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Long-time Scappoose schools superintendent dies

Jack Blair, 78, worked 24 years in the Scappoose School District
by: Submitted photo Jack C. Blair

Jack Carson Blair, who served 24 years in the Scappoose School District, most spent as the district's superintendent, died Dec. 27 following his contraction of a cold that complicated a condition of pulmonary fibrosis. He was 78 years old.

'To a lot of us in the school business, Jack was a great mentor and friend,' said Pete McHugh, who worked under Blair at the district in several capacities, including principal at Warren Elementary School.

Blair, of St. Helens, worked for Warren District No. 7 as the superintendent and principal prior to its absorption into the Scappoose School District. He started in Scappoose in 1968, the year Warren was merged into the Scappoose district, as the principal at Grant Watts Elementary School, a district official said.

He became superintendent in 1973, a position he held until his retirement in 1992.

During his tenure he was a leading voice among school superintendents critical of the state's 'safety net' tax program of the late-1980s, a topic upon which he provided testimony to state legislative committees. The safety net program offered schools facing closure due to failed local property tax levies the option of levying taxes at the prior year's rate, but only for one year. After that, schools would have been required to pass levies for any raise in their tax rates.

In one 1987 article published in the Register-Guard, Blair said the program was akin to 'throwing aspirin where major surgery is needed.' He was critical of the state's structure for school financing, especially on the fact it relied too heavily on property tax revenue.

He also orchestrated many school capital projects, from construction of the Scappoose High School stadium to remodeling of the middle school basement, without having to place the district into long-term debt, McHugh said.

'He was smart. He was a good leader,' he said. 'He had the highest integrity.'

Memorial services are planned for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church in St. Helens.