Howard steps into interim post leading Vale Schools

VALE – James Howard knows something about building new schools and he’s bringing that experience to Vale as interim school superintendent.

He accepted the nine-month job last Thursday.

The Vale School Board voted to hire an interim to get through the current school year because of the sudden resignation of Scott Linenberger, who moved to the Pleasant Hill School District. Advertising to hire a permanent superintendent will kick off in January.

Howard’s past includes obtaining the passage of five bond measures and overseeing construction of five schools while serving as a superintendent in Oregon schools.

Howard grew up in Eugene, graduating high school in Springfield. He went on to receive his degree along with a master’s and doctorate from the University of Oregon. From there, he started his career in education.

In a matter of irony, Howard and Linenberger have swapped positions. Howard is a former superintendent of the Pleasant Hill School District — the job Linenberger left Vale to take.

One district similar to Vale that Howard oversaw was the McKenzie School District. After serving as superintendent during a bond election, Howard stayed to oversee the construction of a new school.

“I understand the challenges and decisions that need to be made when a community is building a new school,” said Howard.

He has been looking for a superintendent role for some time before stumbling upon Vale.

“There were just not many openings this year,” he said. “When originally contacted, Vale was a little farther than I wanted. After I talked with the board, I really liked what Vale was doing and wanted to be a part of it.”

Howard said liked the atmosphere in Vale and the community support behind the district.

Howard said he will keep his home in Eugene, which is currently rented. Although not starting officially until Oct. 1, Howard plans to visit a couple times this month. He does have some previous obligations with the Oregon State Police as a consultant with the boxing commission he needs to keep.

“I have asked the board to delay meeting with the new school architects until a day I can attend,” Howard said. “I am comfortable in the making of decisions during construction time and know there are tough decisions to make. I want to be able to pick people’s brains and see what the community wants in this school.”

Other than construction, Howard said he looks at all facts before making a decision, putting students first.

“I am very concerned with the safety of students in the school,” he said.

Howard said he is looking forward to his time in Vale.

“I want people to know that no matter how uncomfortable a situation is, they will get the truth from me,” he said. “Nothing can get you into trouble if you tell the truth.”

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