Bo Yates is School Board’s pick

The Lebanon School Board named interim Supt. Bo Yates its new superintendent Thursday evening, April 11,  during its regular meeting.

Following comments supporting Yates from seven members of the public and staff members, the board entered a brief closed executive session before emerging and voting 4-1 in favor of hiring Yates as the district’s new superintendent.

Voting for him were Chairman Tom Oliver, Richard Borden, Nick Brooks and Mike Martin. Tammy Schilling voted no.

Yates, who was assistant superintendent, has served this year as interim superintendent following the resignation of Rob Hess. The board considered two other finalists, Kate McLaughlin, director of federal programs and elementary education for Reynolds School District in Fairview, and Charan Cline, superintendent of Yamhill-Carlton School District in Yamhill.

Yates graduated from Lebanon High School in 1984 and played football at the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics. He completed his initial teaching certification at Oregon State University, earned a master’s degree in business administration and finance at the University of Washington and earned a master’s degree in administrative leadership at George Fox University. He earned his administrative license at Portland State University.

Yates went to work at Lebanon High School as a teacher in 1994 before moving on to Pendleton High School in 1996. He also taught at West Salem High School before returning to Lebanon in 2004 as assistant principal at Seven Oak Middle School. He became the district athletic director in 2005 and was principal at Lebanon High School from 2008 to 2011, when he became  assistant superintendent.

“One of the conversations that came up in the process and we heard was that it was important that there be a unanimous vote when this day came, and I’m of the opinion that is not so important,” Oliver said. “It’s more important to me that everyone vote exactly where they are, and I don’t expect all of us to have the same opinion every day. But I have no doubt that we will continue to work together and support everyone in the district the way we need to.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t congratulate Bo and say thank you for your willingness to step up and serve the community and continue the work we’ve been doing this year. We absolutely look forward to what’s in store.”

Yates told the board he was thankful for their and the community’s support.

“I’ll do the very best I can to move things forward and make Lebanon a better place for kids to go to school.”

“I’m totally excited about the opportunity to continue to work in the district and hopefully move things forward,” Yates told the Lebanon Local. Next up is putting together a team, making sure the right people are in the right places, to “crystallize that” and to engage the community and parents.

“I just want to say I support Bo wholeheartedly and his next steps with the district and all the district has going for it,” Schilling told the Lebanon Local. “I’m just excited to be part of it.”

Brooks said he has been impressed by a number of items this year.

“The thing we know is we need to get our K-3 moving in the right direction,” he said, adding that he’s been happy to see strong support for K-3. He pointed to the after-school reading program.

Employees have told Brooks that Yates is the best boss they’ve had, he said.

“He gets buy-in from his people,” Brooks said. “He encourages them.”

And Yates holds them accountable, he said. Brooks said he feared going with another candidate based on the progress Yates has made with the city and community, from taking care of the grounds to the brick house, a transitional building for persons 18 to 21 years old.

The Land Lab had been unharnessed, Brooks said, but now the district is putting up a classroom elementary students can use out there.

“It’s all these little things I saw happening,” Brooks said. It’s the work on the alternative school: “We’re further along then we’ve ever been.”

“I look forward to doing some really good things over the next year or two,” Brooks told the board.
“With the admin team that we have and with the teachers that we have out there, with the staff that we have and then the community, we’re going to do some awesome things.”

Oliver said the number of quality candidates made the choice difficult, but “I think we made the best decision for the community.”

“It’s clear Bo has the ability to build and maintain relationships in the community to move forward,” he said. “We’ve been able to leverage those relationships.”

Yates has been supportive of administrators and staff as a whole, Oliver said, enabling them to succeed.

The community support for Yates “speaks volumes.” he said.

Brooks said he wasn’t here when Yates was scoring touchdowns in high school, but “that’s a great example. That’s a great example of a local kid doing the right stuff and setting an example for what you can be, what you can become.”

“We talk about Lebanon kids,” Brooks said. “Bo is a Lebanon kid.”

Audience members told the board that Yates was a man of integrity and accountability, of conviction, who does what he says he’s going to do and who made differences wherever he went.

Among the comments: Yates changed the culture at the high school inside two weeks after going there. He reduced the number of referrals from 4,000 to 250 annually at the middle school. He has proven himself, and bringing in someone from the outside would mean starting over, and bringing in someone from afar has caused “some horrible messes.”

During a public meet-and-greet of the three finalists for the position on April 1, Yates shared his vision for what he believes needs to be addressed to make the school system a “showcase for families that are moving into this area.”

One of the things he worries about most is that the kids in the district enter kindergarten two or three months behind where they should be at. More so, as many as 68 percent of kids in the district are on free or reduced, which is an indicator they will have at least two months of regression during the summer, Yates said.

Student achievement and graduation rates are also priorities for him.

“We have to have some urgency in regards to getting our kids at grade level, maintaining them at grade level, and have systems that support them at grade level,” he said.

Yates wants to implement a year round support system focused on reading, math and behavior.

“We’re trying to address those deficiencies that we have, and put things in place so those kids who need extra support are gonna get it.”

He’s also concerned about promoting a culture of pride, inclusion and acceptance with the students, and maintaining a variety of programs in the school

“One of the things I want to instill in the school district is a culture of excellence, that we push to be the best at what we’re doing regardless of where we’re at and expectation of us student growth. We don’t have to have state championships. As a parent, that’s not a priority for me. But I want my kids to have state championships experiences. That means having the right people in charge, the right people working with our kids, and having some perspective on what life is all about.”

Oliver said the board will consider a contract with Yates at its next regularly scheduled meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 25 in the Santiam Travel Station, 750 S. Third St.

– Staff writer Sarah Brown contributed to this report.