Board selects Stephenson as district leader

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Marla M. Stephenson has been selected as the next superintendent of the Estacada School District.The school board has selected Marla M. Stephenson as the next superintendent of the Estacada School District.

The board made the announcement via press release on Thursday, April 10.

Stephenson’s contract is expected to be approved during a special school board meeting on Wednesday, April 16.

She will take over for retiring Superintendent Howard Fetz on July 1.

Stephenson emerged as the board’s top choice out of a pool of 25 candidates.

“She really impressed us with her leadership skills, comfortable communication style and strong education credentials,” Rick Mudrow, school board chairman, was quoted in the press release.

Stephenson said an educational leader must be an excellent communicator, one that is able to take complex issues and put them into language that everyone can understand.

“Schools are only as good as the people who work in them,” she said. “I will bring to Estacada schools effective leadership, high energy and a strong work ethic. We will be committed to equal education for all students. I’m very excited about the board selecting me to be the next superintendent for Estacada schools and look forward to beginning our journey to help all students become successful.”

Alexia Ritchie, principal of Marin Elementary School of Albany Unified School District said the Estacada School District is fortunate to have Stephenson as its next superintendent.

“I’ve worked with her for approximately 15 years and I think she’s extremely intelligent,” Ritchie said. “I think she is also a wonderful leader when it comes to putting students first. She has done much to enhance our school district in terms of programs for intervention, programs for career tech. She has high expectations academically for her students, for her staff... I’m really pleased to see that she has found a new superintendency in Oregon.”

Allan Maris, vice president of the Albany Unified School District Board of Education referred to Stephenson as a smart, strong, hard-working leader who “knows how to get things done.”

“We accomplished a lot over the seven years or so she was our superintendent,” Maris said.

He describes Stephenson as being an effective advocate for making sure counseling and mental health programs were available to students.

Maris added that he felt Stephenson had “some problems with transparency and collaboration with the community.”

“I think some people felt they weren’t informed about some of the decisions of the school district, including the school board,” Maris said.

Paul Black, a member of the Albany Unified School District’s Board of Education, said he enjoyed working with Stephenson and she “always put the kids first.”

“She led us through some very hard economic times and kept the district afloat without cutting any core programs and without laying off any teachers,” Black said.

Black said Stephenson was “always advocating for high-quality uniform curriculum in schools and professional development for teachers.”

The process

With the help of a screening committee consisting of administrators, district staff and community members, the Estacada School Board reviewed applications and interviewed candidates.

Following initial interviews, the board looked into candidates’ backgrounds and references and invited three finalists for a “day in the district” on Monday, April 7.

The three finalists met staff, students and community members and toured the district before undergoing a second interview with the school board.

Stephenson was then named as the board’s top choice.

Stephenson’s background

Stephenson has served as superintendent of the Albany Unified School District in Albany, Calif., for the last six years. She is also the president of the Alameda County Superintendent Council.

Stephenson has also been assistant superintendent, a middle school principal and spent four years as an elementary school principal in the St. Helena Unified School District in St. Helena, Calif. She was a teacher for a decade throughout the Bay Area.

Stephenson also brings business experience to the table, as she was the vice president of American Hot Coffee Company in San Francisco for seven years.

Stephenson earned a

master’s degree in education leadership from St. Mary’s College, a master’s degree in education curriculum and

instruction from Chapman University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University Long Beach.

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