Coos Bay superintendent slated to become Parkrose Schools’ new leader

From a field of 14 candidates, meet Dr. Karen Fischer Gray, the new superintendent of Parkrose School District. Read this and you’ll learn more about this dynamic educator ‚Ķ

-1 Dr. Karen Fischer Gray tells with Parkrose residents and educators how her experience will help Parkrose Schools continue to improve.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Two weeks ago, we outlined how Parkrose School District board members, led by Superintendent Michael Taylor, undertook a six-month process of self-evaluation. (Click here to read article.)

With their goals and expectations for the future of education in Parkrose well in mind, the board set about finding a new leader to fill Taylor position after he retires in June.

After traveling to their districts, checking their backgrounds and credentials, and conducting numerous employment interviews, board members invited everyone in the community to meet the two finalists on March 8. The candidate not selected, in the end, was Fern Ridge School District [near The Dalles, OR] Superintendent Ivan Hernandez.

Meet the candidate chosen
“My forte is excellence in educational design,” said Dr. Karen Gray, currently supervisor of the Coos Bay school system, and an educator for 27 years. “My goal is to bring ‘education for all’, whatever it takes,” she began.

Gray pointed out recent improvements in Coos Bay schools. “All of our schools are strong. We’ve done that by having a common vision for our kids. What I’ve done there is directly transferable to Parkrose.”

Gray said her first job was as a speech pathologist in New York City. She and her family ‚Äì her husband, and three kids ‚Äì moved to Oregon in 1990. “I’m not using this as a stepping-stone to somewhere else. We love Oregon and plan to stay here.”

And “here”, Gray added, is Parkrose. “Out on the coast, I see superintendents living in cities away from their districts. I believe in living where I’m serving.”

Sharing her educational ideals, Dr. Gray outlines her educational ideals at a public meeting on March 8.

Gray’s matters
“Above all,” Gray told us, “student health and safety is the most important. And, meeting needs for students with disabilities and special needs is important.

“I’m a firm believe in ‘behavior support’. I don’t call it discipline. Supporting good behavior helps students grow to be good adults.”

Gray also said she sees the need for adjunct activities, such as music and other performing arts programs in schools; and she advocated for early musical training.

She shared her passion for an educational system that prepares young people for whatever they choose to do. “We need to meet the needs of students, whether they go to college, take further vocational training, or enter the job market. Relevant, responsible education, that helps students connect with their school helps students develop the passion they need to succeed.”

Connecting with parents and kids
Gray said she’s formed advisory groups to keep her connected with her educators, parents and students.

“In addition to talking with teachers and parents, I also created ‘Gray’s Group’, consisting of students in grades nine through twelve. Through them, I get direct feedback from our young people.”

We learned that Gray earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University at Fullerton, and her doctorate from the University of Oregon.

Parkrose school board president, Katie Larsell says they’re currently in negotiations with Gray.

The board plans to formally introduce Gray to the community when Gray’s contract has been finalized.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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