Successful candidate for superintendent lets actions do talking

Now that Lebanon has an official schools superintendent in place, the ball’s in Bo Yates’ court.

Congratulations to Yates for landing the permanent job as leader of the Lebanon Unified School District.

All of the three final candidates were on the final ballot for a reason, but Yates brings local connections, and understanding of the community that the others didn’t. Plus, he’s been showing us, at least in part, what he can do for the last nine months.

Although two school board seats are open in the May 21 election, neither incumbent is being challenged. We suspect that’s an indication that some of the controversy that has dogged the school district for, seemingly, forever  might be waning. Lebanon has too much good stuff going for it to be having pitched battles at school board meetings.

It was pretty clear at the  April 11 School Board meeting that things seem better. Statements from board members and the public were pretty forthright to that effect.

The fact that Yates grew up in the Lebanon School District seems to be a big plus. He understands what he is getting into, or continuing in, to be more specific.

The fact that he’s worked in other school districts is another. He’s seen how other communities function, and that’s always good. Add to that his experience in athletics – linebacker at one of the top football schools in the nation, followed by a free-agent stint in the NFL and coaching at his alma mater, the University of Washington, well, all that can be great personal-growth experience.

Yates has worked for the district for the last 15 years, most recently as assistant superintendent before being named on an interim basis to the top job after his predecessor, Rob Hess, stepped down last June. From all appearances, he’s done well. The board members who voted for him certainly seemed to think so.

Now he gets to really go for it.

The challenges aren’t a mystery. Lebanon shares some of the cultural challenges that create real hurdles for individual students, their families and their communities: poverty and lack of familial commitment to education that can exacerbate problems nearly all educators face in this state – attendance rates, graduation rates, class size challenges, classroom behavior, special education needs and more. We could go on, but our purpose here is certainly not to paint a dark picture. None of this is a secret.

Yates told the crowd at a Q&A earlier this year that public speaking isn’t his strong suit. He definitely isn’t a big talker, but actions often speak louder than words and that’s what board members said they’ve been seeing.

Yates knows what excellence is because he’s been part of it, but we like what he told the crowd at a meet-the-candidates meeting last month: “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 championship 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.”

Right on. Running a school system should ultimately be about helping kids grow to new heights, just like their community is.