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Ontario school district leader chosen as Reynolds leader

by: contributed photo Linda Florence

The Reynolds School District Board has hired Linda Florence, superintendent of the Ontario School District in Eastern Oregon, as the next Reynolds superintendent.

Florence will assume her duties July 1. She replaces Joyce Henstrand, who is retiring at the end of June, having overseen the district since December 2009.

Florence, who beat out three other candidates for the job, will make $140,000 a year as superintendent and signed a three-year contract.

Florence's background includes 20 years in administration in Oregon; she has spent the past three years in Ontario. She also has served as superintendent of the Culver School District in Jefferson County and as director of curriculum and instruction and high school principal with the Central School District in Independence.

Florence has also served as principal at Gervais High School and as assistant principal at McNary High School in Keizer. She has 13 years of experience as an English teacher at McNary as well as in schools in Indiana, South Dakota and Michigan.

During her time in Ontario, Florence noted voters approved a school construction bond for $18.5 million. Her district also successfully completed contract negotiations with licensed and classified staff; redesigned its website; and undertook efforts to improve academic performance at Ontario High School, among the state's worst high schools when she first took office. The Oregon Department of Education rated the school 'low' in 2007-08, but it received 'satisfactory' ratings in the next two years, and received an 'in need of improvement' for 2010-11.

Florence has completed her doctoral course work, except the dissertation, and her studies to qualify for administrator and superintendent licensure at Portland State University.

'The Reynolds School Board welcomes our new superintendent and wishes to thank those community members and students who provided invaluable input during the search process,' a district statement said.

In an interview, Florence said she's well aware the Reynolds district is embroiled in a labor dispute (see related story on Page 1A), and noted she herself participated in a teachers' strike early in her career, in Michigan.

'It's a difficult position because I do see both sides,' she said. 'I see the challenges that Reynolds has as an opportunity that will work nicely with my skills of pulling people together for a common vision.'

On that note, Joyce Rosenau, president of the Reynolds Education Association, which represents the district's teachers, said she met Florence during her interviews and was impressed.

'She seemed very personable and seemed very genuine and someone you can work with,' Rosenau said.