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School chiefs call for district leader


School Board has yet to appoint acting superintendent

The air was filled with tension as school principals described a broken chain of command of leadership in the Estacada School District, urging the school board to name an acting superintendent while the search goes on for a permanent replacement.

The Central Office conference room was packed for the special school board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 19.

At the start of the meeting, the principals alluded to a strategic five-year plan they had developed, which involves the reconfiguration and centralization of the district’s schools.

Scott Sullivan, Estacada High School principal, told the group that administrators were at first encouraged to develop that plan, then asked to stop working on it except, perhaps, in regard to full-day kindergarten.

“I think the biggest frustration for me, and I think for the rest of the administrators, although they can correct me, is that they put a ton of work and effort in this stuff and then we’re told ‘stop’ and then we’re told ‘go,’ not that we disagree we should maybe stop or go, but we need some direction, we need some leadership,” Sullivan added.

Seth Johnson agreed, adding he would like to be able to focus on being the principal of Clackamas River Elementary.

“The chain of command was unclear. Clarifying that will be good for everybody,” said Dan Draper, principal of Eagle Creek Elementary, in a later interview.

Sullivan said the administrators felt as though they were lacking leadership amongst themselves and that in hindsight, they wished the board had appointed an interim superintendent.

In lengthy testimony, Sullivan said he was worried about the direction of the district and compared it to a “rudderless ship,” obliquely referencing expenditures, configuration and a pending lawsuit.

“I’m watching my colleagues in the administration rank age as fast as I’m aging, and I don’t want that for them,” Sullivan said. “The time that they’re giving up of their families... and nobody really knows the hours that they’re putting in... I’m just worried. I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep this up. The last nine months have been pretty difficult.”

Board member Mark Greene said it was clear to him the board needed to appoint an acting superintendent.

In December, the board announced that long-time Superintendent Howard Fetz would take a step back and assume a “consulting role” as he neared retirement and that the district’s principals and Shannon Powell, director of the district’s special services programs, would take on extra duties until a new superintendent was hired for the 2014-15 school year.

During the Feb. 19 meeting, School Board Chairman Rick Mudrow made it clear he would rather not bring Fetz back to his former capacity.

Mudrow said he’d rather clarify and delegate duties amongst personnel until the new superintendent is hired for the 2014-15 school year.

“Respectfully, Rick, over the next two months are some of the biggest decisions we need to make for the entire year,” said Tina Rhue, principal of Estacada Junior High.

As the group discussed who could fulfill the acting superintendent role, two names surfaced as frontrunners: Powell and Sullivan.

Mudrow said in a later interview that Powell and Sullivan are not necessarily the only candidates for the position.

“We feel like there is someone who could fulfill that duty, but that duty is also itself its own entity, you can’t do that duty and be principal at the same time,” said Ryan Carpenter, vice principal of Estacada High School.

Board Member Jeromy Adamson said he thought Sullivan could step in as acting superintendent and Carpenter and others could take care of the high school.

Sullivan said he would be willing to be acting superintendent as long as it was clear he didn’t want to continue the superintendent job next year.

Powell also indicated his interest in the position.

As the meeting stretched well passed two hours, each administrator, district Business Manager Donna Cancio and others were interviewed individually in a closed session as to their preferences for who should be named acting superintendent.

After deliberating, the board could not establish a majority vote for the acting superintendent and decided to return to the issue in executive session on Friday, Feb. 21.

That meeting also lasted about two hours, but a decision was not reached.