>   Three superintendent candidates have been selected as finalists by the Jefferson County 509-J School Board from a field of 21 applications.
   Superintendent Kay Baker said 21 was an unusually high number of applicants. "(Oregon School Boards Association consultant) Betsy Miller-Jones was encouraged by that. It was one of the largest pools of candidates they've had," Baker said.
   She added, "That says a lot for this community. We may often think of the negatives, but the candidates saw us as a district with great potential, great diversity and saw the challenges as opportunities."
   Connie Kennedy, Richard "Rick" Molitor, and Jane Westergaard-Nimocks will be invited back for a second interview and a chance to meet the public on March 17 and 18.
   Meanwhile, the board will continue checking with references and visits to their home towns during the coming week.
   Connie Kennedy is the current assistant superintendent for Hood River County School District where, like Jefferson County, one-third of the population is Hispanic.
   In that position, she is responsible for the human resources department, including labor negotiations, and oversight of special student programs.
   Her experience spans 20 years in Oregon education as a teacher, principal and assistant principal of secondary schools, and director of curriculum, special education and alternative education.
   She holds a master's degree in teaching from Lewis and Clark College and earned her superintendent licensure through Portland State University in the executive leadership program in 2000.
   Richard "Rick" Molitor completed Washington's education leadership program for superintendent licensure through Washington State University.
   He is currently serving as the associate superintendent overseeing the fiscal and support services for the Wahluke School District in Mattawa, Wash., where he was previously an intermediate school principal for four years.
   The Wahluke School District has a current enrollment of 1,850 students with 235 employees.
   He began his 17 years in public education as a teacher at the elementary and secondary levels for 10 years.
   Focusing on the school/business partnership, Molitor completed a fellowship for educational leaders in math and science.
   Jane Westergaard-Nimocks earned her bachelor of science degree in elementary education with a Special Education endorsement from the University of Oregon, and a master's in educational administration from the University of Nebraska in 1984.
   She previously served as a principal of Warm Springs Elementary School from 1984-1989, before moving to Washington for a like position.
   She has a background and certificate in directing human resources and personnel management in both Edmonds School District and Seattle School District.
   She earned a superintendent's field-based credential through Washington State University in 2001.
   She currently is working in the Lakewood School District as interim curriculum director and serving the Darrington School District as human resource consultant.
   All three candidates will be in the school district on March 17 and 18, and the community will have an opportunity to meet them in the Madras High School commons at the following times:
   March 17, 4 p.m., to meet Jane Westergaard-Nimocks.
   March 17, 5 p.m., to meet Rick Molitor.
   March 18, 4 p.m., to meet Connie Kennedy.
   Announcement of the final selection of Jefferson County 509-J's next school superintendent will be made at a special public meeting on April 7.
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