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Superintendent search lacks ‘transparency?’

Transparency wasn’t the buzz word in a vocabulary lesson — it just felt that way at Wednesday’s South Kitsap School District board meeting.

At issue was whether the board has been clear and open in its search for a superintendent to replace Bev Cheney, who will retire at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

During the second of three opportunities for the public to meet superintendent candidate Dave La Rose — and the first at which the public could ask him questions — at district offices, South Kitsap Education Association President Julia Bradford said many teachers have lost trust in the board based on its approach to fill the position.

She said many were displeased that La Rose wasn’t available to answer questions from the public last week because of a family obligation, and that the board should have rescheduled the meeting for a time when he was available.

“People wondered about how transparent the process was,” Bradford said. “There was no time for questions. It doesn’t feel real collaborative to me.”

Christopher Lemke, a former SKSD board member, said there are other internal candidates who are interested in the position and he feels they should be given an opportunity.

“Have them speak,” he said. “Have people come up and talk about them. The process still will afford him (La Rose) a great opportunity to be superintendent.”

Board member Kathryn Simpson countered, “I don’t think there was a person in this district with qualifications who wasn’t considered by the board.”

The school board is trying to decide whether to go with La Rose, an internal candidate, or hire one of three search firms to locate one. (See related Guest Opinion, page A4.)

“It occurred to us that we should take a hard look at Dave before deciding to spend $25,000 to $40,000,” school board president Patty Henderson said.

She said she learned about La Rose’s candidacy four weeks ago when he asked for a recommendation regarding a similar position in the Bremerton School District.

The board interviewed the three search firms May 14, but afterward decided to first consider La Rose. The board will vote at Wednesday’s meeting to appoint him to succeed Cheney.

“If David La Rose is not the very best superintendent possible, I will vote to move to engaging a search,” Simpson said.

Will Lewis, a teacher at Cedar Heights Junior High, said he supports promoting La Rose, who now is the assistant superintendent for school and family support.

He was hired into that position two years ago and came to SKSD in 2004 as principal at Orchard Heights Elementary School after moving with his family from Gilbert, Ariz.

He was director of community schools there and guided before- and after-school programs.

He has been a teacher, middle-school assistant principal, elementary-school principal and an assistant superintendent.

“When you know you have a good thing, you should try and keep on with it,” Lewis said. “I think we’re on the right track with what we’ve got.”

Simpson said she couldn’t quantify the district’s needs for the entire board because those are subjective to each member. But she felt La Rose’s “qualifications are more germane to the district’s needs than other candidates.”

Henderson said it’s important that the next superintendent displays “passion and a vision for community excellence.” She said when those ideals were discussed between board members, “that’s when Dave’s name came up.”

Rev. Jim Hill supports promoting La Rose.

“With a process, we don’t know what we’re getting,” he said. “Bring on Dave La Rose. We know the track record we’re getting. He has a rapport with principals because he served as one, and has a track record in the district office.”

Others feel the district should consider outside candidates as well, which it did when Cheney was hired in 2001. She previously served as the senior director of educational assessment and accountability for the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nev.

And La Rose’s residence in Gig Harbor was addressed again.

“It would be my preference to have a superintendent in the South Kitsap School District,” said Simpson, adding that she understood La Rose’s desire not to uproot his family.

La Rose countered that he understands not everyone likes that he lives outside the district, but added that “I think I’m 2.3 miles from the nearest South Kitsap school-bus stop.”

The community will have a final opportunity to question La Rose at 7 p.m. Monday at Hidden Creek Elementary School.

The district seeks comments and questions for La Rose. For more information, visit www.skitsap.wednet.edu or call (360) 874-7002.

In other South Kitsap School District news:

• The State Auditor’s Office released its annual accountability audit report on the district, and according to the audit summary, “We noted certain issues related to the controls over the financial statements that we communicated to district’s management.”

The report questioned $29,453 spent by SKSD’s career and technical education grant fund that “were not considered reasonable, necessary or approved.” According to the report, the money paid for three of the program’s teachers and eight South Kitsap High School students to travel from June 19 to July 11, 2007 to install refurbished computers and train people to use them.

The report states that a hotel invoice showed a $113 charge for movies — an illegal use of public funds — and that “the District has no documentation showing the state approved travel to a foreign country, which is beyond the objectives stated in the original grant application.”

SKSD didn’t have an audit finding the previous 13 years.

•?Jason Shdo will replace the retiring Jule Lee as principal at Sidney Glen Elementary in the fall.

Shdo, who has 21 years of educational experience — all in SKSD — is the assistant principal this year at Orchard Heights Elementary School.

He also has been a teacher and was dean of students at SKHS.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Washington and a master’s in economy for education at the University of Delaware. Shdo acquired his principal credentials at Western Washington University.

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