“Brian filled an immediate need in his abilities to get on top of the curriculum and student evaluation needs of our district. His leadership in the use of data driven decision-making has carried us a long ways. We have finalized a complete make over of our K-8 instruction program, implemented a rigorous advanced placement program in our high school…”

—Jennifer Blanchard
Parent/School Board Chair Jewell SD

Jewell School District

2009 to 2012  

Superintendent

Jewell School District #8
83874 Highway 103
Seaside, OR 97138

What I learned from my time at Jewell:

  • Working in small schools is one of the most rewarding experiences an educator can have, the feeling of family is just fantastic.
  • A superintendent’s advocacy for annual goals setting by the board has to be deliberate and grounded in a well-understood set of guiding beliefs. Only when this step happens can a set of SMART goals truly be effective.
  • That distributing the leadership (what some call collaborative leadership) is extremely difficult to implement when the previous leadership has been unstable and not trusted.
  • Complex changes that push individual’s skills sets in a time of budgets cuts needs to be compassionate and well supported, but focused on what is best for the students’ long run growth.
  • The hard work of using a variety of communication strategies and communicating often never really guarantees you will reach all affected constituents.

What I accomplished in my Superintendent role at Jewell:

  • I guided the district through a mission and vision development process that defined a set of guiding beliefs and became our foundation in decision-making.
  • Reduced overall expenditures by $680,000 dollars in the first fiscal year, reducing expenditures from reserves by 60%.
  • Worked collaboratively with the teaching staff and families to build a sustainable multi-aged classroom instruction model, saving 30% in payroll costs in two years.
  • As Special Education Director I worked closely with our special education teacher and our ESD partners to implement standards based IEP goals and improve classroom access for all special needs students.
  • As Federal Programs Director I worked closely with the USDOE to implement a grant to improve our school’s technology capacity for distance learning. I re-established the Title-I program with the help of Oregon Department of Education.
  • Worked with school board members and the Oregon School Boards Association to develop process and procedures to improve board meeting productivity.
  • Twice we negotiated new contracts with the licensed and classified bargaining units that supported more sustainable economic commitment on all sides.
  • Worked with both associations to modify the teacher evaluation process to include annual and bi-annual plans for professional development aligned with district goals.
  • Managed the planning, bid and construction process of a number of projects from completing our new school, to building a water treatment facility for the school’s properties.

I served as Superintendent/Principal, Curriculum/Instruction and assessment lead, Human Resources Director, Federal Programs Director and Special Education Director for Jewell. I came into Jewell in 2009 as the seventh superintendent in 26-months. My predecessor (an interim) was hired to clear up an extensive ethics and fraud case, but his business experience did not include curriculum and instruction. I was the next leg of the school reform process, organizing the instruction and curriculum practices for the district while bringing the budget back into line with revenues. I cautiously waded into an environment where two board members had just been recalled and my predecessor was attacked as “only being interested in doing financial things and not praising the staff enough.” It was a challenging environment. I hoped my leadership would not befall the same fate.

In the first two years we focused on curriculum as that is my specialty, and we made extensive gains in student performance on both local and state measures. We instituted new curriculums in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, library media, music and advanced placement options. We also did extensive trainings in instructional practice and linked trainings opportunities to annual teacher evaluation plans, well before Oregon went to SB90 as part of the ESEA wavier.

When the School Board was determined to cut 1.0 million from the 6.0 million dollar budget in 12 months the staff voiced resentment. However, in the end our students were successful because of our willingness to put students first, take a close look at our curriculum, visit other schools and challenge ourselves, and to maximize student experiences.

Small schools have to be creative and Jewell had the resources and the willingness to reflect on our practices. We were successful in moving to multi-age classrooms because of our commitment to upgrading our curriculum by using research based practices, and a willingness to look outside of our traditions to meet financial needs of the district. It helped immensely that the multi-aged model fit with many of our district’s guiding beliefs.

There are four things that Jewell brought out in my leadership skills:

  • My organization and support of the vision and mission development process produced what I feel is the best set of guiding beliefs I have seen for influencing the decision making process.
  • I developed transparency of our budget process by gaining a complete grasp of the budgeting process, from projection to spending. With the support of our ESD partner I trained a hardworking but novice budget manager to communicate effectively with our Board members.
  • Contract negotiations when you are both the principal and the superintendent forces a teaching community to rely on faith and trust that all parties can return to their “day job” and leave the business of negotiations behind.
  • The pace at which the standards movement has moved through small districts has worn down educators that already wear many hats. Leadership must be careful to allow independent people to maintain their autonomy while moving them in directions they may not want to head.