Soderman named interim superintendent for Douglas County School District
Tribune News Service
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. – The man who passed the torch to former Douglas County School District Superintendent Carol Lark three years ago was called back Tuesday night to help heal a bruised district.
School board members voted unanimously to name Gardnerville resident John Soderman, who preceded Lark as the district’s chief officer, the new interim superintendent.
“Nine out of 10 people recommended the same person,” said Jim Huge, the consultant who was hired to help the district in their search for the interim and permanent superintendent. “He (Soderman) has a knowledge of the district and can hit the ground running.”
Huge has been gathering input the past month from school board members, district staff and the greater public.
“I’ve been receiving a large number of e-mails even as late as this afternoon,” he said.
Concerns of people in the district, he said, range from budget issues to lagging test scores to a reported 137 homeless kids in the county.
“In 2005, you had one homeless student. Now, in December of 2009, you have 137,” Huge said.
He said a great number of people feel the district needs a clear vision for the future.
“There was a lot of conversation about working on communication and bridging the divides,” he said. “We need to ensure the major mission of the district, improving learning of students, is front and center.”
Huge also said the district needs to review and recommit to its own standards.
“There is a danger bringing someone back who was a former superintendent,” he said. “People will assume it will be just like before – the good old days that maybe never were.”
But he said Soderman has told him that won’t be the case.
“He (Soderman) said, ‘The world is different. I’ve learned a lot since then, and know we cannot do everything the same as before,'” Huge said.
Another contentious issue between Lake Tahoe and Valley staff is Whittell High School’s 4-day work week, Huge said.
“Lake parents told me they respect John but didn’t think he was supportive of the lake,” Huge said.
But after talking to both Soderman and Whittell Principal Sue Shannon, Huge said he’s confident any issues can be resolved.
“Everyone seems to be on the same page, they just haven’t put it in writing,” he said.
Soderman is expected to start before the Christmas holiday with a base pay of a little more than $10,000 a month.
Board members expect to complete the search for a permanent superintendent by April, and have him or her ready for the next fiscal year in July.
In a previous vote, board members barred the interim superintendent from seeking the permanent position.
“And he’ll help us build a transition policy to ensure our legacy to another board won’t be what we’ve gone through?” asked board president Cindy Trigg.
“You bet,” answered Huge. “You shouldn’t lose faith because one situation didn’t work out.”
Lark resigned Nov. 30 with a lump sum of $135,000, plus $17,500 in accrued vacation. The resignation came after months of turmoil in the district office between Lark and her staff.
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