In a year of multiple changes, Gervais School District has been dealt another blow: Superintendent Rick Hensel has announced he will leave the district at the end of the school year.
Hensel, 59, was hired in 2007 and said that he feels it is time to move on.
(Studies show) a superintendents effectiveness is between five and seven years, he said. I think after five to seven years, a superintendent has come in and helped the district in whatever way the district needed to be helped. After you are there long enough, things start to level off. I think its good for an organization to have change after a period of time.
Hensel said he will likely retire, since he has some medical concerns, but he is open to wherever life takes him.
It isnt my intent to work anywhere else but I dont say no very well, he said.
Hensel, who is originally from Hermiston, started out his career teaching and coaching at his alma mater. After a couple years, he needed a change and decided to join the U.S. Marine Corp. in 1979.
Hensel served in the military for 22 years, living all over the world, including South Korea, Japan, Turkey and The Philippines. Although he never saw battle, he was on a ship in the Persian Gulf, ready to be called to action, during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
I worked in air control and UAVs, or drones, he said.
When he retired in 2001, Hensel was a lieutenant colonel.
Along the way, I gained a masters degree in educational leadership from University of Southern California, he said. I always took classes at every duty station. So when I finished, I had an additional 45 hours of credits.
So Hensel was qualified and hired for the superintendent position at Athena-Weston School District.
After being there six years, he took the job in Gervais, his first time living in the Willamette Valley.
Hensel said being in the military so many years definitely gave him an advantage as a superintendent.
In the Marine Corps, you are trained to be a leader, and the leadership foundation applies to any type of organization, he said. I worked with logistics, with things like that, so as a superintendent I felt very comfortable.
During his tenure at Gervais, Hensel said hes most proud of the increasing success of the districts alternative education offerings – including being able to host the alternative schools conference for the past three years – as well as the successes of Gervais High School.
Additionally, he said hes proud of the increased popularity of the Oregon Latino Basketball Tournament that is hosted in Gervais.
The relationship the district and this community have with each other and the idea of hosting that tournament in this town is so exciting to me, Hensel said.
He added he is also proud of the recent district consolidation process, but as that is still not completed, he doesnt want to take credit for it.
I wouldnt include this year because were not done, he said. We know its been successful, but we dont know what positive impact its going to have. You have to mature a little bit before you see.
Now facing retirement starting July 1, 2014, Hensel isnt sure what all he and his wife, Rosemary, will do together.
Already, he and his wife travel and keep fit by jogging every day, but Hensel said they might look into volunteering at historic sites or national parks.
He also has children and grandchildren in other parts of Oregon and Washington, so longer visits will be more likely during retirement.
In the meantime, the school board will be working with a contractor, formerly with Oregon School Boards Association, who specializes in executive searches.
The first meeting will be Nov. 18, with the job announcement likely to go out in January and a decision made on a new superintendent in the spring.
I have really appreciated and respected the leadership that (Hensel) has brought to the district, said school board Chairman Brent LaFollette.
When somebodys got that kind of leadership and background, I feel hes made my job easy.
Hensel, who said he will distance himself from the search, is confident Gervais will only continue to shine.
When I look at other cities, its amazing how wonderful this community really is; you dont see trash, you dont see graffiti, you see well taken care of houses and a beautiful downtown, he said.
This is just a wonderful place.