IM this article to a friend!

February 20, 2003

Retired Hockinson schools chief takes interim post at deaf school

From: Oregonian, OR - 20 Feb 2003


VANCOUVER -- John Davis, retired Hockinson schools superintendent, has been appointed interim superintendent of the Washington School for the Deaf.

He will temporarily replace Leonard E. Aron, who announced his resignation as superintendent in January following a controversy over whether the school was doing enough to protect students from sexual abuse.

Gov. Gary Locke, who oversees the school and who appointed Davis, is expected to work with the board of trustees in developing criteria to help in the nationwide search for a permanent superintendent.

Davis -- now interim transportation supervisor for a co-op that provides transportation to Kalama, Woodland, Ridgefield and La Center school districts -- begins the job today and will serve until the replacement is found.

Davis said Wednesday he will not apply for the permanent superintendent job. Instead, he plans to return to the transportation co-op, which is holding open that job for him.

Michael Marchand, deputy communications director for Locke, said Davis was chosen for the interim position mostly because of his education background and because he came highly recommended by colleagues.

A nationwide search should begin soon, Marchand said. Ideally, the position will be filled by July.

"It's a short period of time, but we're not going to camp out," Davis said. "We're going to move on and do what we can to make this transition fully functional."

Davis steps into a position that has seen substantial controversy the past three years. Parents and teachers began airing their concerns about sexual misconduct and abuse on the residential campus in August 1999.

In November, a five-member monitoring panel sent a memo to Locke questioning whether the school was able to provide a safe environment for students. At last count, 102 students were enrolled.

In January the trustees sent a letter to Locke saying members had no confidence in Aron's ability to continue leading the school and recommended he be relieved of his job.

Davis says he is not deterred by the controversy.

"I'm kind of excited about (the position)," he said. "I think the kids and the staff there need some good news and need to look forward and get on with business."

Davis said he plans to focus on learning and safety. "But at the same time we're not going to cover up the school in cellophane tape," he said.

During his seven years as Hockinson superintendent, Davis is credited with helping pass several special levies as well as a $16.1 million construction bond. Among various projects, the bond is paying for the district's first high school, scheduled to open in September.

"When he started, we'd just had a double levy failure; we were clearly in the red," said Sheila Homchick, a Hockinson board member since 1996. "He had strong leadership skills and was key in planning for the future of the district."

Homchick said Davis was "integral in getting our high school off the ground."

During his 30 years in education, Davis also has served as an assistant dean of the University of Connecticut School of Education and assistant superintendent in the Kelso School District. He has been a principal at several Washington schools. Jason Begay: 360-896-5719 or 503-294-5900;

© 2003 All Rights Reserved.