Michael Sowder could be Astoria schools' next superintendent. He will meet with board and community members Tuesday as part of the continuing interview process.

Sowder, superintendent in Yoncalla, was chosen as a finalist in the school district's search for a new superintendent to replace the outgoing Larry McMacken.

The board made the selection after an executive session Thursday. Board members will meet with Sowder for an interview at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Sowder will meet with community members from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Astoria High School library.

The board also selected as a finalist Lynn Baker, superintendent of schools in Cashmere, Wash. Baker dropped out of the race after learning he was selected as a finalist.

"We wanted to have two candidates. Basically one dropped out," Board Chairman David Kaspar said. "What's the school board to do but continue on with the process?"

Board members considered selecting another finalist from the pool of six semifinalists, but they wanted to find out if Sowder would fit the district first, Kaspar said.

"The two that we selected were the ones most qualified for the job," he said.

Other semifinalists included local candidates Curriculum Director Marilyn Lane and Astoria High School Principal Larry Lockett, Hood River Assistant Superintendent Marcia LaDuke and a school employee in Estacada, who asked his name not be released. LaDuke dropped out of the race, when she discovered she was a semifinalist.

Sowder has been a superintendent at Yoncalla School District for nearly two years. The district has had eight superintendents in the last 10 years.

"He's the one that's probably stayed the longest," Kaspar said.

The district has about 450 students in the small community about an hour south of Eugene. Sowder has been working to merge Yoncalla with neighboring North Douglas School District near Drain. Kaspar and Vice Chairman Ken Chapman visited Yoncalla this week to meet with community members, students and school employees.

"The school teachers and administrators like him," Kaspar said. "He wants things to happen and gets things going."

Kaspar said he believes the community will miss him.

"If he'll accept the job, we'll be excited to have him," he said.

Sowder worked in Quincy as a superintendent for five years. He went to the district to develop and execute a school bond. Board member Laurie Choate visited Quincy and spoke with community and school members about Sowder.

"He came to the board to do a specific job on the bond," Choate said.

At the end of his term at Quincy, he and the board disagreed with the school district's direction and he left. Choate said people she interviewed were not specific on how they disagreed.

Sowder also worked as superintendent of Mary Walker School District in Springdale, Wash. from 1989 to 1996. During that time, he also served as superintendent at Valley School District, which is 10 miles from Mary Walker in Eastern Washington. Before becoming a superintendent, he was a principal and science teacher in the 1970s and 80s.

Kaspar said the board had no concerns about Sowder's history of managing mergers between school districts.

"I think it's something that school districts are going to have going to have to consider in these economic times, but two school districts have to agree," he said.


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