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Public screens principals

Two men very familiar with Oak Harbor High School are among the four candidates vying to be its next principal.

Dwight Lundstrom and Dale Leach are both currently assistant principals at Oak Harbor High School. There are the local educators competing for the position being vacated by Dick Devlin, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

The other candidates are Jim Gadberry, principal at Pendleton High School in Pendelton, Ore.; and Mellody Matthes, former principal at Shelton High School in Mason County.

The four candidates were on hand for a series of principal forums which provided that public an opportunity to meet, question and comment on the candidates.

Approximately 80 people comprising students, parents and high school staff were at the high school library Tuesday and spent a half hour interviewing each candidate.

The audience questioned candidates about such topics as their leadership style, the importance of vocational education and fairness in the classroom.

Gadberry, who was the first one to speak at the forum, has more than 30 years’ experience and is retiring this year from his current position in Oregon.

Not wanting to retire, he decided to apply for the open position in Oak Harbor because wants to continue to work in a similar-sized school and is familiar with the area.

“One of my strengths I believe is being out and being active with the students” Gadberry said. “I believe in an open door policy.”

An audience member questioned how long Gadberry expects to stay at the high school. He responded a minimum of five years.

Melody Matthes was principal at Shelton High School in Mason County from 1995 to 2000 and also has 14 years of teaching experience in various districts throughout the Puget Sound area.

She has since taken time off to try and bicycle around the world and work on her doctorate in education at Washington State University. She is currently writing her dissertation.

“I’m a developer. I like to grow and watch things grow,” Matthes said.

She applied for the principal position because of Superintendent Rick Schulte’s reputation and because she’s looking for a place to settle down, she said.

Matthes also believes in an open-door policy and appreciates a collaborative atmosphere in the decision-making process.

Dale Leach has been assistant principal at Oak Harbor High School for the past two years. He also has 13 years’ experience teaching social studies in Chehalis, Auburn and Shoreline.

“We need to make Oak Harbor High School a welcoming place,” Leach said. With that, he believes in an open-door policy where a principal should be easily accessible.

“The more students see you and the more visible your are — the more likely they’ll be willing to talk to you,” Leach said.

He added that communication with parents needs to improve and that a principal should be visible in a community. Leach is also on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club.

Leach said he believes in classroom instruction that is rigorous and relevant to students.

He pointed out that, nationwide, 30 percent to 40 percent of the high school graduates entering college need some kind of remedial instruction in Math and English. Leach said steps need to be taken earlier in a student’s education to prevent this situation.

“We’re going to hold you accountable for your knowledge,” Leach said.

One parent attending the forum questioned Leach about stereotypes that are tossed around and their effect on students.

He found that situation unacceptable. “Everybody in the school needs to be valued for who they are. We can’t let anybody become disenfranchised, period,” Leach said.

Like Leach, Dwight Lundstrom has been an assistant principal at Oak Harbor High School for the past two years. Lundstrum also has 12 years of experience as a math teacher spread between Oak Harbor, Salida, Colo., and Hoxie, Kan.

“I’m a rather calm person and I approach things kind of like Columbo in many ways,” Lundstrom said, referring to the TV character.

During the forum Lundstrom said students should know their expectations in a classroom.

He added that the school district doesn’t talk to the Oak Harbor community enough and suggested such things as a principal’s column in the paper, utilizing the school district Web site or talking to community groups would help improve the school’s image.

While the school district is figuring out how to build a new athletic stadium, Lundstrom pointed out that the current sports teams still need support in the community.

“If we show good family support despite what people sit on, then athletes will be better for it,” Lundstrom said.

Once the forums were complete, people attending filled out comment forms for each candidate.

The comments are another tool school officials have to evaluate the best candidate for the position.

In addition to the public forum, candidates had to go through a team interview and submit work samples, Schulte said.

“We’ve got a lot of information and it’s going to take some time to go through it,” Schulte said.

The next step is to check each candidate’s references. A decision on the new principal is scheduled to be made at the April 12 school board meeting.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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