South Kitsap School District names new superintendent

Dave La Rose expects to win over SK residents who think the selection process wasn’t thorough enough. - Kenny Gatlin Photo
Dave La Rose expects to win over SK residents who think the selection process wasn’t thorough enough.
— image credit: Kenny Gatlin Photo

The superintendent search is over for the South Kitsap School District.

At its meeting Wednesday, the SKSD board appointed Dave La Rose to succeed Bev Cheney upon her retirement in July 2009.

La Rose, 42, who will continue in his role as assistant superintendent for school and family support in the SKSD until he takes over, thanked the board and Cheney for “the risk, interest and support.”

He said the risk comes from his short tenure in the district and Cheney’s initial decision to hire him.

“I feel honored, privileged and am thankful for the opportunity to continue to work in a great school district,” La Rose said. “The colleagues and families who make up South Kitsap care very deeply about the children.”

He has served in his current position for two years and was hired by 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.

La Rose earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vt., and a master’s degree in education from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn.

He received his superintendent certification in Arizona.

“Dave has shown he’s a leader who can inspire us to achieve a new level of success,” said Board President Patty Henderson.

Henderson, vice president Keith Garton and two other board members, Kathryn Simpson and Jay Rosapepe, voted in favor of La Rose’s appointment.

The board’s newest member, Naomi Polen, said she liked La Rose but chose to abstain from the vote and didn’t elaborate on her decision.

There was a 90-minute open session where community members were allowed to tell the board their thoughts on the process followed by an hour of presentations by the vote.

Locals also had opportunities to share their opinions and ask the board and La Rose questions about the process at meetings May 28 and Monday.

La Rose also spoke and took questions from the board at the May 21 meeting — one week after the panel decided to look at him as a candidate after interviewing three search firms.

Henderson said they were concerned about losing La Rose to the Bremerton School District, where superintendent Bette Hyde will retire after seven years in July, and also wanted to “take a hard look at Dave before deciding to spend $25,000 to $40,000,” on a search firm.

The decision has been controversial. South Kitsap Education Association President Julia Bradford said the concerns aren’t about La Rose, but the manner in which the board chose to make the hire.

Bradford and others questioned the time duration in the appointment.

“We’re rushing forward with this,” said SK resident Ed Pierson, adding that he believes there will be unrest in the community when people learn about the process. “It’s an issue that can be avoided with a fair, open process. I really think there are thousands in the community who are unaware of this. We have time.”

Tim Matthes, a member of the Kitsap County Board of Equalization, urged the board to move forward.

“I still believe the ultimate decision should be yours,” he said. “Do your job.”

Some also questioned why the search centered on La Rose. Assistant superintendent Kurt Wagner’s name was mentioned, but Henderson said he didn’t express interest to the board.

She, along with Simpson, said La Rose best fit the profile they desired in a superintendent.

“This board came to a consensus on one,” Simpson said. “We did consider all qualified candidates in the district. I assure you of that.”

La Rose said, “I’m troubled by the process because I’ve always tried to bring people together.”

He also noted the 15 staff members that showed up from Orchard Heights to support him and hopes he can earn the same respect and trust from those who questioned his appointment.

“I recognize it will take some time to do that,” he said. “I will be intentional and visit with people who had some concerns. Most importantly, it’s doing the important work with those individuals that will help develop that common ground.”

He said he will balance learning the new position during the next school year with his current role. La Rose also wants to work closely with Cheney in the meantime.

“It’s important to be purposeful about being with her, hand in hand, so we do have a smooth transition,” La Rose said. “Because that’s really what this model is designed to do.”

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