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Education administrator retires after 47 years

Milt Dennison to leave Clackamas Education Service District, which serves LOSD and other area school districts

REVIEW FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Milt Dennison served in the education field for 47 years, 30 of those as an administrator at three districts, including Clackamas Education Service District.  After serving as a superintendent at three school districts in the past 30 years, Milt Dennison has announced he will be retiring.

“It’s been a great career,” Dennison told The Review. “I’m continually impressed that even in times when resources have been reduced and not really adequate, educators still find ways to educate kids. I think that’s been impressive. On the other hand, it’s been frustrating. That’s probably been my main frustration.”

Since 2004, Dennison has served as the leader of the Clackamas Education Service District. He will retire effective June 30, he announced at a Lake Oswego School Board meeting in March.

BECK"Milt has been a strong supporter and kind mentor since I arrived, and I will miss his leadership," said Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck, who started in her role two years ago. "I have appreciated his perspective on issues from the past and his wisdom in predicting situations in the future. I am grateful that our paths crossed over the past two years, as he was integral in supporting my launch in Oregon. As Milt retires, he will take decades of knowledge out of the system and his absence will be felt."

Dennison has been an education administrator for more than 40 years and an educator since 1969.

“It’s certainly a calling to be in education, more than just a job," he said. "We have to be pretty dedicated to do what we do.”

One of his proudest achievements is making the CESD more efficient, he said, by spearheading an effort to put it on one campus. He also was an active advocate for education service districts in the state Legislature, especially during a time four years ago when people were questioning the efficacy of districts receiving services through ESDs instead of through direct funding.

Dennison said ESDs are crucial in particular to smaller, rural districts that have fewer resources, and that offering a centralized place for services — including technology systems and special education — is beneficial to all school districts.

“We worked very hard to make our Legislature understand the importance of ESDs,” he said.

WENDLANDDennison has worked with many administrators while with the CESD, and he said he has enjoyed collaborating with both Beck and former Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Bill Korach.

“It’s been a good partnership. … Lake Oswego School Board has always been a good supporter,” Dennison said.

School board member John Wendland lavished praise on Dennison.

“Milt was very aware of all of the moving parts that it took to provide support services for our ESD, and he led his team to ensure we had the best solutions available,” Wendland said. “His deep knowledge and expertise will be missed.”

HARTMANLiz Hartman, LO school board chairwoman, said the LO School District has been "fortunate to have Milt's care and attention over the years.”

“His annual report to the school board always showed his compassion for Clackamas Educational Service District and the students who are served through all the programs administered by the ESD," Hartman said. "Milt has been a caring and dedicated professional.”

Former Lake Oswego school board member Linda Brown, now a CESD board member, served with Dennison on the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

“It's been a tremendous pleasure,” Brown said. “He’s been a gift to education for over 47 years. He cares. He works hard, and he BROWNinspires those around him to care and work hard.”

Korach, who served as LOSD superintendent from 1987-2014, said there are two talents of Dennison’s that he’d stress.

“He did a good job of balancing the service needs of the districts, from the largest districts to the smallest, and of the clientele of those districts,” Korach said. “And then I would say he did a really good job of surrounding himself with the right people.”

Dennison made some excellent hires in finance, curriculum, human resources and special services, Korach said.

KORACH“I would like to thank Milt for his decades of service, especially helping our most vulnerable and special needs children,” said Bob Barman, Lake Oswego School Board member. “Milt has clearly made a difference that the entire region should honor.”

From 1993-2004, Dennison served as superintendent of the Camas School District in Washington; from 1986-1993, he led the Canby Elementary School District, but his experience as a leader in his field didn’t start there.

Dennison also has held the role of Director of Curriculum & Instruction and middle school principal in the six years he spent in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, and he was an elementary school principal in the Dixon Unified School District in California for five years.

BARMANHis first job was as a math teacher in the Otis Public Schools in Colorado from 1969-70. He then headed to the Dixon Unified School District to teach for five years before beginning his administrative career. He earned his master’s in educational administration from California State University, Sacramento, followed by a Doctor of Education from University of Southern California. That was preceded by a bachelor’s in math and a bachelor’s in physical education from Western State College in Colorado.

That bachelor’s degree combination “was good for someone who wanted to teach but also coach,” he said.

Dennison primarily coached basketball, but he also served as an assistant coach in football and track in his years as an educator.

Dennison also has taken on the role of adjunct professor at Lewis & Clark College, handling administrative leadership and community relations from 1986-1994 before taking a break and returning in 2006-10 to work in the educational leadership doctoral program.

He somehow also found the time to dive into community service in a variety of groups,. He currently is past-president of the Milwaukie Rotary Club, a board member for the Portland Actors Conservatory and a senior vice president and executive board member of Cascade Council of the Boys Scouts of America. He also has been a trustee for the Boys & Girls Club of Portland.

His hard work and community service have earned him several honors, including the Civic Star Award from the American Association of School Administrators. he was named Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year and Camas-Washougal Rotary Club’s Rotarian of the Year.

This 68-year-old Oregon City resident doesn’t know for sure what he’ll do next. He dreams of sleeping in, but only if his internal clock doesn’t kick in after all these years.

“I’m probably not going to get up at 5 in the morning but I may not have any control over that,” he said.

He is involved in assisting other districts with superintendent searches and has some consulting gigs he’s considering, although he does not plan to work full-time anymore.

He’ll be visiting his son’s family — including two grandkids, ages 3 and 7 — in Madrid, Spain. He’d like to see his brother in Honolulu, and traveling to South America and Australia is “high on my list,” he said.

By Jillian Daley
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