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August 1, 2003

Governor names head of School for the Deaf

From: Oregonian, OR - Aug 1, 2003


VANCOUVER -- The Washington School for the Deaf has a new superintendent, Todd Reeves, who will step into the position with his eye focused on the school's future and student safety.

Gov. Gary Locke's office announced Reeves as the school's new chief Thursday, after a search that brought five candidates to the Vancouver campus in June for interviews with the board. The board recommended finalists to Locke, who chose the state-run school's chief.

Reeves, 42, currently the director of special education for Tacoma Public Schools, accepted the position Tuesday. He briefly served on the deaf school's board of trustees until earlier this year. He will begin his new job Aug. 11, four days after his contract with the Tacoma district expires. He will earn $94,000 a year.

"It's really important for me to get to know the school and its policies and procedures," Reeves said from his Tacoma office Thursday. "There's a lot to do. If I took a week off, it would be counterproductive."

Reeves will fill the position left vacant when Leonard E. Aron resigned in February amid controversy concerning student safety. Since then, John Davis, former Hockinson School District superintendent, has served as the school's interim chief.

Reeves started as assistant director of special education in Tacoma in 1998. He also has worked as program administrator in special education for the Peninsula School District in Gig Harbor and as education program supervisor at the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem.

In 1996, Reeves graduated from the University of Washington Law School, where he received an administrative certificate from the Dan Forth Educational Leadership Program.

He has experience with the Washington School for the Deaf where he served as the communications specialist from 1988 to 1993. He also sat on the school's board of trustees from July 2002 until the first quarter of this year, when he resigned in anticipation of applying for the superintendent position.

Reeves was diagnosed with a hearing disorder at 13, when he was attending school in Eugene. The use of a hearing aid makes his loss almost unnoticeable.

His experience more than meets what the Washington School for the Deaf leadership needs, said Michael Marchand, deputy communications director for Locke.

"You're more than just an educator," Marchand said. "There are administrative issues, staffing, you have to facilitate leadership and you have to coordinate training."

While in Tacoma, Reeves was responsible for orchestrating and preparing the district for its first comprehensive program review by the state, which gauges how well federal special education standards are met.

"He also (provided) quite extensive training on special education issues," said Carolyn Ho, former executive director for special education and health services.

Ho said Reeves is known for his strong intellect and easy-going personality.

"I know how deaf students operate in public school environments as well as in special education programs in public schools," Reeves said. "I've seen the issues facing deaf students in both a small school and a larger school."

Reeves said he expects to take a strong role in the future of the school. Administrators are in the beginning stages of finalizing a 10-year, $28 million master facilities plan that would call for the demolition and reconstruction of up to eight of the 12 structures on campus.

However, decreased student enrollment and controversies have threatened the future of the residential school. Student enrollment dropped from 171 in 1999 to 105 in June.

Administrators have said that its services could expand into a central training and supply base for the state's deaf education needs.

"I expect to take a strong role in terms of being visible and articulate to what the 10-year plan and what the school is," Reeves said.

He said that he expects to work closely with the board of trustees, which has "a real solid idea of the kinds of physical changes that should occur."

As the new superintendent, Reeves will have to guide the school past its recent controversies.

Allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse at the school became public in August 1999. Following a series of lawsuits, investigations, studies and reports, a five-member panel appointed by Locke questioned whether the school was capable of providing a safe environment for students.

However, Reeves said student and staff safety is an important issue at any school, and he will approach the issue with the same intensity as he always has.

"I don't think we've become hyper-sensitive because of the past," he said. "It's very important for the school staff to be vigilant in protecting students' and staff safety at all times."

He said his approach will be one of addressing potential safety matters before they become issues.

"We have to continue to ask questions about safety and not wait for a problem to come up," Reeves said. Jason Begay: 360-896-5719 or 503-294-5900;

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