April 22, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande School District administrator Doug Potter is an avid reader, one who enjoys mystery novels.

Potter will encounter few mysteries when he starts a new chapter in his education career. The school districts staff development and grant administrator, Potter has been named to succeed Don Ulrey as the curriculum and personnel director.

Potter has a firsthand understanding of the challenges he will face in his new position, which he assumes July 1. He has worked closely with Ulrey for the past six years.

Ulrey is moving to Baker School District 5J to become its curriculum and personnel director.

Don has been a good model for me, Potter said. He has been a great help.

He credits Ulrey with doing an exemplary job as personnel and curriculum director.

Potter is best known for the five years he served as principal of La Grande Middle School before taking his present position last summer.

He is credited with making a number of positive innovations at the middle school.

They include the development of a schedule that features longer class periods, an integrated curriculum, academic teams that allow students to have the same group core subject teachers throughout the year, and an advisory program.

In addition Potter helped get LMS involved in the Drug-Free Youth program and restored interscholastic athletics.

Those who worked closely with Potter at LMS include Doug Hislop, the current middle school principal. Hislop served as LMS vice principal under Potter for two years.

He believed in me. He is a greater leader and trainer, Hislop said.

Potters leadership attributes include an ability to get people with differing viewpoints and backgrounds to come together.

He can work with diverse individuals. He can work with any group and get it to come to consensus, Hislop said.

La Grande School District Superintendent Jerry Sessions echoes this sentiment.

Doug is what I call a connector. He works well with a lot of people and knows how to communicate. He is well thought of and has a lot credibility. He likes people and they like him, Sessions said.

Hislop noted that Potter is unusually dedicated and that his heart is always in the right place.

He has a great work ethic. He works harder than anyone I know, Hislop said.

He always puts children first and is constantly looking for ways to better educate students.

Potters work ethic asnd skills will help when he works on the school districts strategic design process. Through the process a series of visions for the future have been created.

It is important that we take the next step and make these visions become a reality, Potter said.

As curriculum director Potter also wants to focus on continuing to boost reading achievement.

A challenge he will take on later is finding successors for the large number of La Grande teachers who will be retiring in the next 3-5 years.

I look forward to helping attract good candidates, Potter said.

He is confident that skilled teachers can be drawn here.

La Grande is a wonderful place to live and a great place to raise a family, Potter said.

He and his wife Jody have two children, Lauren, an eighth-grader at LMS and Chris, a sophomore at La Grande High School.

When not at work Potter enjoys fly fishing, reading books such as John Grisham novels and following sports.

Potter came to La Grande in 1995 from the Beaverton School District where he had worked for 16 years.

He was a middle school vice principal his final six years and was a middle school social studies teacher for 10 years before that.

The superintendents Potter worked for in Beaverton include James Hager. Potter will never forget Hagers words when he became superintendent Hats off to the past and coats off to the future.

By this Hager meant that it is vital to respect the efforts of the past and to remember that it is important to continue moving forward because there are always new challenges

Potter is heeding Hagers words as he begins a career chapter which, like a John Grisham novel, will be filled with twists and turns.