Shay Mikalson’s four-year tenure as Bend-La Pine Schools’ superintendent will end once the 2019‑20 school year is complete.

Mikalson said he has accepted a position at the High Desert Education Service District, and will start there on July 1, 2020.

Mikalson, 43, said leaving Bend-La Pine Schools, where he has been an administrator for eight years, for a “once-in-a-career opportunity” at the High Desert ESD is a bittersweet moment.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for me … but at the same time, a hard decision to make,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s been an honor to serve Bend-La Pine Schools, and I’m grateful for the amazing students, amazing staff and amazing school board.”

Mikalson’s new role at the High Desert ESD will be to help Central Oregon’s school districts use their incoming funds from the $1 billion Student Success Act, passed earlier this year by the state Legislature. Mikalson will also help Central Oregon early childhood education groups and facilities with their Student Success Act dollars. The High Desert ESD, which provides educational assistance to school districts in the region, will receive $1.17 million from the Student Success Act, according to a High Desert ESD press release.

“I believe it’s a historic time, with a historic investment in Oregon schools,” Mikalson said. “I want to support not only Bend-La Pine Schools’ students, but students across Central Oregon.”

Mikalson has served as the superintendent for Bend-La Pine — Oregon’s fifth-largest school district and largest outside the Portland-Salem area — since July 2015. Before then, he spent three years in other administrative roles in Bend-La Pine. From 2010-12, he was the superintendent for the neighboring Redmond School District, where he had previously worked as a school administrator, as well as a teacher and coach at Redmond High School.

Paul Andrews, superintendent for the High Desert ESD, said he was extremely excited about Mikalson joining his agency. He called Mikalson “a visionary.”

“He is exactly who we were looking for this position, and I can’t wait to begin working with him,” Andrews said of Mikalson. “Kids everywhere, not just in Bend-La Pine and Redmond, will benefit from this.”

Carrie Douglass, co-chair of the Bend-La Pine School Board, said the board was “grateful for the leadership he provided.”

“We feel very lucky to have had such a strong leader (with) a good relationship with the board,” she said. “I think it sets up our next leader for a really strong foundation to build upon.”

Janelle Rebick, president of the Bend Education Association, said Mikalson’s departure was surprising and she was “super sad” about it. She commended Mikalson on his ability to listen to his district’s teachers and staff members, and said the school board has big shoes to fill in replacing him.

“I think he understands staff and is willing to listen when they have issues and needs,” Rebick said. “Any time I have a concern or question, he’s willing to meet and discuss and explain his rationale.”

During Mikalson’s four-plus years leading Bend-La Pine, the district passed a record-­setting $268.3 million bond. That paid for the construction of a new elementary school, North Star, this fall, and a new high school, expected to open in the fall of 2021, along with renovations at other schools. Pacific Crest Middle and Silver Rail Elementary schools also opened under his leadership in the fall of 2015.

Bend-La Pine’s student population has grown by more than 6% since Mikalson became superintendent in 2014, adding nearly 1,200 students, according to district data.

Andrews, the High Desert ESD head, said Mikalson’s new salary hasn’t been finalized yet, but the job’s posted annual salary was between $118,000 and $124,000. Mikalson currently earns $227,204 as Bend-La Pine’s superintendent.

Mikalson won’t be the only Central Oregon school head to leave in June — Mike McIntosh, superintendent of Redmond School District, announced in June that he’d retire at the end of the school year.

Douglass said the school board has not yet decided whether it will seek an interim superintendent replacement for the 2020-21 school year, instead of a new full-time leader. The school board will publicly discuss plans to replace Mikalson at its public meeting Nov. 12. Board members will privately discuss Mikalson’s departure in an executive session meeting Wednesday, followed by a public session.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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