Nyssa School Board names 2 finalists for superintendent

NYSSA — Nyssa School Board members reviewed a slate of superintendent candidates in a closed-door session Wednesday, Feb. 28, and trimmed the field to two finalists.

The finalists are Ryan Hawkins, the Nyssa district’s interim superintendent, and Derek Johnston, currently a senior director for elementary schools for Portland Public Schools.

Hawkins and Johnston will meet with the board separately the week of March 11. The board is expected to make its hiring decision by Friday, March 15.

During Wednesday’s executive session, the board weighed confidential information on roughly half a dozen candidates presented by a representative from McPherson & Jacobsen, a Nebraska-based search firm hired to help the district in the hiring process and vet the candidates.

The firm presented videotaped answers to each candidate’s interview questions and brief presentations covering the person’s professional background, education and reference check materials.

At the end of the meeting, the representative took a consensus from the board on first, second and third choices. The members finally settled on Hawkins and Johnston, and the search firm notified them they were finalists.

The school district is expected to issue a press release about the next steps of the interview process soon.

Hawkins, who holds a master’s degree in educational administration from George Fox University, has worked for the Nyssa schools since 2016. Before that, he spent 12 years as a high school principal and assistant principal and was an elementary and middle school teacher in Lincoln County, McMinnville and Sumner, Washington. Hawkins grew up in Adrian.

In Nyssa, Hawkins has been a director of district operations and assistant superintendent. He stepped into the role of interim superintendent when the prior superintendent, Darren Johnson, was paid to cut short his contract with the district last July 17. According to Hawkins’ contract, he is paid an annual salary of $122,800.

Johnston became a senior director for the Portland Public Schools in 2023, according to that district’s website. Before that, he was the principal of William Walker Elementary School in Beaverton for two years.

Johnston holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boise State University, majoring in history and educational leadership, and was the principal of Mountain View Elementary School in Burley, Idaho, according to the website. As a teacher, the webpage noted, he taught U.S. history and law enforcement history at high and middle school levels. He also coached football, basketball, and track early in his career, according to the website.

According to the search firm, Johnston grew up in the Treasure Valley. 

The application window for the superintendent job closed Monday, Feb. 12. The position was posted as paying an annual salary of $145,000 and $155,000.

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