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Let the grilling commence

The two final superintendent

candidates get grilled in special board meeting.

POULSBO-- After a two-day whirlwind tour of the district, the two final superintendent candidates still had one assignment to complete. Before leaving town on Thursday, they both participated in an in-depth group interview with the North Kitsap School District Board of Directors.

As the final phase in their quest to be the district’s next superintendent, Mary Vedra and Richard Jones individually sat before the board and more than 30 individuals who attended the special Thursday morning meeting, and spent 75 minutes answering a slew of questions.

The candidates’ impression of the district, preparing students for the 21st Century work force and the candidates’ experiences in managing and implementing budgets were hot topics addressed during the session.

Board President Melanie Mohler said she’s impressed with both candidates, so much so the board won’t reopen the recruiting process.

“Mary has a great background in curriculum and is very strong in collaboration and the byproduct you get from that is good relationships, and she’s very enthusiastic,” Mohler said. “What impressed me most about Rick is that he was definitely for all kids and building relationships.”

MARY VEDRA

A well-composed, prepared and eloquent Mary Vedra took the hot seat first.

Vedra is the executive director of Learning Services for the Arapahoe County School District in Englewood, Colo. She’s held her current position since 1999, which includes acting as assistant to the superintendent.

Vedra came armed with a 100-day plan of points the district should follow to move forward in reaching its goals. She said the district should focus on a comprehensive accountability plan, have a clear structure for building leaders and teachers, closely monitor adult actions, and clarify what is essential to meet the students’ learning needs.

“I think the district needs to define what are effective instructional practices and make sure those are happening in the classroom,” Vedra said. “We need to be clear about our expectations and make sure that were following through.”

Vedra said learning needs to be relevant for today’s students and no longer can teachers stand and deliver. To ensure the district is teaching the students the right skills to succeed, Vedra said a district needs to ask the advice of universities, business owners, military agencies and Microsoft, and to involve the students in the learning process.

“Students need to understand that the decisions they make on a day-to-day basis impact their future,” she said. “When we get kids immersed in deep inquiry they start to be the geniuses of tomorrow. We need to create an environment where kids can be innovators and creators for their future.”

Vedra has years of experience developing curriculum and working on budgets. She said the best way to prioritize budget cuts, which NKSD must do for the 2008-2009 school year, is to center those cuts around what’s best for the students and learning.

“The priority has to be around student achievement and what happens at the learning level,” she said.

RICHARD JONES

A calm and collected Rick Jones took his turn with the firing squad next. Jones is the superintendent of the Burlington-Edison School District, a position he’s held since 1998, but his superintendent career began in 1992 at the Ocosta School District.

Jones, who supports the direction the district is heading, shared some very clear and concise concepts to maximize student performance. He said students need to have strong relationships, they need to be taught relevant skills and find their buy-in by participating in learning development. “Students who are a part of developing and designing their learning own it and are proud of what they’re doing,” Jones said.

He said today’s students not only need to learn the core academic classes, but more importantly they must master the ability to work with others and critical thinking skills, and be exposed to the fine arts and health and PE classes.

“Being successful on the WASL with the exclusion of good human relationship skills and the arts is not what an education should be,” Jones said. “Our children need to be well-rounded.”

Similar to Vedra, Jones said a key way to prepare students while keeping learning meaningful and balanced is by talking to and working closely with the “experts” who will one day hire North Kitsap graduates.

Jones comes armed with years of budget development and implementation experience, especially in dealing with budgets that face “great challenges.”

He said when he first arrived at the Burlington-Edison District its budget had a $250,000 hole without any cash reserves. And today, 10 years later, the district has a reserve of 4.5 percent of the general budget.

“Budget priorities have to be based on what’s best for the students,” he said. “We have to put students first and weigh all budget decisions on what best for our kids and how will this reduction hurt our kids the most or the least.”

Mohler said she and hopes to have a superintendent decision to announce at the May 8 board meeting. However, one week’s time may be too soon, and Mohler said a decision will definitely be reached by the May 24 meeting.

“I think we have two very viable candidates,” she said after the conclusion of the interviews.

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