Board selects school leader

Yakima’s Erik Swanson may fill Omak position

OMAK — The Omak School Board announced its selection of Erik Swanson as the school district’s next superintendent on Sunday evening, May 5.

Swanson, 65, is the principal at McKinley Elementary School in the Yakima School District.

His contract has not been finalized. It will be signed and voted on at the May 15 School Board meeting. He will begin his duties July 1.

Swanson will replace Art Himmler, who died Feb. 7 in a vehicular crash.

Yakima Superintendent Elaine Beraza praised Swanson and his skill-set as he moves to a higher level in his career.

“He’s done an amazing job here,” Beraza said. “I think he was very happy here. I don’t think he’s going to Omak because he’s not happy in the job he has, but I think it’s been a career goal of his to be a superintendent… He’s a great guy. He has a lot of common sense, which in today’s world is not always so common.”

Omak School Board Chairman Wendell George said he and the other board members were particularly impressed with Swanson’s background in Common Core standards and the newly required Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project.

“We haven’t done anything with (Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project) yet,” George said. “We’re way behind on that. We have done some things on our own with that … but we haven’t really implemented anything ourselves and that’s going to be the true test right there and (Swanson) has two years experience with that. (Yakima) seems to have worked out a lot of kinks they initially had and maybe he can help us not get into the same kind of kinks.”

George also said Swanson’s experience with all-day kindergarten was important as Omak looks ahead to the possibility of reinstating that at some point. He said studies have shown children who fall behind at a young age are more likely never to catch up with their peers.

Swanson was selected from a field of 21 applicants, which was then whittled down to five semifinalists and three finalists. He completed his final interview with the board and meet-and-greet sessions with staff and community members, on Friday.

In a separate superintendent search, the Methow Valley School Board is set to evaulate candidates for its open position after receiving seven applications.

Candidates will be evaluated in executive session at the end of the 4 p.m. special meeting Wednesday.

George said it became progressively more difficult to choose the Omak superintendent because all the finalists were qualified.

Swanson began his educational career as a music teacher from 1973 to 1988. Since 1988, he has served different roles as an administrator. He has been in his current position since 2010.

He has a doctorate in educational leadership.

He and his wife, Susan, will be moving to the Omak community later this spring or early summer.

Beraza said she expects Swanson to fit in just fine with the Omak schools.

“He has a great relationship with his staff, but yet he holds them accountable to push them to higher levels of student achievement, but not in a way that drives a wedge,” Beraza said.

George said the process was significantly different from the process the board used when it hired Himmler in 2009.

“We got more comprehensive this time around,” George said. “We had something like 18 people do the interviewing (in 2009), which was a little cumbersome. This time we changed it just to have the board (conduct the interviews) … It was a little different in that Dr. Himmler stood out so much above the other candidates, so there was never any real competition … We had much more competition this time.”

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