The Hermiston school board selected Tricia Mooney to lead the district for the next year and a half.
Mooney, who is currently the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, was unanimously elected by the board Monday to serve in the temporary role while Superintendent Fred Maiocco takes a leave of absence to serve a tour of duty in Europe for the U.S. Army Reserves. She assumed the role immediately, stepping in as superintendent for the rest of that evening’s board meeting.
“I’m humbled and honored to head the district during Dr. Maiocco’s absence,” Mooney said. “We’re going to be ready for over 5,600 kids on August 28.”
Mooney was one of three finalists for the position. The others were Philip “Buzz” Brazeau and Richard Rundhaug. The board spent nearly four hours interviewing candidates on Monday before deliberating in executive session. During the open session, the board conducted all three interviews before a crowd of 30 to 40 administrators, teachers and community members. Audience members could turn in sheets grading the candidates on their capability and their perceived fit for the district.
Mooney has spent most of her education career in the Hermiston School District, beginning in 1995 as a teacher at Sunset Elementary School. She has also spent time as the principal of Rocky Heights Elementary School and Armand Larive Middle School.
In 2008, Mooney moved to the Pendleton School District to serve as the director of human resources, and was hired as assistant superintendent there in 2009. She returned to the Hermiston School District last year.
Mooney said her priority for the district was to guide it through a transitional period.
“We have a little healing and rebuilding to do as a staff,” she said.
She cited her familiarity with the district, staff and community as positives, as well as her investment in the schools as both a staff member and parent.
Mooney also discussed her experience with employee handbooks and evaluations, policy review and union negotiations.
“I’m passionate about the district,” she said. “I have the ability to look at things from different perspectives.”
Mooney said it is important to support teachers and staff as they face growing class sizes, while continuing to explore the possibility of re-introducing a bond to upgrade facilities.
“We’ve begun that process and gone out to the community,” she said. “We know we might have some bigger class sizes ... at this point some trust needs to be rebuilt.”
When board members asked Mooney whether she had any questions for them, she asked what they were looking for in an interim superintendent.
Board members said they hoped to find someone who would not just maintain the district, but actively move it forward.
“I want someone who will help us be in a better spot 18 months from now,” said board member Ginny Holthus.
The other two candidates interviewed via Skype. The first, Richard Rundhaug, is an education consultant in Phoenix, Arizona. He had previously served as a superintendent for the Willcox Unified School District, and an assistant superintendent for the Coolidge Unified School District.
Brazeau was the principal of Hermiston High School from July 2007 to June 2012, and recently retired as the superintendent of the Central School District 13J in Independence.