Newsmaker: Krista Parent

By Glenn Cook

When Krista Parent started teaching 23 years ago in Cottage Grove, Ore., she didn’t think she would spend her entire career in the South Lane School District. And during a grueling period that saw five superintendents in 20 months and a board member sue the district, Parent didn’t believe the top job was for her.

“It was a pretty rough time,” Parent says of that period in the early 1990s. “We were trying to build a new high school, and we tried for a bond twice. And the best analogy or metaphor I can use for it is that we just got smacked. There was a leadership vacuum, and the community wondered who was in charge of this place.”

Today, there’s no question about who is in charge. In March, Parent was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

Parent, who started her career as a physical education teacher, also has served as an athletic director, assistant principal, director of curriculum and instruction, and assistant superintendent. She was one of the leaders of Oregon’s school reform movement that started in the early 1990s and led to many of the district’s controversies, including a civil rights lawsuit against the 2,900-student school district. (The reforms were upheld in federal court.)

Since Parent became superintendent in 2001, her focus on schools as professional learning communities --  something she “models from the top” --  has paid off in increased test scores at all levels. The dropout rate at Cottage Grove High School, built under Parent’s watch after a successful bond campaign, is just over 1 percent, and twice as many students are going to college or receiving post-secondary training.

“I knew when I was 5 that I wanted to be a teacher,” Parent says. “I’ve refocused to say now my teaching involves principals. They take our work and replicate it with their staff.”

A few days after receiving the honor, Parent talked to Editor-in-Chief Glenn Cook.

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