South hires new principal

By: Sarah Tsai

Last year, former principal Randy Bernstein left South to pursue a job at the Eugene 4J School District as Director of Secondary Education. After Bernstein announced his departure, the district and several representatives from South began the search for a new principal. In the end, Stephanie Cannon, who had previously been one of the school’s assistant principals, took over as head of the school – for only one year. However, on Thursday, Mar. 19, Dr. Andy Dey, currently an administrator at International School Nido de Aguilas in Santiago, Chile, was named South’s new principal.

The search process began with a job vacancy announcement on the Eugene School District 4J web page. The vacancy post was on the website for a minimum of 10 days. An initial candidate screening then took place to evaluate the applicants and determine which candidates the search committee would interview.
“A high school principal position isn’t one of our largest candidate pools. It requires a very specialized skill set,” District Recruitment, Retention, Equity, and Staff Development Administrator Karen Hardin said. “It feels really good if we have a good candidate pool of 10 to look at.”

If selected to be interviewed by the search committee, the candidates were required to prepare a 10- to 15-minute presentation about their philosophical beliefs about teaching, their vision for a successful education system, and their role in achieving this vision as a principal. They were also required to be prepared for questions and answers. After this interview process, a pool of semi-finalists were selected and appeared before the superintendent for final interviews.
“What’s interesting is that there is not a set number [of finalists]. It really depends on who’s in the candidate pool,” Hardin said. “Let’s say there’s a pool of 10 applicants – it’s entirely possible that all 10 candidates could be someone really worth an interview team meeting. Now, generally that is not the case, so people are screened out [if] sometimes they do not meet the minimums.”

There is a very specific skillset and list of qualities that the district looks for in applicants. According to the high school principal job description from Eugene School District 4J, some of the distinguishing characteristics include “empathy,” “care and praise,” and “a student-centered approach.” It is the principal’s job to lead the school by encouraging staff and students to excel to their best abilities.
“In terms of a high school principal, if they don’t have any experience at a high school, like they’ve never taught or they’ve never been an administrator at a high school, that might be a reason for us not to bring them in,” Hardin explained. “We really will bring anyone in front of the team who we believe is a viable candidate.”
On Friday, Feb. 27, the candidates appeared before the search committee made up of South staff and Site Council representatives. The superintendent ultimately made the final decision.
“We had about 15 people on the interview panel,” Assistant Principal Jericho Dunn said. “We had representatives from Site Council, representatives from every department, although this year P.E. and Social Studies opted out; we had a student on the panel; the Director of Secondary Education (Randy Bernstein); and Carmen Urbina, the Parent, Community, and Diversity Coordinator, who represented the superintendent.”

South has high expectations for the role of principal, due to its history of having excellent head administrators.
“From a broad lens as a community – of South teachers, classified staff, and students – we want to have somebody who loves all students, empowers teachers, and supports education,” Dunn said. “I like working for people who are excited about being at the school.”
As students, the principal is vital to educational success.
“I think the most important thing is valuing students and teachers,” junior ASB Site Council Representative Eli Cytrnbaum said. “I think too often, recently, we’ve been having, in many things – not just in education – there’s been an emphasis on top-down administration and viewing professionals and clients as commodities, rather than as special people.
“I think we really need a principal who is willing to listen to the teachers and students and view them as their primary stakeholders,” Cytrynbaum added.

Bernstein sent an email to South staff on Mar. 19, informing them that as of July 1, 2015, Dey would be taking over as principal.
“In addition to all the knowledge, experience, and skills he brings regarding teaching and learning, Andy is also fluent in Spanish,” Bernstein said in the email. “Andy is very bright and articulate and is passionate about working with staff and community to find ways to ensure that all students are successful.”
After months of interviews and candidate screenings, South’s administrators, teachers, and students welcome Dr. Dey to the Axe family.

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