Tom Morris, the interim-principal at Camas High School, officially has the job for the long-term. District leaders made the announcement on May 20th.
Morris has served the Camas community for twenty-five years. He started out as a mathematics instructor, moved his way up to associate principal, and became the interim-principal this spring. Next fall, he will begin his full duties as the official principal of CHS.
With Morris’ new position, there has been a little shuffling around among administrators. Dean of Students Owen Sanford became an additional assistant principal in the spring, and next year will become a full-time assistant principal. This leaves an open dean of students position at CHS.
The hiring process this year was unique and unlike anyone involved had ever experienced before. The whole thing was conducted over the video conferencing communications program Zoom.
Sanford said, “That’s not ideal for anybody. Of course, we’re not hiring a principal to work with staff or students via Zoom, at least for the long term. It’s a tough one. It’s not ideal for candidates either, to try and get a read and connect with the people they’re being interviewed by over Zoom.”
Lisa Schneider, a classified staff member who works in the learning center, was also a part of the interview process. At first, she had some concerns about doing the interviews via Zoom. She wrote in an email, “I wasn’t sure how the zoom platform was going to work in capturing each candidate’s overall personality but when the process was over it felt just as real as being in person. The three candidates were professional, open to the altered interview forum and ultimately were excited – each in their own way.”
Sanford added, “The Zoom process was about as good as it could get. It felt very thorough, thoughtful, and planned out.”
Sanford admits there are several takeaways from this process and things that he wants to see be done differently in the future. “If we could do it in person, I’d love to see maybe a lesson taught to students or working with students and teaching a lesson,” he said.
The interviews for the candidates consisted of three parts, an interview committee portion, a student problem-solving panel, and a staff presentation. The interview committee portion lasted about 40-45 minutes, while the student problem-solving panel and the staff presentation each lasted about 30 minutes. Sanford worked with the student problem-solving panel and got together with a group of students a couple of days prior to come up with a problem or challenge to present to the candidates.
He said, “Talking with our HR Development Director, Marilyn Boerke, she wanted at least one CHS administrator involved. I said I’d be happy to work with the students and try to elevate their voice during the student panel problem-solving activity.” Sanford adds, “Especially not having seen or had a chance to work with students a lot, I was looking forward to getting a chance to do that.”
Kaili Ziegler, a sophomore at CHS, was on the student panel led by Sanford. Her experience was a little different from the adults on other panels. She wrote in an email, “On Wednesday night we got the call asking if I would like to be a part of the principal search, of course, I accepted. Then following that the next day we met as a group of students with Mr. Sanford to discuss what we would like to ask the candidates. This was very exciting for me, I enjoyed getting asked what would be traits or how we would like to see the new principal interact with the students. As a group of students, we came up with two prompts that we would ask during the interviews the next day.”
Ziegler was very excited to be a part of the process and made sure that she was prepared. “I began to take mental notes of what I would like in a principal. I wanted a principal that would do his/her best to know the student body and make connections with them. The night before the interviews my parents asked me what was I looking for in the candidates that would improve our school, so then the next day I knew what I would specifically be looking for in the candidates,” she wrote.
Overall, she really enjoyed being involved in the process. Ziegler wrote in an email, “During the sessions, it was really easy to talk to each of the candidates. That surprised me since I was pretty nervous going into the sessions since I was going through in my mind, what if the candidates ask me something and I cannot respond or what if I freeze. In the end, each of the candidates was easy to talk to and they all included the students and ask for our opinions on our school and their answers to the prompts.” All things considered, Zieger wrote that she loved being a part of the panel and that she would definitely do it again.
Sanford also talked about his new roles as an assistant principal. He said, “I’d be surprised if a lot changed, but I imagine I’ll take on more responsibility as far as getting to work with more teachers or more departments. I’ll still get a chance to be the administrator with freshmen next year, but it really is a little bit to be determined.”
Schneider got the chance to work with Sanford this year as he stepped into his interim-assistant principal role. “In working closely with Mr. Stanford this year I have seen his passion for student’s stories. My hope is he uses that same passion to continue the vision of seeing and serving every student. His drive to be better every day is a model students need to know exists and this will build trust with the student body. I look forward to his growth,” Schneider wrote in an email.
Sanford and Schneider both shared some advice that they have for Morris going forward. “I can already tell that Mr. Morris wants to make sure things are continuing to move forward. I think he wants to try and simplify as much as possible and streamline our efforts with staff and the focus as much as possible,” Sanford said.
Schneider added, “As Mr. Morris transitions into his new role I would offer simple but sometimes uncomfortable advice: put yourself out there! As we look to the fall, so much will be new, and students will be eager to see how the campus draws them back in. Mr. Morris will have an opportunity to set a tone, and that tone will be one of the most impactful moments of his new role as principal of Camas High School.”