Rockville High Principal is Finalist for Superintendent Job in Oregon
Debra Munk has won awards, accolades in more than seven years at Rockville's helm.
Rockville High School Principal Debra Munk is one of three finalists for superintendent of the Ashland, OR, School District, the district announced Friday.
The six-school district serves the southern Oregon city of about 20,000 people about 10 miles north of the California border and 75 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.
The Ashland job is “one of several opportunities I’m looking at,” Munk said Friday.
“I’ve been at Rockville for eight years and love it,” she said. “My blood is orange. I’ve been sort of thinking, ‘Maybe I’m getting a little restless’ and looking at some other options.”
The Ashland School District has 3,000 students and 300 employees at Ashland High School, Ashland Middle School and Bellview, Helman, John Muir and Walker elementary schools. John Muir Elementary is a K-8 magnet school for science and the arts. A part-time alternative program primarily serves home-schooling families, according to the district’s website.
By comparison, Rockville High’s enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year was 1,265, making it Montgomery County’s second-smallest high school by enrollment. Montgomery County Public Schools, with nearly 149,000 students and 11,000 employees in 202 schools, is the 17th largest district in the United States.
A move to Ashland would put Munk closer to three of her seven children, she said. One lives in Oregon, one in southern Washington and one in northern California.
“It’s beautiful,” Munk said.
There have been rumors in recent years that Munk would retire. Instead, she’s been considering heading a school district as “a capstone on my career,” she said. “I’ve got some years to go.
“I think being a superintendent really expands your span of influence and it’d really be an interesting thing to do,” she said.
Munk declined to share details of other jobs she is pursuing. The Ashland job is far from a done deal, she said.
“There’s a long way between being a finalist and negotiating a contract,” she said.
Munk said she had not yet notified the Rockville community of her job search.
“You will be breaking the news,” she said.
Ashland school board members would visit candidates’ school districts next week, the announcement said. Candidates are scheduled to visit Ashland schools on Feb. 15 and meet with panels of community members, parents and staff on Feb. 16. Final interviews with the board are scheduled for Feb. 16, with an announcement of Ashland’s new superintendent expected during the final week of February.
Munk arrived at Rockville High in 2005 and won praise for raising student achievement on High School Assessments and SATs, particularly among African-American and Hispanic students. During Munk’s tenure, Rockville High has added academic programs such as the International Baccalaureate Career-related Certificate program.
“It's a great school,” Munk said in a 2010 interview with Rockville Patch. “I am so passionate about this school it's kind of ridiculous. When I took over I looked at it as a stock investment. It was very undervalued but I could see enormous growth potential. And it's proven to be the truth.”
Munk also pushed more students to take Advanced Placement exams, a choice that she said gave more students the AP experience, even at the expense of the school’s overall passage rates.
"I just believe kids can do better than we think they can do," Munk said in 2010. "And I push them like crazy."
Munk won the Mark Mann Excellence and Harmony Award in 2010. The annual award, named for the late principal of Parkland Junior High School who died in 1988, recognizes an administrator "who has shown an exceptional ability to encourage academic excellence, positive relationships, and strong community outreach," according to a news release announcing the honor.
Munk’s encouragement includes occasional tweets to followers of her Twitter account (@RHSprincipal). Recent tweets congratulated the school’s science team for a Maryland Regional Science Bowl win, the school’s newspaper for winning first place from the National Scholastic Press Association and the school’s building service staff for a “Grade A” on a building inspection.
Joining Munk as finalists for the Ashland job are:
- William McCoy, superintendent of the Red Bluff (CA) Union School District.
- Gary Plano, superintendent of the Mercer Island (WA) School District.
Mercer Island Patch published an email that Plano sent to his staff Thursday, saying that Ashland school board members would be making a site visit to Mercer Island.
While things are moving quickly in Oregon, Munk said she’d be perfectly happy to finish her career at Rockville.
“Just don’t write me off yet,” she said. “I’m still here and have a lot of work to do at Rockville.”