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  • 1 Oct 2014

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Beck accepts top LO schools job

School districts current leader will remain through June


The first female superintendent — and the first new superintendent in almost three decades — is coming to Lake Oswego School District.

The hunt for a replacement for the school district’s longtime, departing leader, Bill Korach, came to a close Monday evening when the Lake Oswego School Board voted unanimously in favor of Heather Beck, the chief academic officer of a school district in Colorado, Jefferson County Public Schools. The district has 85,000 students, 153 schools and a $635 million general fund as of this fiscal year.

The incoming superintendent’s contract includes a $163,000 annual salary or $160,502 when accounting for five furlough days in 2014-15.

Beck’s “instructional knowledge, her data-driven approach and her collaborative style” helped her stand out among the other candidates, said Patti Zebrowski, board chairwoman.

Beck, 49, carries almost 20 years of experience as an educator at K-12 schools with three years in her current position, and she served as the executive director of school management, a principal, an assistant principal and a dean. She also taught for seven years at the high school and middle school level.

Beck said in an email that she “will accomplish three main things during” her first year: “build relationships with students, staff and community members”; “learn about LOSD’s history and needs”; and “determine our strategic next steps for LOSD.”

There were about 50 applicants from throughout the nation, and from the 12 that were screened and had their references checked, the school board chose seven candidates to interview. An advisory panel of teachers, school administrators and classified staff vetted the three finalists, and the board then chose Beck. Hiring the superintendent is among board members’ greatest responsibilities.

“They did get very good candidates, and I do feel they picked a very exceptional person,” Korach said.

Board member Bob Barman said when he and the other board members assessed the finalists, they all agreed upon Beck prior to any discussion of the candidates.

“I’m looking forward to working with her,” Barman said. “I believe our community will be pleased with the board’s choice.”

Beck has a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Denver, a master’s of special education: affective needs from the University of Northern Colorado and a bachelor’s in international affairs from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“Dr. Beck has the excellent communication skills our community desires, and she has clearly demonstrated the ability to implement innovative programs that improve student and teacher success,” Zebrowski said.

Zebrowski said the board reached a decision about two months earlier than estimated on its original timeline, which was intended to be flexible.

That will give Beck plenty of time to visit Lake Oswego before she moves here to get acquainted with the people who live and work in the district, which she plans to do. Beck will step into her new role July 1. She has an adult child, 25-year-old Edward Beck, who is a real estate agent, moving from Denver to Chicago this summer.

The Jefferson County School Board Watch submitted an email to the Review Tuesday stating it is a period of fractiousness between the JeffCo board and the district, and the letter also spoke well of Beck.

“She has done tremendous work here on the west side of Denver,” stated the email, signed the JeffCo School Board Watch, a watchdog group.

As for the current superintendent, his second retirement will be effective June 30.

Korach retired in 2011 but continued on post-retirement contracts in 2012-13 and in 2013-14. He makes more than $131,000 annually, accounting for furlough days, and his salary has been frozen. For the past two years, he has donated $40,000 of his income to the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports teachers’ salaries.

Hired in 1987, Korach is the longest-serving school superintendent in the state.

He said he plans to teach at Lewis & Clark College and Portland State University, but if Beck or the board need to consult him, he’ll be glad to help.

“We will make sure that (Beck) is as ready as she can be when she takes over and then after that we’ll see what the board and our new superintendent want,” Korach said.