The Camas School Board is likely to name John Anzalone, an assistant superintendent from the Clark County School District in Nevada, as Camas’ next superintendent of schools.
The school board met in a closed executive session on Tuesday, Dec. 7, to discuss its top superintendent candidates, which included Anzalone as well as Heidi Harris, an assistant superintendent at the Auburn School District in Auburn, Washington; Michelle Kuss-Cybula, superintendent of the 849-student Cle Elum-Roslyn School District in Cle Elum, Washington; and Camas School District Assistant Superintendent Charlene Williams.
Camas School Board President Tracey Malone said the board also considered feedback from staff, students, parents and community members before naming Anzalone and Kuss-Cybula as its top contenders.
“This was a challenging decision as all four candidates have distinguished backgrounds and experiences in stepping into the role of superintendent,” said Board President Tracey Malone. “We felt both John and Michelle had the potential to be the best fit and leader for Camas.”
After informing both candidates of their selection on Wednesday, Dec. 8, the board said Kuss-Cybula withdrew her application, “ indicating that it was in the best interest of her community to remain in her current position.”
School board members intend to visit Anzalone’s school district in Nevada early next week, and “pending the outcome of the visit,” will likely begin contract negotiations with Anzalone.
Anzalone earned his doctorate degree from Walden University and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix. He has 16 years experience in school administration, and served as a principal and educator before being named the Clark County School District’s assistant superintendent of educational services in May 2021. In 2018, Anzalone ran for Congress in Nevada as a Democrat, and earned endorsement from the Clark County teachers union and the Nevada Veterans Association and earned support from the national Moms Demand Action gun reform group as a “gun sense candidate” with a commitment to gun-violence prevention.
In a video posted to the Camas School District’s website last week, Anzalone explained why he wanted to be Camas’ next superintendent and outlined his work around equity that has led to improved student outcomes.
“The opportunity to lead in a community that values teaching is truly inspiring,” Anzalone said, adding he was “awed” by the beauty of Camas and by the high-achieving school district. “This is an opportunity I don’t take lightly.”
Anzalone said he and his family, including his wife, Sarah, and the couple’s 14-year-old son and 10- and 6-year-old daughters, are “all in” on the idea of relocating to Camas.
“This is something my entire family is ready for,” Anzalone said. “In me you will get a collaborator who wants to build upon an already strong foundation … Camas is right there with the top districts in the nation. To (be the district’s superintendent) for the next countless years to come would be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Anzalone thanked district officials for the work they’ve already done surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion in Camas’ schools.
“It’s remarkable not just for students, but for the families,” Anzalone said. “As superintendent (of the Camas School District), I would continue that work around equity and make sure we carry on this excellence.
He added that he has worked with others in the Clark County, Nevada school district to help reduce disparities and improve equity for all students, training staff on restorative justice practices, implicit biases and reducing the disparate number of children of color being excluded from school.
Asked what he believed would be the greatest challenges facing Camas’ next superintendent, Anzalone said he believed the new schools chief would need to take a look at the district’s decreasing enrollment.
“So many families have trepidation (about) returning to school in the face-to-face model,” Anzalone said, referring to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We want to not only provide a safe, secure environment but a great learning environment as well, and make sure the community knows Camas schools are the place … to get a whole-child experience and set them up for life.”
Anzalone said he also would want to work with the community and school board to continue the district’s work around social-emotional learning and issues of equity to provide a “safe, secure environment,” for all students, “especially students traditionally underserved.”
Having met many teachers who went to school in Camas and returned to teach in the school district, Anzalone said he was “overjoyed” to see such pride in the local school system.
“I would be honored to bring my family, my three amazing kids, to Camas, to give them the same type of equitable opportunities students have enjoyed here for years,” Anzalone said.
If he accepts the board’s offer, Anzalone would likely begin his new position with the Camas School District on July 1, 2022.
The district started its search for a new superintendent following the March 2020 resignation of superintendent Jeff Snell, who had led the Camas School District for the past decade — as deputy superintendent from 2011 to 2016 and as superintendent since 2016. Snell left the Camas district in July 2021 to become superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools.
The Camas School Board appointed the district’s director of elementary education, Doug Hood, to act as interim superintendent for the 2021-22 school year, and hired a consultant group, McPherson & Jacobson, to conduct a nationwide superintendent search.
The district and its consultants reached out to the public for input into the superintendent search throughout 2021 — hosting in-person “listening posts” in September; opening an online ThoughtExchange that drew nearly 400 participants in October; meeting with stakeholder groups, including Camas students, staff, teachers and interested community members throughout the fall; and allowing stakeholders and the public to weigh in on the board’s top four superintendent candidates earlier this month.
In a news release sent out this week, Malone thanked community members, students and families that had helped guide the board’s decision.
“The participation and input have contributed in generating highly qualified candidates who embody the experience, leadership and vision that will support and lead our students and district,” Malone said.