“I have never shied away from working long hours, or the tough decisions required of a school district leader, and I have always upheld the insistence upon ethical leadership based in humility for the challenging work we do in education everyday.”

 

—Dr. Brian Gander

Reedsport School District

July to November 2015  

Superintendent / Special Education Director

Reedsport School District #105
100 Ranch Road
Reedsport, OR 97467

What I learned from my time as Superintendent in Reedsport:

  • Effective learning communities define the context for goal definition so action plans are clearly designed. To develop transparency you must have trust, and trust is built upon a consensus-based foundation of goals.
  • Management of complex change that goes forward too quickly for individuals skill sets and action planning in a time of transition needs to be well supported with a clear vision and incentives; but also focused on what is best for the district’s long run growth.
  • District staffing configurations can be as varied and creative as leadership can imagine. However, all configurations must meet the four tests of; need tied to district goals, economic sustainability, clear job descriptions, and skills training supported by leadership.

What I accomplished in my Superintendent role at Reedsport:

  • Directed the leadership group (administrators, district office personnel) in the implementation of a new employees orientation program. Starting from ground zero we built a support network involving human resources, payroll, mentoring and technology skill sets.
  • Working with two board members I conducted a central office services job/time analysis. We worked with staff to identify personnel strengths, training requirements, and formulated an improved services model.
  • Investigated a series of suspect business practices in the wake of fraud case in March of 2015 and the abrupt resignation of the business manager in September. I brought the ethical transgression to the attention of the board drafting a ethics violations document.
  • As Special Education Director I supported three teachers in the implementation of Oregon’s new IEP forms for 2016 and the implementation of new service standards for a Middle Learning Center to complement our Life Skills and Resource Center programs.
  • As Special Education Director I supported a new administrator of a Focus School in the proper allocation of SPED personnel within the implementation of Oregon’s Response to Instruction and Intervention (ORTIi) protocols.

I was hired in February while working in China to join the Reedsport School District starting July of 2015. In my initial months we accomplished a variety of good things in both our schools and our district office. With the help of two Board Directors we completed an analysis of the central office staffing and effectiveness performance. At the policy level we implemented a student drug-testing requirement for high school extracurricular activities that will support students and families in pushing back against drug use. Our Special Education Department was able to broaden its services to more effectively meet the diverse needs of a large (and growing) special education population. Lastly we were able to bring some coherence to the hiring process, and the processes of new teacher integration.

In our schools we were able to frame the change process in a manner that supported consensus building around the difficult issues we faced. Having a Focus School that was preparing all our Middle school and High school students was putting pressure throughout the system. We began the conversations about vision, skills, incentives, resources and action plans; a conversation that was greatly needed after the significant turn-over in staff and leadership in the preceding years.

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

  • Leading new principals in turbulent times re-energized my communication skills, time dedicated to relationship building, using specific feedback, asking good questions and listening helped them focus on their building priorities.
  • My skills in facilities were called upon as we worked on preparing a feasibility report for a State of Oregon Seismic Retrofit Grant.
  • My integrity and ethical leadership skills were integral in defining a district office approach that was kinder and more service directed than the district had experienced in the past.
  • My ability to quickly organize a Special Education Department that was in staffing disarray and not well prepared for the changes coming in Oregon special education policy, procedures and forms. We had services in place and ready for students when the school year started despite these shortcomings.