District picks three superintendent candidates

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Since November, applications for the superintendent position have been steadily rolling into the Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools administration office.

Of the 26 hopefuls, three in-state candidates wowed the school board during the course of seven interviews last week.

Fred Poss, deputy superintendent of Mukilteo School District; Larry Parsons, superintendent of Selah School District; and Joel Aune, superintendent of Colfax School District met with community members this week during three open forums. The final forum, which is open to the public, will take place from 7:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, in the Mount Si High School commons, 8651 Meadowbrook Way S.E., Snoqualmie.

Poss, 51, has been deputy superintendent in Mukilteo since July of 2003, and served as interim superintendent for a year prior to that. He's also been a high-school principal, a director of administration, an adjunct professor at Western Washington University and an attorney.

Poss has a son and daughter, both attending college. He grew up near New York City and did his undergraduate work at the University of Denver. Poss received his master's degree in education administration at the University of Washington and his law degree at the University of Puget Sound.

After eight years working in the Mukilteo district, Poss said he's ready for something new.

"Change is good. I've been waiting for the right superintendent opportunity. I didn't want to take a new superintendent job while my kids were still in high school because of the time commitment, now both are in college," Poss said. "I wanted to seek some new adventure."

Each finalist named the Valley's proximity to Seattle as a factor in their decision to apply, along with Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools' great reputation and the area's attractive landscape.

Poss said he just hopes to help make Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools even better than he thinks the district is now.

"I don't see right now that anything is really broken," said Poss, who hopes he'll be "taking a good school district and making it a great school district," by learning and listening.

He said one of his main assets is his experience in education law. Poss practiced law for 10 years in Seattle, focusing on school law.

"I have a pretty broad background that's a little unique," Poss said. "I think I have a really wide perspective and that gives me some unique abilities, plus as you get older, you get wiser."

Parsons, 54, has been superintendent of Selah Schools for four years. Prior to that the Oregon native worked for 20 years as a high-school principal and for about five as a language arts instructor and coach. After doing his undergraduate and master's work at Eastern Oregon State College, he received his doctorate of philosophy at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Parsons lives near Yakima and has four grown children.

He, too, is looking for professional growth opportunities and would like to be closer to Seattle.

"The thing I like is the district has always talked about how it will do this or that for the kids. That has to be the focus, not what it does to protect staff or its pretty buildings. It's what it does to see kids have what they need," Parsons said.

The man with "an affinity for mountains" was also a colleague of outgoing superintendent Rich McCullough for many years when they were both working in Oregon schools.

"I know Rich McCullough and he's a quality man," Parsons said. "To have the opportunity to be where he's been, I'll always do that. Years ago he bragged about Snoqualmie ... he's a quality guy and he wouldn't say that unless it were true."

Parsons said while he'd be thrilled to stay in his own district, he's also ready for a new leadership challenge.

"I take on every job believing it's my last job and approach it that way," Parsons said. "I always want to do what's right for the district more than what's important for my own needs."

Away from his work Parsons spends his time with his wife of two years, Ro, and their two cats, Jade, a bangle cat, and Toby, a tabby.

Aune, 44, has been superintendent of Colfax Schools since 1998. Prior to that he did a superintendent internship in the Walla Walla School District and was an elementary-school principal in Walla Walla as well. He's also been an assistant principal at the middle-school level and has taught fourth and sixth grades.

Aune was born and raised in the Colfax area. He did his undergraduate work at Eastern Washington University, received his master's degree in education from Central Washington University and got his doctorate of education at Washington State University.

The father of three has one 24 year old, a college freshman and a fourth-grader.

Aune said going from Colfax Schools, a district of two schools, to Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools, which has nine, will be a transition for him, but nothing he can't handle.

"I've been a superintendent now for almost seven years. I understand the aspects of the position and the scope of the position," said Aune, who noted his work in Walla Walla acquainted him quite well with the daily operations of a big school district. "I'm certainly not new to a little bit larger school district."

Aune said that through his research of Snoqualmie Valley Public Schools he's learned "some really good things are happening" and that if given the position he'd want to stay rooted in the Valley at least until his son completed high school.

"My son, being a fourth-grader, we were really sensitive about moving him. If we're going to move him out of school and away from his current friends, we'd like to let him settle in and finish school," Aune said.

Though Aune sees Colfax as a "topnotch" school district, he feels new challenges are beckoning in Snoqualmie.

"I've been here seven years and I think we've accomplished some good things together with the staff and community. I'm not in a hurry by any means to leave Colfax, but when a position like Snoqualmie Valley comes open, it certainly captures my interest."

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