New Parkrose Schools superintendent to be named next week

Discover why the Parkrose School Board spent months researching and creating a “strategic plan”, before they went shopping for a new education boss ‚Äì and learn how you can meet the final two candidates ‚Ķ

Parkrose School District superintendent, Michael Taylor, says he’ll be leaving in June; but he’s excited about the process the Board’s used to find his replacement.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The unassuming single-story brick building on NE Prescott St. ‚Äì the location from which the Parkrose School District is managed ‚Äì won’t look any different after June 30.

But, on July 1, this $30 Million educational enterprise will be under the leadership of a new superintendent. That’s when Michael Taylor retires from that position.

Six-month process concludes
Just because the Parkrose School Board has taken six months to hire a new superintendent doesn’t mean they’ve been lollygagging or dragging their feet.

Instead, with help from certified facilitators, board members conducted 37 focus group meetings with representative groups from all segments of their community. They recorded 1,700 comments from among 260 Parkrose people.

The participants volunteered their time; no one was paid for their input. “Every cultural group was heard from,” Taylor said. “We listened to what they wanted for their kids’ education.”

The purpose of this process was to develop clear, concise “Mission and Belief” statements.

“I’m excited about this process,” Taylor told us. “This is one of the few districts that have taken the time and resources to develop a ‘strategic plan’ before they conducted the search for their new superintendent.”

This means, Taylor continued, that “we’ve focused on who we are [as a school district], and what we want from our educational system. Only then, did the board focus on finding the person to lead the effort.”

Taylor said it took the board’s design committee 18 hours to consider, rank, and then boil down the community’s comments. “From this input, we developed a mission or vision statement for the district.”

Mission Statement revealed
Taylor said their Mission Statement is in two segments: “What we believe education should be, and how we’ll know we’re successful.”

*Full text of this Mission Statement is at the end of this article.

The document begins, Taylor said, with this statement: “‘The Parkrose School Community provides a premiere education that unlocks the potential in each student.’ This speaks to the quality of education our community expects, and to our bringing out the potential in each student.”

The thing that came that came through, he elaborated, “was the emphasis on maximizing the potential for each individual student. It recognizes that there are many ways to achieve success. Our Board recognized that we need to recognize that our students come from diverse cultures, educational level backgrounds, and have varying levels of family support. Our students come from all kinds of families ‚Äì from the well-established, to the homeless.”

Risks required to achieve goals
To offer more, and varied, educational opportunities for students, Taylor went on, “the school district will need to incorporate new ways of teaching students. There is an inherent risk in introducing new programs and teaching methods.”

Right now, Taylor said, the School Board is sharing their Mission Statement with the community. “We’re asking, ‘If this is what we believe, and if this is how we measure success, what will this look like in our schools? What would that outcome mean to you?'”

Having Parkrose students pass state tests is only the first part of educational measurement, Taylor continued. “That is a given. From there, this is about the activities that help students grow into being successful, productive citizens.”

Taylor won’t pick successor
While he’s been deeply involved in designing the mission statement process, Taylor said he won’t be the one to choose the next superintendent.

“I’m staying a little more distant from the selection. I’m making sure we have good community and staff involvement and communication regarding this decision process.”

A superintendent search can often be difficult for a school board, we learned. “In some cases, while the Board gives policy direction, they’re not clear about specific targets and goals they’re after,” Taylor explained. “But, by clearly defining the goals for our schools before starting the superintendent search, they are able to succinctly communicate their desires to a candidate ‚Äì on a single sheet of paper.”

While interviewing candidates for the job, Board members used their Mission Statement to help them formulate their questions.

“During interviews, Board members asked the candidates not only how the district can better accommodate diversity, but also develop educational systems and programs that allow [students] different paths to success,” said Taylor. “The new superintendent will have the ‘Mission and Belief’ statements, as a yardstick. It becomes our measurement.”

Come meet the finalists March 8
Taylor said that the Board has chosen two final candidates, both of them from Oregon school districts: Dr. Karen Gray, Superintendent of the Coos Bay Schools; and Dr. Ivan Hernandez, Superintendent of the Fern Ridge Schools.

“Our Board has done background and site checks; they’ve completed their visitations,” Taylor told us. “We’ve asked the candidates to meet our community on March 8. By March 12, the Board will have made their decision.”

Two meetings will held on Thursday, March 8.

  • Morning meeting:
    Parkrose School District Office
    10636 NE Prescott
    Dr. Gray will speak from 8:00 to 8:45, followed by Dr. Hernandez speaking from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m.
  • Evening meeting:
    Parkrose High School community rooms (L 12-14)
    From 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., Dr. Hernandez will speak; from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m., Dr. Gray will talk.

Each candidate will present a short talk and then answer questions. The School Board wants to hear what you think, and will have feedback forms at both programs. We’re told coffee and other refreshments will be served.

Superintendent Taylor says that, other than taking a fly-fishing class, he hasn’t seriously considered what he’ll do after he leaves the district in June.

Taylor’s next move
“What’s next for Michael Taylor?” we ask. “A fishing trip?”

“It’s funny you’d say that,” he replied. “I have my first fly-fishing class tomorrow night. I’ve put it off for a year-and-a-half because of conflicts with school meetings.

“I want to make sure I finish what I’m doing here. So, I’m fully here until June 30. I’ve heard some proposals for part time work. My family is all here, so I’m staying here in the community.”

“If you have some spare time,” we playfully suggest, “Teena Ainsley, in the Parkrose ASPIRE program, could use your help‚Ķif you have an hour-a-week.”

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Parkrose School District
Draft Logo Statement, Mission and Belief Statements
January 18, 2007

The Parkrose School Community provides a premiere education that unlocks the potential in each student.

We believe that …

  • The health of our community, our state, and our nation is fundamentally dependent upon the success of each individual student.
  • A student’s success is the responsibility of all members of the community.
  • Respect for the individual and for strong relationships are essential.
  • All students are capable of achieving high expectations.
  • We must meet students’ diverse individual needs, and provide a variety of pathways to success.
  • Taking measured risks is an essential part of our growth as a learning community.
  • Accountability in all aspects of education is crucial.

We will be successful when …

  • Each student will graduate, having completed a K-12 education, with the knowledge and skills they need to adapt to their future: “Knowing how to learn.”
  • Each student’s education is driven by an individual education plan that assures high expectations, and is based on student needs and aspirations.
  • Each student is provided with a wide range of learning opportunities, in and out of the classroom.
  • Each student’s educational experience is integrated with the community and its resources; and the school, the families, and the community work collaboratively for each student’s success.

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© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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