DALLAS -- After looking across the country for a new superintendent, Dallas found who it needed right in its own backyard: the principal of Dallas High School.
The Dallas School District Board named Dr. Dave Novotney to replace outgoing superintendent Dave Voves, who will retire July 1 after nine years at the post. "It's time for me to move on in a different direction," Voves said. He has worked 32 years for the district and plans to stay involved with education, but wants to work for his sister's lighting business.
Dallas High Assistant Principal Scott McLeod will become interim principal, serving in that capacity at least one year. English and Language Arts Chair Keith Ussery will move up to replace McLeod.
Novotney acknowledges the difficulty in replacing someone who has done so much for the district. "I know I have a real challenge filling Mr. Voves' shoes," he said, calling the job "the greatest professional challenge of my life."
"I'm thrilled," Novotney said. "I look forward to the opportunity that presents itself."
The school board chose Novotney out of 25 candidates, narrowing the pool to 10 and then interviewing seven finalists, School Board member Mike Timmerman said. The superintendent's salary will be $XX,XXX.
Novotney first thought about becoming a superintendent several years ago, but not seriously before this year. Since he first considered his options, he has picked up his doctorate degree from Oregon State University.
This past year, Novotney recognized "the potential for a good match between my professional skills and the needs of the district.
"I've been in the district already and we have a very good relationship," Novotney said. "With the appropriate amount of energy and work we can bring positive changes for kids."
Novotney looked to issues he soon will face. These include budget concerns and acquisition of new land for a school complex, a project Voves initiated.
Novotney will focus on mathematics, seeing need for improvement in that area. "Test scores are lower than I would like," he said. "There are some positive trends, but overall, there's quite a bit of work to do."
Putting Oregon school reform measures in place still requires attention. Novotney wants to see arts standards and second language standards implemented smoothly.
A former instructor and administrator at Sprague and McKay high schools in Salem, Novotney relishes the opportunity to stay in Dallas after four years as principal. "The staff and the administrative team here are outstanding," he said. "If we work together, we have a system that can improve education for kids."
Scott McLeod can make working together easier. He has worked with Novotney as assistant principal and will continue the dialogue next school year as principal. "This represents the greatest stability," for Novotney, McLeod said. "It makes his transition easier downtown."
"I'm a tremendous supporter of Dave, I think the world of him," McLeod said. "We're headed in the right direction."
Not to say McLeod will follow his predecessor precisely. "He's very sequential, I'm a little more random," McLeod said.
McLeod has spent nearly 25 years in the district, first as an elementary teacher, then teaching principal of Pedee Elementary and simultaneous principal at Pedee and Lyle elementaries. After Novotney's first year as principal, Voves suggested McLeod as someone who had district experience to fill an assistant principal opening at the high school.
Three years later, "it's been really different," McLeod said. "I really enjoy working with the kids. The staff is well-intended and they work hard.
"It's a walk in the park," McLeod said. "There's the occasional bramble patch, but we get through that."
May 15, the day after the announcement, the news had not trickled down to Dallas High students. "I think it's cool," Chris Stewart said. "I like Mr. McLeod.
Stewart also thought Novotney would fit the district. "He's strict, but he has a good sense of humor and meshes well with kids," he said.
Novotney "cleaned up the school quite a bit," senior Jake Leslie said. "Students respect him."
"But Mr. McLeod would do a good job too," Leslie said.