Jared Cordon officially started his new job as superintendent of Roseburg Public Schools on July 1, and he’s been getting to know the people in the district over the past few weeks.
“I feel really touched to work in a place that really cares deeply about kids and is committed to wanting the best for kids,” Cordon said.
He added that several years ago he heard about the Masai warrior tribe, who are known among their peers as the most fearsome and the most apt in strategy.
“I found it interesting because this Masai warrior tribe, their greeting to one another was ‘How are the children?’ I love that. The response back is, ‘The children are well,’” Cordon said. “I definitely have heard remnants of that greeting among people. People are really interested in how are the children. That has been kind of a common theme.”
To find out how the children are doing, Cordon has been asking just about everybody he meets about their opinion on the school district.
He’s gone up to people in stores, met with community leaders, staff and administrators to get a feel for the district. He hopes to continue asking that question at upcoming community forums.
“Ideally, I want to see us foster a system where, when kids wake up in the morning and they remember its Monday, they think ‘Fantastic, I get to go to school today. I’m super excited about that, because that is my place and I’m excited I can go be successful,’ and I want staff to feel the same thing,” Cordon said. “It’s early to make any broad-reaching assumptions at this point, but I’m more optimistic than I was when I interviewed.”
Cordon was named the new superintendent in April and has been involved in work at Roseburg for the past six to eight weeks, according to board chair Joe Garcia.
“We’re very much looking forward to his level of expertise and what it means to the district moving forward,” Garcia said.
Cordon’s wife and three of their four children will make the move to Roseburg before the start of the school year. Cordon’s oldest daughter married in May and will not be making the move.
“My wife is great,” Cordon said. “Bringing me down was good, but she’s been a great asset to our community up (in Sherwood). She’s community-minded and she will make it a better home.”
His wife, Shannon Cordon, is a nurse, but while the family is transitioning to a new house and Cordon starts his new role she will stay home. Their youngest son will be a fifth grader, while the other two will be in high school — a freshmen and a senior.
The family’s home in Sherwood officially went on the market Thursday and they’ve been looking for a house in Roseburg to fit their needs.
His youngest son has been asking almost daily, “Did we find a house yet, or are we going to be homeless in Roseburg?,” according to Jared Cordon.
For Cordon, it’s important to find a home in the school district.
“The interest in coming here was to really be a part of this community. We will find a place here, eventually,” he said. “We tend to keep the stuff that we buy. We’ve lived in our house for 15 years. The last house we bought was the first house we bought. We tend to, once we buy, use it out, wear it out, make it new, or do without. So this idea of buying a house for us ... We feel like we’ve got this couple week window.”
Cordon comes to Roseburg from the Beaverton School District, where he worked as the administrator for elementary curriculum, instruction and assessment since 2016. Prior to his district office position in Beaverton, Cordon worked as an elementary school principal and high school vice principal.
Prior to becoming an administrator, he taught English as a second language in the Corvallis School District for three years and Spanish at Oregon State University and Chemeketa Community College. Cordon has a master’s in teaching and a bachelor’s in environmental science from Oregon State University.
Cordon has spent his first two weeks in a study phase, getting to know the district. He has also shared some of his early findings and plans with the Roseburg School Board.
“Mr. Cordon, he’s got a plan in place and he’s shared that plan with the board in terms of rolling out his communication and how he sees himself diving into the community and getting involved from the very beginning,” Garcia said. “The centerpiece to that is focusing on listening. Listening to the students, the staff, the community. What is Roseburg? What does it mean to people? What does it mean to the kids in the district? And really get a sense of community and how he can bring his expertise in and build upon that to strengthen our school district.”
Garcia, Cordon and the rest of the cabinet will be working on creating a vision for the district in the weeks prior to the start of the school year.
One thing Cordon wants to prioritize when the school year starts is getting into the classrooms.
“I have a goal to spend half of my time in buildings,” Cordon said. “I don’t know if there’s any other way you can understand what a system needs, what a system is doing well, how children are doing, or how a principal or teacher is doing if you’re not with people. We need to be with people in the work.”
Cordon said he found people who are close to the work are less cynical. Parents who are involved have a better understanding, and he hopes his involvement in schools will make him better understand the struggles and triumphs facing the district.
“There’s been these themes about culture and improving culture,” he said. “I think you’ve got to have your hand on an oar and you’ve got to be rowing with people. You can’t be in the front of the boat just calling the cadence out. Our belief here is: We want to be in the boat with people, and we’ll see what that looks like.”
So the solution is for district office administrators to get more involved.
“If you’re working in the finance department, in (Chief Operations Officer Cheryl Northam)’s position. I really need her to go into schools from her lens. It’s good to better understand kids, but also see if our investment is paying off,” Cordon said. “This is a multi-million dollar organization. Hope is a really important characteristic, it’s a terrible strategy. Being close to the work avoids the need to be lucky. Hope is just not a strategy we can employ, it’s a great characteristic. We want to be optimistic, but we can’t hope things we’re doing are working, we need to be proximate to those things.”