DRAIN — After more than a decade without a full-time superintendent at North Douglas School District, Terry Bennett has stepped into the position.
“It shows a strong commitment by the school board and sends a strong statement to the community,” Bennett said. “Being available and being in schools will be something new, having a full-time superintendent.”
Bennett takes over as superintendent from John Lahley, who was a part-time interim superintendent for the district for seven years.
Bennett previously worked for the Oregon Department of Education in the Office of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and has previous administrative experience in Klamath, Portland, Lebanon and Durham, California, school districts. He started his career in education in Huntington, a small school district in Eastern Oregon.
He noted that in small towns schools are often the hub of the community, through sports, agriculture programs, choir programs and other extracurricular activities.
“You see everyone and have those traditions,” Bennett said, adding that he wants to push the limits on what is expected from small schools.
“I want to ensure that every student reaches their full potential during the school years and beyond,” Bennett said.
He reflected on a day decades ago when he worked at an elementary school to fill in for a principal who was out on leave.
There was a 5-year-old who was having a particularly bad day, Bennett said. Bennett spent the rest of his day with the young boy in his office, and at the end of the day heard the student say that it was “the best day ever.”
“My goal is to make every day the best day,” Bennett said.
He sees himself as a communicator and hopes that the community will see him as a resource.
“When working to navigate systems you just need a quality resource,” Bennett said. “If nothing else, let me help find the resource.”
Bennett has been around education his whole life. His father, Harvey Bennett, was the president at Rogue Community College from 1986 until his retirement in 1999. Harvey Bennett came out of retirement to serve as the interim superintendent at Umpqua Community College from 2002 until 2004.
“I stand on the shoulders of the giants who went before me,” Terry Bennett said, referring not just to his father but also to the other administrators he worked with throughout his career. “I feel a sense of duty to do my best and uphold what they taught me.”
Bennett has coached basketball at many different high schools, and while he’s not saying he’ll never be a coach at North Douglas, he has no plans to step into that role at this time.
Bennett has attended monthly board meetings since being hired in March and will continue to work with the school board to develop short-term and long-term goals for the district.
“I’d rather do one thing really well, than multiple things poorly,” he said. “I want to improve the outcomes for whom the current system doesn’t work.”