By editorial board • 

Board’s school chief choice sounds welcome ring to us

When Maryalice Russell was named superintendent of schools here in 2002, she was chosen over co-finalists Kris Olsen, Karen Richey and Dan Rodriguez, in addition to co-semifinalists Wayne Kostur, Gary Peterson, Mike Call and Gerald Hamilton. The names and backgrounds of the final eight were made public as soon as they emerged from the original field of 32.

Each semifinalist was invited to McMinnville to interview with the board as a panel of staff, parent and community members looked on. Each finalist was invited back to spend a day in the district, meeting with constituents and undergoing further interviews, and local delegations visited their home districts for a fuller picture.

The process that led to the selection of Debbie Brockett to replace Russell was conducted almost entirely behind closed doors. That was due partly to COVID considerations and board preferences, but mostly, it would appear, to search firm preferences which we find badly misplaced.

That said, Brockett seems like a stellar choice to uphold the legacies of her predecessors — Elaine Taylor, who laid a solid foundation, and Russell, who built upon it to great success and acclaim.

Both her personal and professional credentials strike a strongly positive chord with us. We offer her our warmest welcome to the community and highest hopes for continued success here.

Brockett, a University of Nevada grad, hails from Nevada’s Clark County School District, serving fast-growing Las Vegas and environs. Product of the 1956 merger of 14 smaller districts, it has become the nation’s fifth largest.

The district counts 35,000 employees. They serve 325,000 students in 336 schools on a $5.2 billion annual budget.

Married mother of three and grandmother of two, Brockett oversees 108 of those schools in her capacity as one of the district’s three deputy superintendents. If she can manage that, she should be able to handle anything our community might throw her way.

Before moving into district management ranks, she taught special ed at the middle and high school levels, served as dean of students and assistant principal at Las Vegas High, and then held middle school and high school principalships. So she has a wide range of experience at multiple educational levels.

But it’s on the personal side where Brocket’s background most captured our attention.

Before teaching, she served as a dental hygienist and office manager. Along the way, she and her husband served as live-in parents to nine boys in a group home setting.

She had an epiphany. She realized her calling in life was working with children.

One core value Taylor and Russell shared like no other was this: The children always come first.

The choice Brockett made in response to her lifechanging group home experience resonates with us. It suggests more strongly than mere words that she also puts her student charges first.

Yes, there will be an adjustment period. Coming from a state of vastly different climate and politics, and a district of greater size and complexity, she will have a lot of adapting to do.

But she wowed the school board and search team, and we see no reason she can’t impress the rest of us as well.

Board Chair Larry Vollmer said the board was, first and foremost, “looking for the right fit.” He and his colleagues feel they’ve found it in Brockett, and we see no reason to disagree.


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