September 29, 2022

Whole Community News

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4J board members discuss their votes on Dr. Andy Dey as superintendent

7 min read

Eugene School District 4J board members selected Dr. Andy Dey as the next superintendent. Each board member had an opportunity to make a brief statement before the vote.

[00:00:10] Keerti Kauffman: I was hoping to give a vote for a strong external candidate without the history in Eugene; someone who could bring a fresh outsider perspective and a needed culture overhaul. Nevertheless, I’ll be working with the next superintendent towards driving positive growth and change for the community.

[00:00:26] Maya Rabasa: I am excited by the prospect of Dr. Andy Dey serving as Eugene School District 4J’s next superintendent, and I’m looking forward to 4J’s future with optimism. Dr. Dey’s experience, vision, values, and growth mindset all contribute to the board’s decision to move to extend an offer to Dr. Dey to serve as superintendent.

[00:00:48] In the seemingly impossible long time the community has been waiting for tonight’s meeting, we have conducted an extensive vetting process. Through that process, I have become confident in Dr. Dey’s willingness and capacity to work with a broad range of stakeholders to take swift corrective action to address the challenges our district faces, and to uplift the good work we have already begun.

[00:01:10] Dr. Dey has taken the lead or has been directly involved in many of our district’s most important work over the last few years, and it is vital we have someone in the position of superintendent who can hit the ground running to propel our already building momentum.

[00:01:25] I believe Dr. Dey is best positioned to help our district make progress on the administrative and operational goals we have set while maintaining an essential focus on ensuring equitable outcomes for all of the students and families 4J serves.

[00:01:40] Amongst others, for there are many, one of the communities which has been consistently underserved by 4J is our Native community. I’m proud to be on the cusp of offering the position of superintendent to a Native person for the first time in 4J history.

[00:01:56] I believe if he is to accept the offer, the lens through which Dr. Dey will approach this role will ultimately set our district up to best serve our community members who have been left behind for far too long. I look forward to having the opportunity to work with Dr. Dey to address important issues and together, move this district forward in a positive direction for all.

[00:02:19] Gordon Lafer: I know the community has had a range of strong views on this. The board has had a range of strong and diverse views on this, and that’s good—that’s democracy. I know that, whatever our views, we’re all here to do as much as possible to strengthen and improve education for the students of the district.

[00:02:35] The last couple months have seen some intense politics and disagreements and accusations flying in many directions. And I think we have to take those accusations seriously. And I hope that the things we just adopted are steps towards doing so.

[00:02:48] But we also face huge systemwide challenges for our students. We have to improve the mental health of students to counter the epidemic of anxiety, depression, and God forbid, suicide. We have to improve the education we provide to students with IEPs and the coordination between special education and general education. We have to expand our career and technical education offerings to more fields of work and more students across the district.

[00:03:12] And we have to re-earn the trust of educators so that we don’t keep losing good teachers at the rate we have been. The reason I’m thrilled with tonight’s vote is that I believe Andy Dey’s the leader who can do these things and that we have been waiting on for so long and that so seriously impact all students districtwide. I’m looking forward to working with Superintendent Dey on all of that.

[00:03:33] And I know that regardless of how anyone went into this or how anyone votes today, that everybody on the board will join in that work. I also want take this opportunity to appreciate superintendent Cydney Vandercar who stood up to take on the leadership of the district at a point when we were in need and who I believe did a great job of guiding us through the unprecedented crisis of COVID.

[00:03:53] Laural O’Rourke: We know as a board that many have an opinion on who can be our next superintendent. I know I have learned a lot this year in this role and, what I thought before I came into this role and what I know now does not match. There’s a lot that goes into this. But what I really know, and what I’m excited about with Andy is that experience is important. And when people talk about experience, they mean the hard skills, the things which are also things that can be learned. What cannot be taught is more important. Our soft skills, including emotional intelligence is always what I look for in leadership. Unfortunately, I’m usually disappointed.

[00:04:38] I do not know Andy well, but I have had a chance to talk to people who do know him well. And they talk about his communication ability, his teamwork, his respect, his flexibility and creativity, and most importantly, his critical thinking. Those are the skills you cannot teach people. You cannot, they have to have it.

[00:04:59] So while I know he hasn’t been a superintendent before, I know he has the ability to be a great leader. And I know we are setting him up for that success by creating and having accountability systems in place as this happens.

[00:05:14] So I’m excited. I think we’ve done our job well. And what I keep saying, what needs to happen in this district is what our culture needs to change profoundly. And I am working hard to be part of that change. What has gone on for the last 20 years has not been a culture of where we respect our educators and staff and hold them up and revere them. And we say it, we perform this lovely performance, but our votes show something very different.

I’m excited that we are voting in our first Native American superintendent.

[00:05:52] I think diversity—as many may have heard from me in the past—is very important. And I hope that shines in his role. We need to do some healing and I’m thinking this will happen now and I’m excited for it, but also I’m ready to do the work to help support it. And I’m ready to hold people accountable if it doesn’t happen, because that’s our job. And I’ve been doing my job all year and I’m ready to keep doing it.

[00:06:22] Alicia Hayes: I really did think about what I wanted to say, and if I wanted to say anything tonight, so here’s what I did write down.

The students are my top priority and there are many reasons for my vote tonight, but I want to focus on one area with my time I have this evening.

[00:06:39] I want to say to all the women who emailed us and wrote us letters: I hear you, I see you, and I’m sorry. I understand your fears of ongoing exclusion and sexism, and I understand your fears of retaliation. My hope is that you will not give up and that you will not leave the district. My hope is that you will stay and work with me and other board members who understand the harm and pain that sexism brings. Stay to make this a better district where all voices can be elevated, included, and most importantly, believed. Thank you.

[00:07:23] Judy Newman: I also thought very carefully. I would like to make some comments as well.

So during this very challenging and long superintendent search process, I’ve listened closely and watched intently to understand what I believe our school district needs at this time.

[00:07:39] What I heard clearly from our staff, teachers, and community and in the reflections shared by all four finalist candidates, is that our 4J community needs time for healing and a culture that supports building trust. To do this, we need an experienced and strong leader who listens, has emotional intelligence, and is able to inspire and unite the 4J community.

[00:08:04] I’ve received calls and emails urging the board to slow down the process. And one very recent call from a teacher with a heartfelt plea to wait, had a really deep impact on me. I also studied the survey results and the comments from our 80+ interview panelists and the survey responses from over 230 community members. And I read every single email letter and message we received regarding candidates.

[00:08:30] Based on what I heard from this feedback, and what I strongly feel is needed at this time for the 4J community, I am unable to vote yes for this candidate.

[00:08:40] I know that we would all prefer to have a unanimous vote on this important decision, but I’m making a very informed decision and must vote my conscience. If the board majority does approve this candidate as the next superintendent tonight, I will fully support the decision and do all that I can to help him be successful in his role as the 4J superintendent.

[00:09:03] So I think it’s time to vote. All those in favor of finalizing a contract with Andy Dey as the next 4J superintendent, raise your hand. Yes: Maya, Laural, Michelle, and Gordon. All those opposed. We have three votes no, Alicia, Judy, and Keerti. So the motion passes and we have a new superintendent, Andy Dey. Congratulations.

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