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Candidates address parents, staff
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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,"
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