Nyssa school board expects to decide on new superintendent this week

NYSSA – The Nyssa School Board was scheduled to vote on hiring a new superintendent Monday night, but deferred that decision pending additional discussion.

The board earlier narrowed the search for the top district job to two finalists.

The two are Dr. Darren Johnson, principal at Canyon Crest Elementary School in Provo, Utah, and Dr. Benjamin Merrill, principal at Middleton High School in Idaho, as the top two choices for the job.

Nyssa School Board Chairman Dave Bunker said the board received applications from 17 candidates and interviewed six of them in closed sessions last week.

Johnson and Merrill stood out, Bunker said. 

“Their experience, demeanor and the things that they wanted to do at Nyssa were in line with what the board wanted to see happen,” he said.

Bunker said the board has been “checking references, contacting their local schools, talking to people at the schools and their respective communities.”

The board plans to meet again later this week to reach a decision on the top pick, and the final step will be salary negotiations.

The new hire will succeed Superintendent Dr. Jana Iverson, who is resigning at the end of this school year.

Meanwhile, two other administrators recently resigned.

Jon Wood, director of programs for the district, and Nyssa High School vice principal Hector Martinez submitted their letters of resignation before the schools shut down for spring break.

Wood said he has accepted a position as principal for Jewell School District, where he will oversee pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

“I’ve always wanted to have my own building. So for me, it’s a career move,” said Wood. “Plus, my wife loves the mountains and we’d only be 40 minutes from the beach.”

Wood, who was born and raised in Nyssa, has worked for the Nyssa district for 15 years, starting as an instructional assistant while also studying at Eastern Oregon University. After three years as an assistant, Wood taught science at Nyssa Middle School for seven years and then was the elementary school principal for four years.

Last year, Wood became the district’s director of programs, managing the district’s Title I, Title III, early learning and preschool programs – programs that he helped create and grow.

“Nyssa is home and will always will be. There will always part of my heart that bleeds Bulldog blue,” Wood said. “My family has been in Nyssa for 80 years. We’re the last ones here, and this will be the first time in 80 years that no one in my family will be living in Nyssa.”

Although he’ll be leaving the comforts of home, Wood said he and his family are excited for the next step. Wood said his move is a unique opportunity and aligns well with his goal is to eventually become a superintendent of a school. 

Wood and Martinez’s resignations come just after the resignation of Nyssa High School principal Malcolm McRae two weeks ago, and not long after Superintendent Jana Iverson announced her plans to leave at the end of the 2018-19 school year.