Naselle school chief departing

<p>Rick Pass</p>

NASELLE — Naselle-Grays River Valley School District is on the hunt for a new top administrator after a school board meeting last week culminated in the end of Superintendent Rick Pass’ tenure.

The May 21 meeting started out with Pass and a majority of board members heading toward a three-year extension of his current contract, which is set to expire June 30, 2014. The extension would have taken him through June 30, 2016.

About 100 people attended the school board meeting, including two Pacific County sheriff deputies. Four attendees spoke in favor of the extension, while eight spoke against, including local teachers union President Rob Dalton and classified employees union President Norilyn Pakenen.

Board Chairman Bob Torppa had convened an executive session at 7:25 p.m. and at 7:51 p.m. the board returned to regular session. Torppa announced no decisions had been made in executive session. Director Ed Darcher then said, “I move to authorize Mr. Chris Burton, representing the (NGRV School) Board, to undertake negotiations for the purposes of separating employment with the superintendent.”

Discussion followed with comments both for and against the motion. Then Darcher, Torppa, Hollis Fletcher and Gilbert Haataia voted in favor and director Art Hyland voted against the motion.

“When we consider the best interest for the kids, community and district in our decision-making, then we cannot go wrong,” Torppa said. As chairman, Torppa is the only person to represent the board to the press during negotiations.

Pass will negotiate with attorney Chris Burton a settlement for the purpose of separating employment with the school district. A meeting with the district’s attorney and Pass could come at any time and the exact timing of his departure from the NGRV School District and any compensation from the district could be determined after approval from the five directors at a special board meeting. The next regular NGRV school board meeting will be June 12.

In April 2010, Pass first said he was leaving the district after a one-year interim appointment as superintendent that began in July 2009. A school board meeting at the time indicated support for him taking the job on a permanent basis, through there were some in attendance who were vocally opposed to him staying. However, after several days Pass was convinced to stay.

He previously was superintendent of Knappa, Ore., schools, but left there in June 2009 after the board reversed a decision to not renew the contract of a part-time Future Farmers of America teacher.

Sources of friction

In an interview last week, Pass cited the double-failure of a bond election to remodel and upgrade facilities as a negative for the district.

“The captain of the ship gets the credit or the blame,” Pass said of the bond’s failure. “The passage of the Chinese Mandarin language immersion program had mixed reviews among NGRV residents and voters.”

A survey taken by some of the teachers in the district, also had a negative impact on Pass’ willingness to seek a contract extension in the NGRV district. Two letters concerning the performance of Pass as NGRV superintendent were circulated this year, one in Wahkiakum County and one in Pacific.

“With all of this going on, I felt it would be a good time to make a change. I felt with the possible make-up of the new board I would be fighting an uphill battle if I stayed on as superintendent,” Pass stated.

“I feel a lot of good things have happened while I have been superintendent at Naselle. We are now cooking our lunch program meals from scratch. Our technology program is on the cutting edge. Our global education is also on the cutting edge,” Pass said.

In 2009, Naselle was one of only four schools in Washington to receive the U.S. Department of Education designation as a Blue Ribbon School. That award honors schools that are either academically superior, or have made dramatic gains in student achievement and helped close gaps in achievement among minority and disadvantaged students.

“I have loved my time at Naselle. I do not want to be a distraction. I do not want to get in the way of what some feel is best for the kids or the community and so I will step aside,” Pass concluded.

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