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Candidates address parents, staff

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DUVALL — Parents, teachers and administrators

with Riverview School District No. 407 got their first look last

week at the three finalists selected to potentially lead the district as

its new superintendent.

All three candidates — Donald Carlisle,

Conrad Robertson and Brent Orr — currently serve as superintendents

in other districts. They were chosen from a field of more than 30 by

an 18-member search committee and the Riverview school board

to visit the district, tour its schools and meet the public.

Carlisle is the superintendent of Hudson City School District

in Hudson, N.Y. Robertson leads Lewistown (Mont.)

Public Schools, and Orr is the top administrator for Madison School

District No. 321 in Rexburg, Idaho.

The winning candidate would replace Interim

Superintendent Dick Giger, who has worked on a part-time basis since 1999.

Giger was formerly the superintendent for the Mercer Island School

District.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 7-8, school board

members interviewed each candidate in meetings that were open to

the public, and on Thursday night, the three men fielded

questions from teachers and parents at a forum held in the Cedarcrest

High School Learning Resource Center.

Those attending the forum were asked to fill out

comment forms and submit them to the school board before it makes

its decision.

Carlisle spoke first at the forum, and he said if he was

tapped as the next superintendent, children would be his priority.

"I'm student-centered. I'm not here for the adults; I'm here

for the children," he said in response to a question about his

management style. "A father who is firm, but has a heart as big as Texas

— that's what I think a superintendent should do."

The Texas analogy was fitting for Carlisle, who was a

high-school principal in Willis and Houston, Texas. He went on to

be the principal of Myrtle Beach High School in Conway, S.C.,

before accepting the super-intendent's position for Union

96 School District in East Sullivan, Maine. He worked there

from 1994-96, and has worked as the Hudson City School District

superintendent from 1996 to the present.

Carlisle said one of his first acts as superintendent would

be to conduct a curriculum audit to ensure the same skills are

being taught in every school, with specific focus on reading and

mathematics. And, he said, he would work to improve scores on

standardized tests.

"We need to prepare children to step up to the plate and

take those high-stakes exams and feel confident doing it," he said.

Carlisle said he supports ideas such as full-day kindergarten

and an extended school year, as well as strong participation in the arts.

"I think it creates a well-rounded child, particularly

music," he said. "Seventy percent of our students in the middle

school are in music. Fifty percent of our high-school students are in

music. The key to that is having strong leadership from your

band director."

When asked how he would create a "vision" for the

school district, Carlisle replied that in his current position, "I think the

vision was established by visibility. I know what's going on in

the schools because I'm there all the time, and I think people

realize that."

Robertson, in his remarks, said he has considered moving

to Washington for the last six years. After attending a

superintendents' meeting in Bellevue a few years ago, he took a drive up

Interstate 90 to North Bend, stopped at the Factory Stores at North

Bend, then drove up the Valley, through Snoqualmie, Carnation

and Duvall. What he saw impressed him, as he and his wife

discussed the idea of moving.

"If we make a move … this is an area that I thought was

beautiful," Robertson remembered.

Robertson has been a superintendent for 20 years, the last

12 of which were with Lewistown Public Schools. From

1984-1989, he was the superintendent at Columbus Public Schools in

Columbus, Mont., and from 1981-1984, he was the superintendent

at Hysham Public Schools in Hysham, Mont.

One of the challenges he's faced as a superintendent in

Montana is funding.

"In Montana, we've got some very serious funding

dilemmas. That's not the fun part of education. That's not why I got

into education, and that's not why you got into education," he said,

adding that over the past 10 years, funding on a per-student basis

has increased by only 6 percent.

When asked what he would do to prevent another failed

bond issue for athletic facilities at Cedarcrest High School, he

said it sometimes takes some creative thinking to find the

necessary dollars.

In Montana he helped create the Central Montana

Foundation, which is funded mostly through private donations. That money

is then awarded to projects and services in central Montana,

inside and outside the school district. In 1987, it began with a $3,500

donation. Now the foundation has $6.2 million in the bank,

and RobertSon's school district recently received $400,000 to

renovate its grandstands.

"There's a lot of ways to have the money if you've got a

community behind you that wants it badly enough," he said. But at

the same time, he said it's up to the superintendent to show the

community the need is there.

"I've been through two major building programs in two

separate school districts, and the biggest thing is showing need,"

he said.

Orr, speaking last, told the audience that after touring

the schools last week, he could see the staff took pride in its work.

"They're very dedicated individuals," he said. "And my

wife made this comment two or three times: `You can tell they

really love kids.'

"In every one of these buildings there was a sense of

competence, but also a sense of loving care for your children."

Orr has been superintendent of the Madison School

District since 1992. He was an assistant superintendent at

Jefferson School District No. 251 in Rigby, Idaho, from 1987-1992, and

before that he worked as a principal at junior high and middle

schools in Idaho and Texas.

While touring Riverview's schools, he said one thing

that surprised him was the small number of computers in

classrooms. In his district, school officials recently sent out bids to install

a $650,000 fiber-optic "backbone" that would link administrative

offices to the high school, middle school and eight of 11

elementary schools. He said the technology was important because

students will be expected to know it when they graduate.

"In this day and age, you can't get along without it, in

my opinion," he said. The Madison School District also uses a

Web-based software program called PowerSchool that allows

parents to view their child's attendance in real time, see up-to-date

grades and homework assignments.

"It's probably one of the nicest things we've done for the

district. It's been a tremendous step for involving parents in the

education of their children," he said.

Orr said he favors a team approach to running the school

district and believes in open communication between

administrators, teachers and classified personnel.

"We have moved away from the high-low adversarial

approach where everyone knocks their heads together," he said.

The Riverview School Board was expected to discuss the

three finalists at a meeting Tuesday night, after the Valley

Record went to press. Hiring the next superintendent isn't expected

to take place until later this month.

Steve Hallstrom, president of the school board, said it was

important for residents to voice their opinions on the three

candidates, because ultimately, the superintendent will represent them.

"We want to have the best person we can for you," he said.

Beth Goodman of Duvall, a parent, PTSA chairperson and

senior project coordinator at Cedarcrest

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