grande.

This is a professional opportunity for myself, Sessions said.

La Grande School Board Chairperson Guy Weishaar said Sessions will be difficult to replace. Weishaar said Sessions is an excellent communicator, administrator and works well with fiscal issues and curriculum.

He has well-balanced skills across the board. It is going to be extremely hard for the board to replace him, Weishaar said.

Weishaar lauded Sessions for his ability to communicate with the staff, board and community. Weishaar noted that sometimes Sessions would drive out to his ranch to give him updates on issues when Weishaar was busy.

I really appreciated that, Weishaar said.

Weishaar also said that Sessions built excellent camaraderie between the school districts staff and administrators.

He is a team builder. He brought the district together, Weishaar said.

Sessions will succeed Charles Bugge at Hood River. Bugge is retiring after 10 years as Hood Rivers superintendent.

Anne Saxby of the Hood River School Board said she feels fortunate to have landed Sessions. Saxby said Sessions was well received in meetings with the Hood River community and its school district staff.

We are sorry we are taking him (from La Grande), Saxby said.

Saxby is impressed with Sessions leadership style.

He is a good listener. He empowers people by making them feel listened to, Saxby said.

Sessions annual salary at Hood River will be $93,000. The La Grande district pays Sessions $87,150 a year.

Sessions came to the La Grande School District in 1999 from the Phoenix-Talent School District. He had served as that districts curriculum director since 1990.

In La Grande he is credited with implementing student-led conferences, a new schedule at La Grande High School, developing a strategic planning process, and launching a review of the district building needs.