By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

Public input

The Crook County School District is asking its residents to provide input on its next superintendent. Those interested can visit bit.ly/CrookSuper to fill out the survey, available in English and Spanish.

Crook County School District officials are asking the community to take an online survey they hope will provide a clear picture of the best replacement for Superintendent Duane Yecha, who will retire at the end of the current school year.

The survey, available on the school district website in both English and Spanish, does not ask for names, only the relationship a respondent holds with the school district. Questions include what characteristics community members would like to see in a new superintendent, what they believe is special about the school district that needs to be preserved and what the school district’s top three priorities should be in the next few years.

The school board has also hired the West Linn-based search firm NextUp Leadership, for $8,750, to help in the superintendent search process. It’s likely the school board will advertise for the position starting in January and make a selection in March before spring break, according to school board chairman Doug Smith.

It is common practice for school boards to contract with specialists to guide them through the superintendent search process, and NextUp Leadership came highly recommended, Smith said. Although the firm is based in West Linn, the consultant working with Crook County School District has a home in Central Oregon, which will help cut down on costs, Smith said.

The school district, which has about 2,900 students, used a consultant to find Yecha, who makes just more than $132,000 a year, according to the school district’s director of business and finance, Anna Logan. The school board hasn’t yet decided on a new superintendent salary.

The board will likely do a regional superintendent search, focusing on applicants from Oregon and nearby states, as opposed to a national search, according to Smith.

The school district has been told to expect up to 30 applicants, based on its size and how well it’s doing, Smith said.

“It’s based on past openings. It’s based on the fact that right now the district is doing extremely well. The staff and district are getting along good; the district is financially in a sound position,” Smith said.

The school district is in a financially stable position right now for a number of reasons, according to Logan. Crook County School District’s Public Employees Retirement System costs “are much lower than many other districts’ rates because of a favorable investment decision in 2002 and 2003,” Logan said in an email.

“The district issued bonds at that time and used the proceeds to prepay some of its PERS debt, which in turn lowers the current PERS rates below what they would have been,” Logan said. “Although the district has an offsetting cost to pay the principal and interest on those bonds, the reduction in PERS rates brings the payroll costs down substantially.”

In addition to the favorable PERS rates, Logan said, the district’s strong financial standing comes from payroll cost savings, increased state school funding and “a good fiscal decision-making process,” Logan said.

As staff have left the district, they have generally been replaced with less experienced staff who are paid less, which accounts for the payroll savings, Logan said.

Plus, living in Central Oregon, specifically in Crook County, is appealing to potential applicants, Smith and Logan said. In addition to the good financial standing Logan described, the voters also passed a $33.5 million school bond in 2013 to build Barnes Butte Elementary School and update existing district buildings. The time, money and effort the school district has put into keeping up facilities and building the new school will also likely be attractive to candidates, Smith said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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