Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part story that will conclude on March 25.
Reedsport's incoming school superintendent is looking forward to the opportunities that his new position will bring.
Add to that the challenge of coming from China to Reedsport.
Brian Gander is currently the associate director of Jinan Foreign Language School International Center, a position he's held since 2013.
Prior to that he was interim superintendent for a year with the Santiam Canyon School District in Mill City, Ore.
Gander responded to an email interview with The Umpqua Post from Jinan, Shandong, People's Republic of China.
“There were a couple of reasons I applied (in Reedsport),” Gander said. “The first is the size of the district. I like the idea of working in a coastal community with two schools. Secondly, I came to understand that the area was poised for growth potential, so that is intriguing to me as well.”
The Reedsport position is a .6 FTE. The district decided, last year, to separate the positions of superintendent and principal of Highland Elementary School. Beckie Lupton was chosen as principal because of her experience in the Siuslaw School District. Dennis Friedrich was chosen as interim superintendent for a year to allow the school board to do another superintendent search. Gander was chosen from three finalists last month.
Gander responded to a question about whether he would be able to “get everything done” as a part-time superintendent.
“I have always told others there are no part-time positions in education,” he said. “I guess I will find that out in the coming months. The split assignment of special education director and superintendent is nothing new to me. As a small school superintendent I am accustomed to wearing a variety of hats, so to speak. I am confident the school board and I will sit down early to define my goals and communicate those the community so will all understand with 'getting everything done' means in this first year.”
Gander was a superintendent/principal in the Jewell School District in Seaside for three years. He was also superintendent/principal at the small Long Creek School District, south of Pendleton, for two years.
Gander has also been a principal and a teacher in four districts.
He served in the Peace Corps in Africa.
He has a doctorate in education from the University of Oregon. He got his masters in education from Oregon State University.
He was the vice president of the Oregon Small School Association and was president of the Oregon Elementary School Principal Association.
He said he has the experience to do well in Reedsport.
“With each of my past positions,” he said, “I feel my greatest strengths are organizing a group of professionals around common goals, whether that is the district's overall vision and guiding beliefs, or curriculum and budgeting leadership. I have also had success in leadership development through mentoring administrators and teachers and, lastly, district analysis; an ability to bring a fresh set of eyes to those pestering concerns all districts experience and define pathways toward success.”
He said he brings “strong strategic planning skills” and “effective implementation practices.”
He was asked if he was exited to be returning to Oregon in a leadership role.
“Change is always a challenge and exciting at the same time,” he said. “Not just for me, but the board, the staff and the community. I hope we can bring an energy of dedication to students learning while recognizing the opportunities before us that lead to solving the persistent problems faced by all schools.
He said he was grateful to the school board for hiring him.
“I very much look forward to the opportunities that August will bring,” he said.