Opinion: Local Parent Analyzes Four Camas Schools Superintendent Finalists


By Sarah Christensen, a Camas parent

This week, the Camas School District released four videos of our Superintendent finalists. Each new superintendent candidate was given time to answer a few questions to the community. Following the videos, the community is asked to provide feedback. They will close the survey for feedback by midnight on Sunday, December 5. After watching the district videos and some other research of my own, here are some thoughts on the search for the new Camas School District superintendent.

Dr. John Anzalone

Video Interview Link: https://youtu.be/81wRNVYVOw0

He seems like a nice guy. My thoughts on Dr. Anzalone is that he may very well be a nice guy or even a great educator, but I’m concerned about his ambitions. He and his wife loved the area. It’s beautiful. And while you would move here to be a part of the beauty around us, you are being hired here to work. His interview left me wanting more. More specifics, more plans, more ideas, more insight as to what an outsider would see. From other research, he has tried to run for political office from his positions in school administration.  He recently ran for Congress. Using his previous position as a jumping off point for his campaign causes me some pause. I truly believe that strong politics should not be a part of a school district regardless of which party they favor. And my worry is that he might use Camas as another jumping off point to run again. Ultimately, a very nice guy, but he wasn’t prepared. He wasn’t focused on Camas. We aren’t an ultimate goal right now.

Heidi Harris

Video Interview Link: https://youtu.be/2TyAlAcWeJE

She surprised me. Recently she had recorded a similar interview video from another district in wanting a superintendent position there. That interview felt generic and spoke more of her want for the position of hire than her benefits to be brought to the new school’s district. I went into our district video of her wondering if I would see more of the same. Is she looking to be superintendent, or superintendent of Camas? She surprised me. She had watched Camas over the years as a mother in the state with her district and family competing with the Papermakers over the years. She recognized something special in this small town district that seemed to live bigger than it was. She did her research. She offered honesty in her growth and was humble in doing it. Harris had insights on ways for growth instead of change. I appreciated that. Recognizing how incredible what has already been here she doesn’t feel the word “change” is appropriate from this question given.

“As a leader in our district how will you work to effect change and work to get others behind this change.”

She said she would rather use growth over change. She truly understands the administrative side of budgets and levies. She’s humble, smart, intuitive, and tried, and she is a fantastic choice for our special district. I am worried, however, that she lacks presence. There needs to be some feeling of authority when a leader speaks. Her softer humility might get trampled by some of the louder voices around her, regardless of how right she is.

Camas Superintendent finalists, from left: Heid Harris, Michelle Kuss-Cybula, Dr. John Anzalone, Dr. Charlene Williams.

Dr. Charlene Williams

Video Interview Link: https://youtu.be/3uryK5psEp4

In this particular time we need to hire outside of our district. Dr. Williams has been here a for a few years. I’m sure, like anyone would, she has preconceived notions of some people who work in our district. And naturally, after many years, she would have opinions on others, too. A good leader can’t take sides on the same team. And after the massive growth and new challenges our district has faced, we need an unbiased eye. Dr. Williams has a very distinct map of where she’d like the district to go. She has had success in other districts. Unfortunately all districts are not alike. An agenda that specific might not allow for other thoughts, or detours. With such a strong conviction, I wonder about room for other opinions or ideas or even solutions. I also wonder about an ability to notice other issues entirely when focused on another.

Michelle Kuss-Cybula

Video Interview Link: https://youtu.be/jn1KPFItoFg

In my background searching I see she has handled the pandemic competently, and with unwavering commitment to the students and family of Cle Elum. She was able to work within the boundaries of the state with creativity and resourcefulness. In all the online videos, interviews, articles, etc. she brings a spirit of work ethic, compassion and great communication skills. I can’t say that I know her political swaying (a good thing). She has lived in many places around the country and even, I believe, other countries. She is adamant that good schools are made through good communities and each individual district should reflect the individual needs of its community. She is not afraid of approaching a hard topic because she can implement collaboration and community effort to the discussion. She was very prepared for her interview and knew some of the things we are most proud of, but also, some of the things we need to work on. She mentioned community dialogue and not allowing a difference of definition be the reason for misunderstanding and division. She mentions always putting her students first. She said:

“People don’t care about how much you know, until they know about how much you care.”

Her “I’m comfortable in charge” attitude might put off some, however, no ship gets anywhere without a captain.

These are all compelling candidates with different ideas or goals for our growing district. Now, truly, the community needs to add their voice.

What are your aspirations and ideals for Camas School District?

What does your family need?

Who do you believe is best suited as Superintendent?

Who is best suited to be a strong leading member of our community?

All big questions to ponder as we let our thoughts be heard. But with a group effort, compassion and understanding that we all want our town and district to succeed.

Please let the school district know your thoughts: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1cbhseKH3EKv-f4ir4z4RdYx5AyD1KO-CPPbXVohl8HQ/viewform?edit_requested=true


We’re going to win tonight!

….Papermakers go rolling along.

Papermakers go rolling along!

Sarah Christensen is a Camas parent of four children who all attend Camas schools, from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

3 replies
  1. Sandra Gangle
    Sandra Gangle says:

    Dr. Charlene Williams is a well-rounded, well-experienced professional. She has been a middle-school teacher, math enthusiast, High School principal and administrator in Portland Public Schools and has demonstrated excellent leadership here in Camas schools over several years. Dr. Williams has earned a doctorate and, as a person of color, is a wonderful role model for women and students of other minority statuses. She communicates well, demonstrates excellent leadership and collaboration, and understands equitable principles. She is the best candidate for superintendent, in my view.

  2. Heather Deringer
    Heather Deringer says:

    I’m hopeful after hearing from all of these candidates that Michelle Kuss-Cybula will be the candidate the Board chooses. She has a keen eye for the challenges we are facing as a district and her approach is unifying which is most desperately needed. An outside perspective is welcome and also critical if Camas is to grow, let alone thrive again.

  3. Kristina Fleck
    Kristina Fleck says:

    Wow! You nailed all my thoughts on each of these candidates. My first choice is Heidi Harris. I actually felt her confidence, but it was also the only interview of hers I listened to. I don’t think it always has to come across strong, but can be soft as well. I think she knows her stuff and would stand up to her beliefs with her passionate heart. Michelle was strong as well, but there were a couple random comments thrown out that I had to question. As for the others, I don’t see them driving Camas in the direction at least I hope it would go. It could be a game changer for us living here.


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