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Board approves changeover between top school officials

Dave Willard will take a human resources job; John O'Neill steps up to assistant superintendent

The Forest Grove School Board gave the green light Monday night to a plan that has two of the district's top administrators playing musical chairs starting at the end of the school year.

Assistant Superintendent Dave Willard, 61, who's worked in the district for 10 years, plans to retire from that slot at the end of June. He'll then take on a half-time position for one year as human resources director.

His successor will be John O'Neill, 45, currently the district's director of student achievement, who moved from his former spot as Forest Grove High School principal just a year ago. O'Neill will focus on curriculum and instruction in his new position.

The personnel change will give the district's suffering budget some breathing room - $50,000 to $60,000 worth. Next year, officials will cut up to $11 million from the general fund budget.

'This will save the district dollars and will allow Dave to mentor John O'Neill as [he] transitions from Director of Student Achievement to Assistant Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer,' said Superintendent Yvonne Curtis.

Though his salary hasn't yet been hammered out, O'Neill's pay grade should settle somewhere between what it is this year, $124,716, and Willard's salary of $126,706. Willard's paycheck will be roughly half what he's making this year, though that, too, has yet to be fully negotiated.

The change should come as no surprise to those inside the district office on Main Street.

'Dave told us last fall he thought he'd be retiring at the end of this year,' said district spokeswoman Connie Potter, who indicated that plans to make O'Neill second-in-command to Curtis have been in the works since spring of 2010. 'When he switched from FGHS to the district office, that was always the plan that he'd go to assistant superintendent,' she noted.