Lake Oswego School Superintendent Heather Beck resigns
Superintendent Heather Beck, who guided the Lake Oswego School District through a successful bond campaign and consistently worked to improve students' academic achievements while weaving herself deeply into the fabric of the community, announced Tuesday that she will leave her job at the end of the current school year.
Beck will become the deputy head of school at the Canadian International School (CIS) in Singapore, she told The Review. Her resignation will take effect on June 30, 2018.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me," Beck said. "I am able to bring my passion for using data to inform instruction to an international school that will embrace my talents and skill set to move to the next level of excellence."
Beck will continue to serve as superintendent through the end of the 2017-18 school year. School Board members are scheduled to discuss the district's succession plan at the next board meeting, which is slated for Dec. 11.
On Tuesday, board members were consistent in their praise for Beck, who joined the district as superintendent in the summer of 2014.
"Our district is thriving under Dr. Beck's leadership," said board Chair John Wallin, "and we are going to miss her advocacy for all students, deep analytical skills and passion for academic excellence."
"When we hired Dr. Beck, we could see that she was destined for a national stage. We are not surprised that an international school pursued her," said board member Liz Hartman, who served on the board that hired Beck. "We are so thankful for the changes she has initiated for our high-performing district and we are fortunate to have had four years with her."
"Dr. Beck has done a fantastic job for our students," said board member Bob Barman, who also served on the hiring team. "You never want to hold an incredible person from a great opportunity. I understand her excitement, but we will be losing a wonderful friend, a champion for our children, and a national education leader."
Beck lists passage of the LOSD's $187 million bond in May as one of her more significant achievements. She also worked with faculty, staff and administrators to launch and refine professional learning communities, response-to-intervention strategies and other supports for students; fostered professional development days for faculty; restructured academic programs; increased the district's graduation rate to 93 percent; adopted new curricula and reduced barriers to AP and elective classes; and negotiated four-year contracts with both labor associations.
But she will also be remembered for her immediate and lasting impact outside of the district.
Beck developed and nurtured deep relationships with the business community, faith communities, city leaders and service organizations. She joined and remains a member of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club, where she has spearheaded a holiday fundraising campaign to buy gift cards for Lake Oswego's neediest students, and the Chamber of Commerce, where she leads the group's annual Leadership Lake Oswego class with City Manager Scott Lazenby.
At one point, she even flipped the switch to light the city's Christmas Tree.
"I will miss her very much, as a professional colleague and friend," Lazenby told The Review on Tuesday. "Dr. Beck is one of the best superintendents I've had the pleasure to work with."
Lazenby said he and Beck had a lot of coffee and lunch meetings, just to keep communication open. But one example of their working relationship really stands out.
"When we negotiated the final terms of the sale of the West End Building, Yakima Products needed to be able to move in soon because their space was being taken over by Nike. But we didn't have a home lined up for Parks & Recreation," Lazenby said. "I think it was a Friday evening; I called Heather at home on her cellphone and asked if we could use the Palisades school building on an interim basis. She just said, 'We can make it work.' We both knew we needed the OK from our respective boards, but that experience exemplifies the relationship we've enjoyed with LOSD thanks to Dr. Beck's leadership."
Chamber CEO Keith Dickerson echoed Lazenby's thoughts, calling Beck "a leader's leader who embraces her role of service to her students, teachers, staff and families with fairness and innovation."
"It didn't take long for me to see that she was the perfect blend of intelligence, human compassion, integrity and good humor," said Dickerson, who met Beck shortly after being named director of the Leadership Lake Oswego program. "I found her to be a loyal friend and community partner from that day to this. My wife and I cherish her friendship and will greatly miss her being near."
Beck had some pretty big shoes to fill when she arrived in Lake Oswego. Bill Korach, who retired in 2014 after 27 years at the LOSD's helm, was the longest-serving school superintendent in Oregon. His efforts to stabilize funding for the district and to strengthen enrichment programs for its students created what many consider to be a "destination district" with schools that consistently rank among the state's best for student achievement. And like Beck, his civic contributions touched every aspect of life in Lake Oswego.
But the district Korach left behind was not without its problems.
Beck, who served as the chief academic officer of the Jefferson County Public Schools in Colorado before coming to Oregon, inherited a district filled with buildings in dire need of maintenance, repair or replacement — and without the money to pay for it. She's dealt with parents who were angry over the closing of three schools and the potential sale of others, angry about the location of a bus barn in their neighborhood and angry about the implementation of Common Core curriculum in classrooms.
Part of her first summer was spent dealing with the repercussions of a penalty-plagued season that resulted in fines for the district, probation for Lakeridge High's football team and a lawsuit filed by a former player. That was followed by reports of pot smoking at a Lake Oswego High football team retreat and then by allegations of hazing on the Lakeridge High dance team.
Those hazing allegations landed the LOSD in court earlier this year, resulting in a $70,000 judgement against the district and Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele. The district also settled a federal Title IX lawsuit brought by members of the Lake Oswego High softball team, which will result in widespread changes to athletic programs and facilities.
But to her credit, Beck never backed away from any of it.
She worked to create an atmosphere of continuous improvement under the banner "all means all," using each of the athletic scandals as a teaching and learning opportunity to foster better behavior, mutual respect and inclusiveness. She worked closely with the School Board and staff to create a strategic plan to address the district's future needs. And she maintained an open-door policy that may not have eliminated all of the anger, but certainly made even her staunchest critics feel heard.
"I cannot thank the Lake Oswego community enough for the wonderful experience I have had," Beck said on Tuesday. "I will miss LO — its passionate parents, hard-working board, dedicated staff and talented students. You will forever be in my heart and I will always be in your corner."
Beck's next adventure will take her to Singapore, where she will serve as deputy head of school at the Canadian International School. The school's 3,000 students represent more than 70 nationalities and are located at two different campuses.
CIS uses a student-centric approach to deliver a global curriculum that develops students' abilities to collaborate with their peers and connect with their curiosity in order to overcome barriers to success. The school measures success based on students' abilities to innovate, act and connect with people on both a local and global level, not just by exam results.
"I have traveled extensively and bring a global perspective to education and world citizenship," Beck said. "This is the next step in my career as an international academic advocate. The Canadian International School is on the forefront of innovative approaches to education. I look forward to deepening my knowledge of different approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment."