Wednesday, March 5, 2003/lk
It is worth an hour or so of anyone’s time to meet, or re-meet, the educator who is about to become the first woman superintendent of Hood River County School District.
Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady looks upon the current state budget crisis as “a window of opportunity.”
“The budget situation is awful and it is not going to get any better. This is a window of opportunity. This is a chance to think carefully about our values. If there is one thing we need to do, what is it? If there are two things we need to do, what are they?”
Barring some unlikely problem as the school board reviews Evenson-Brady’s references, she will be appointed effective July 1. Evenson-Brady is no stranger: she lives in Hood River, and served as assistant superintendent for the district and earlier as Westside Elementary principal in the 1990s.
At Monday’s community meeting only one member of the public joined the teachers, principals and school board members to meet with Evenson-Brady. It won’t be the last such opportunity: another session is Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. at Wy’east Middle School to meet Evenson-Brady and ask her questions. Anyone doing so will meet someone with sharp humor and a can-do attitude in the face of great difficulty.
“The danger at this time in Hood River is we have to keep Hood River an excellent school system,” Evenson-Brady said, in a manner that expresses hope along with the wry experience of having done the tough work of cutting budgets. (ESD has seen half its programs cut over the past five years.) She looks at the big picture in terms of Oregon’s problems funding education and nearly all of its social service programs.
“The danger in Oregon is we could lose what we consider our quality of living,” she said.
The most encouraging thing about Evenson-Brady is her high concern with what happens with instruction. In answer to the suggestion that the district tighten its attendance policy, Evenson-Brady said, “How we respond as a system is important; not with attendance as an icon. To me it’s really important to change what’s going on in the classroom. What we need to say to those kids is ‘you are important. We do something in the classroom every day here that is important’.”
Though straight forward, Evenson-Brady did not pretend to have all the answers.
“What we’re told from the state level is that voters don’t believe that they are getting good value for their dollars,” she said. “The public has to believe they’re getting good value, so somehow at the same time we are asking ‘how are we going to survive’ we have to say, ‘we are doing great.’ And how do you do that? It’s not easy.”
The school board has not hired Evenson-Brady; it will weigh what feedback it gets from community and staff meetings, and reference checks and site visits are planned, in order to get a rounded view of Evenson-Brady’s work.
That said, Evenson-Brady appears to be exactly the right person at just the right time, given her knowledge of the district, the fact that she already lives here, has worked closely with the district while with ESD, and her evident high regard for the staff and students of the district.