Board issues glowing review of outgoing superintendent

In Superintendent Bill Korach’s final evaluation, the Lake Oswego School District board said the long-time leader’s “response to funding realities and his financial management efforts have been, and continue to be, key to the district’s survival.”by: SUBMITTED - Korach

The board, which hires and evaluates the superintendent, last week released its consensus statement, an overview of Korach’s year-end evaluation.

The document provides an assessment of his leadership, managerial, communication, financial management and problem-solving skills. It describes what he has accomplished and the challenges that lie ahead in his final fiscal year as superintendent.

The district has been fraught with financial challenges during the last few years. Seven to 11 teacher positions could be eliminated, depending on enrollment, to remedy a budget shortfall. So far, vacated jobs have prevented all but two teachers from being laid off, and they’ll be next in line to be hired. The past two years have involved the consolidation of elementary schools as well as the institution of furlough days, a practice that is continuing in 2013-14.

The consensus document stated Korach did an excellent job executing Scenario B — the district’s biggest organizational change in recent years — helping preserve quality education and saving dollars. Scenario B included closing Palisades, Uplands and Bryant elementary schools. The district repurposed Bryant as an extension of Lakeridge Junior High School to accommodate sixth-graders who, as of last school year, attended junior high instead of elementary school.

“I was very appreciative of the school board’s support of what we’re doing now and what we’re doing next year,” Korach said.

The board praised Korach’s handling of enrollment balance, transfer guidelines and the introduction of open enrollment, which allows students within a small area outside of the district to attend Lake Oswego schools. The consensus statement said these measures brought additional revenue to the district.

“He has a strong capacity for re-evaluating assumptions and refining thinking in the face of changing times and conditions,” according to the statement.

The board said Korach’s respect for district staff “fosters strong, productive relationships and an atmosphere of mutual respect.”

The board and Korach met in executive session on June 19 to discuss his performance and hear his own assessment of it. Board member John Wendland and district Director of Communications Nancy Duin then composed the consensus statement, which was issued June 27. Duin said a future superintendent could change the process.

Korach leaves the district in June 2014, and school board Chairwoman Patti Zebrowski said he isn’t going to be a “lame duck.”

“He’s a very serious man, and he will be working until his last day on the job,” Zebrowski said.

She said the board didn’t evaluate Korach differently because he is leaving.

“There are so many things he needs to do next year that are so important that I think we treated it like it was any other year,” she said.

The consensus statement detailed major issues before Korach and the board this fiscal year, including:

  • The search for a new superintendent,
  • The renewal of the local option levy on the November ballot,
  • Analyzing the results of a real estate study to help determine which school buildings to keep,
  • Continuing long-term financial planning, and
  • Implementing Common Core standards, which involve changes to standardized state testing.
  • Wendland said Korach is devoted to the district, staying on an extra couple of years, so all is in order for his successor.

    Korach retired in 2011 but continued on post-retirement contracts in 2012-13 and in 2013-14. Korach makes more than $131,000 annually, accounting for four furlough days. For the past two years, he has donated $40,000 of his income to the Lake Oswego School District Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports teachers’ salaries.

    Hired in 1987, Korach is the longest-serving school superintendent in the state.

    Wendland said the board is committed to finding a strong candidate, but Korach will be a tough act to follow.

    “You just don’t find those kind of people very often,” Wendland said.

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