By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

Jefferson County School District has narrowed its national superintendent search down to two finalists: a principal in the district and an executive director in the Hillsboro School District.

Following Superintendent Rick Molitor’s announcement that he would resign on June 30, the school board contracted with the Oregon School Boards Association for guidance on its superintendent search. The district received 19 applicants and interviewed seven. Now, the district has chosen two finalists: Ted Zehr, executive director of the Hillsboro School District, and Ken Parshall, principal of Warm Springs K-8 Academy in the Jefferson County School District. The board will likely decide by early April.

Ted Zehr

Zehr oversees secondary schools in the Hillsboro district, which includes four middle schools, four high schools, an alternative school and the district’s online school.

Zehr, 55, has spent 24 of his 31 years working in education with Hillsboro.

While Zehr has served as an executive director for two years, his past positions in education have run the spectrum: He’s been a high school math and science teacher, an assistant principal and a principal.

Monday, Zehr explained he’s passionate about helping better serve underprivileged students. Eight years ago he brought Advancement Via Individual Determination — a global nonprofit that promotes success in high school, college and careers, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education — to Century High School in the Hillsboro district.

If he was given the position with the Jefferson County School District, Zehr plans on moving to Madras, he said.

“It’s important to be part of the community,” Zehr said.

Having grown up in Central Washington, Zehr said he would look forward to living and working in a smaller community again.

Ken Parshall

Parshall, 53, has worked in education for 31 years. He’s in his second school year as principal of Warm Springs K-8 Academy, a school that opened three years ago. He took over when the school’s principal retired after its first year.

But his work in Warm Springs isn’t his first venture into Central Oregon. Parshall was once principal of Crook County High School for three years, around 2000-2003.

Most recently though, before joining Warm Springs K-8, Parshall was assistant superintendent of Salem-Keizer Schools — at the time a 42,000-student school district.

Parshall has worked in a variety of roles in education. He was a high school math teacher and coach for 12 years; a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels; and an assistant superintendent.

Parshall said he wants to keep the commitment he made to the district, and he feels he could do that by staying with Jefferson County and changing roles.

“I want to have a bigger impact in the district as a whole,” Parshall said. “I’m very committed to helping the children of Warm Springs and Madras.”

Superintendent search process

Laurie Danzuka, school board vice chair, is one of the board members leading the search process. With help from an Oregon School Boards Association consultant, board members posted the position and have asked for public input in a variety of forms, including via an online survey and at community forums.

The OSBA gathered the public input to help guide the board in what to look for in a candidate.

In their feedback, students said they wanted someone who likes kids, who would be part of the community, who is easily approachable and “who would be an advocate and would not sit behind a closed door,” Danzuka said.

She was also impressed with students’ thoughts on finances: They wanted a superintendent who would be mindful of spending and who would make sure there is money for courses such as art and career and technical education.

The questions on the survey were open-ended, so student feedback was all their own, Danzuka said. While surveys were anonymous, they asked participants to identify as a staff member, student or community member.

“I think the way we’ve gone about being really diligent and having a lot of input from the community has gotten us a lot of high-quality candidates,” she said.

The district is paying the OSBA $8,250 for its help in the search. Steve Kelley, director of board development with OSBA, is the consultant advising the Jefferson County School Board through the process. The service the OSBA provides guides the board from how to begin the search through six months into the new superintendent’s placement.

Even though the position was posted nationally, Kelley said applicants tend to be regional or from neighboring states. He estimated two-thirds of applicants were from Oregon.

On April 3 and 4, the two candidates will spend time in the district and community getting a tour from board members. One more community forum will take place before the board completes the final interviews. The time and location of the community forum are still undecided.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,