GIVE SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH MORE TIME

April 17, 2002 12:00 am

The La Grande School Board is looking at a quick and easy way to get a new superintendent on board after Dan Arriola announced he is leaving after serving only one year in the post. The previous superintendent, Jerry Sessions, left the district in 2001 after serving for only two years. The movement of superintendents in and out of the district does not provide for much continuity.

SOME BOARD MEMBERS believe that Jay Rowell, who has served in La Grande as a grade school principal and currently is the district's director of curriculum and personnel, might fill the bill. While Rowell is well liked by his associates and is building a solid career in school administration, the board would be better off to step back and consider more than one candidate.

Rowell has several pluses going for him. He comes with Arriola's recommendation. He's been with the district for five years and understands its issues. But Rowell has not served as a superintendent and would have to work on completing his credentials next year.

Instead of jumping at the chance to fill the position soon, the board should spend some time deciding what it needs in a superintendent — priorities that must be established publicly. A school district's top executive needs to know how to work effectively with teachers, their union and other staff. He or she must know how to negotiate employee contracts, develop new programs, put together the district's annual budget and do long-range planning.

THE LA GRANDE SCHOOL District is not among Oregon's largest. But it certainly is not the smallest either. The board should take a look at candidates who have proven themselves working as a superintendent in, perhaps, smaller districts.

Rowell is on his way up professionally, and he might surface as the best person for the job. He also might be willing to commit a few years to the district. If Rowell is selected, the board could help him by hiring a retired superintendent part-time to coach him for a year or two. The board should not jump the gun, however. It should give the superintendent selection process some more time.

FLIGHT ACROSS RIVER

A group of Washington residents staged a rally on the steps of the Capitol in Salem Monday to make a point. The protesters, who live in the Vancouver, Wash., area but work in Portland, say much of the money they pay in Oregon income tax goes for programs that do not benefit them.

ONE OF THE PROTESTERS, Chris Strizver of Battle Ground, Wash., suggested that about 90 percent of what Washingtonians pay in Oregon taxes should be refunded.

Of course, a massive refund for Washington residents will not occur. Can you imagine how many thousands of Portland residents would move to the Vancouver area if they could get that kind of tax break in the Evergreen State?