Sunset Elementary School staff members met the final four candidates for the school’s soon-to-be-vacant principal position Thursday, after the candidates went through a round of interviews and school visits that morning.
The final candidates are Lisa Arriaga, Eric Fuchs, Christine Petersen and Stephanne Seals.
Each candidate had about five minutes to speak about their background and qualifications to the audience, followed by a brief question-and answer period.
Petersen spoke about her 27 years in education. She currently works as an assistant professor at Corban University, a school improvement coach for Education Northwest Network, an adjunct professor at George Fox University for Educational Leadership and an administrative consultant.
She said while she enjoys her current roles, she’s ready to be back in a school.
“As a leader, I’m very relational,” she said. “I’m looking forward to building a community where I can spend the rest of my career, 12 to 15 years.”
A native of San Diego, Petersen said she developed a passion for teaching reading when she taught fourth grade in Virginia.
“I had fourth graders who were non-readers, and a lot of their parents were incarcerated,” she said. “People had given up on them.”
She said her childhood, in which she grew up with a single parent, inspired her to get into education.
“It was the teachers in my life who saw my potential,” she said. “To me, fair isn’t equal. Fair is kids getting what they need to be college and career-ready.”
Fuchs, a native Oregonian, has worked at Edwards Elementary School in Newberg for 19 years.
“I’m an elementary person through and through,” he said.
He emphasized the importance of supporting students and teachers not only in the classroom, but in other interests such as clubs and school activities.
He said his policy as an educator is to build strong relationships with the students and staff, as well as the community.
“To be an effective educational leader, you need character and competence,” he said.
Stephanne Seals, an assistant middle school principal at the Wichita Public Schools in Wichita, Kansas, has taught and served as an administrator and coach in middle schools.
“I’m very passionate about public education,” she said. “It’s our social contract with our students, and with our nation. They’re our future.”
Seals said while the bulk of her experience is in middle schools, she thinks her skills would translate.
“I believe a leader is a leader,” she said. “I know how to lead staff and students. I think I can have an impact in the lower grades as well as the middle.
Seals is in the process of getting her ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement.
Arriaga has served as the assistant principal of Sandstone Middle School for the past two years, and as a background teaching elementary school and English as Second Language. She has worked as an instructional coach, an AVID teacher and an ELL teacher, including at one of the lowest-performing schools in the state of Washington.
Arriaga said she learned a lot from working at that school, and working in an elementary school was one of her strengths.
She also discussed her experience working in low-income schools.
“Every school I’ve worked in has been Title I,” she said.
Arriaga said she has enjoyed being in Hermiston, and thought the school would be a good fit.
Assistant superintendent Tricia Mooney said a decision will be made after superintendent Dr. Fred Maiocco reviews the candidates and does reference checks. He will then provide a recommendation to the board. Mooney said the soonest a decision will be made is at the end of next week, but did not have an exact date.
Devin Grigg resigned the principal job to start a business in Arizona after 12 years as an administrator in the district. Desert View Elementary School will also seek a new principal for next school year with the resignation of Michael Roberts.