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SCHOOLS | Steach visiting SKSD on Wednesday
John Steach is the second of three South Kitsap School District superintendent finalists to visit the district on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
The 49-year-old Steach has been superintendent of the 4,800-student Candy School District in Oregon since 2011. It is his first superintendent job.
After graduating from Richland High School, Steach attended Washington State University and received his a degree in chemical engineering.
He worked at the Handford Nuclear Reservation for about 18 months, then went to Los Angeles and worked in a small chemical plant for two years
“When we’re deciding to have kids, we looked around Los Angeles and decided the Tri-Cities area would be better,” Steach said.
They moved back to the Tri-Cities and work at Hansford for 17 years.
While working at Hansford, he served six years on the Richland School Board and decided he want to pursue education.
“I really started enjoying education more than anything I was doing at Hansford,” Steach said.
He was already working on his master’s degree in business, when he switch it to education.
“I decided to focus my MBA on school finances and human resources,” said Steach.
During his final year on the school board, he notified the superintendent and district he intended on applying for position with the district.
After receiving his MBA, he worked three years in managing the school district’s support systems, then moved over to human resources for four years. Steach was then promoted to association superintendent then to deputy superintendent. He also filled in a interim superintendent for a few months during a transitional period.
Steach said being a superintendent is a “second career” for me.
“Several years ago, I decided what I wanted to do with my career is be a superintendent.”
“Coming from Richland, I was geared up to lead a district that size.”
He said, several years ago, he started looking around the state opening for a superintendent position that matched his skill set and experience.
“I didn’t want it to be too small or too large,” he explained.
He looked at an opening in Kelso, but when he saw that their alternative high school was in a single portable building, he knew that wasn’t the place for him, Steach said.
Steach said there is a huge difference between Washington and Oregon. Washington has a paramount duty clause in its constitution, where the Legislature has to fund state education.
“In Oregon, their state constitution isn’t that strong,” Steach said. “When they (legislature) sets the annual budget, they figure out how much money is available and that is what education gets. And if it not ample, all the Legislature has to do is write about a paragraph and stick it in as a supplement to the budget and say, ‘We don’t have enough money to fund it.’ ”
Steach said during the last two years in Oregon, he has lived through budget cuts that are unimaginable for Washington.
“There is a huge anti-tax sentiment in Oregon.” he said.
Because of state funding, Steach said last year he had to eliminate all middle school athletics and after-school programs, cut elementary school physical education and eliminated one-third of the busing in the district. In the middle school, students can take physical education, choir or band as an electives.
“We saved $65,000 in the budget by eliminating middle school athletics,” he said. “We had kindergarten classes with 29 students with one teacher and no support.”
Steach said his district received about 90 percent of what Washington school districts receive from the state.
“South Kitsap would have to cut about 10 to 15 percent of their budget to see how things are in Oregon,” Steach said.
During his first year as superintendent, Steach said there was a levy before the voters.
He said he created two budgets, one with what programs the district will have if the levy passes, and one with the programs that would be cut if the levy failed.
Steach said he wasn’t surprised that he is one of three finalists.
“I’m relieved and excited,” he said. “You never know that the board is going to think about you.”
He said he didn’t do any homework on the other candidates, but hopes the school district will take the time to talk with people he has worked with in the past.
“South Kitsap has a lot to offer students and that is what I’m looking for,” said Steach, during a phone interview on Feb. 12. “They have a fine tradition of academics and community support. I’ve been impressed with the staff from what I’ve seen.”
He said his wife, who has taught at the community college level, is involved in theatre and active on several boards within the community.
The couple’s daughter attends the University of Washington and their son lives in Bellingham.
“Being closer to our kids would be nice,” Steach said.