September 3, 2001
New superintendent takes the helm
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
CARNATION - It's easy to see why Conrad Robertson was the overwhelming choice of the Riverview School District superintendent search committee. The former head of the Lewistown (Mont.) Public Schools was picked over two other candidates in mid-February after a lengthy search for a replacement for longtime Superintendent Jack Ernst, who left to take a superintendency in Missouri two years ago.
Robertson, who has been on the job now for two months, is consistently positive about the future of the district and is eager to become an integral part of the community. Since arriving, he has ridden in the Carnation Fourth of July parade, attended several local get-togethers and met with city officials from Carnation and Duvall, community members and Snoqualmie Superintendent Rich McCullough.
His cheerful optimism is infectious.
"There is a lot of potential for this school district," he said last week. "Everyone I meet wants to see the district grow and improve."
And, as far as the longstanding "division" of the two towns after the high school was built in Duvall, he says he hasn't seen it.
"I'm sure part of that is because a lot of new people have moved in," he said. "What I see is a community coming together. The position of most people is where the district can go (rather than on the past). I was here for the athletic field bond vote and I see tremendous support for the schools here."
Much has been made of the so-called "rift" between Carnation and Duvall that began eight years ago when Tolt High in Carnation was turned into a middle school and Cedarcrest High School was built in Duvall. The division between the two communities was blamed for several failures of bond issues for athletic fields for Cedarcrest. But that ended in May when voters overwhelmingly passed a $5.75 million bond measure to pay for new sports fields, school repairs to three schools and completion of the Cedarcrest Performing Arts Center.
The district has hired Stagecraft to finish the theater and the D.A. Hogan company to develop the sports fields.
"The schools needed new roofs," Robertson said. "And sound and lighting are critical to the theater. Stagecraft is without a doubt an excellent company."
He said the Riverview field design committee is studying recommendations for the new athletic facility.
"The committee is made up of local folks," he said. "And D.A. Hogan is known as the premier fields designer in the Northwest."
Overall, he said, the hope is that the sports facilities will be ready a year from this fall, despite the ongoing building application moratorium in Duvall due to limitations on the sewage treatment plant.
Duvall city engineers have said that 140 new sewer hookups may become available soon if the plant's permit is revised. Riverview representatives have been lobbying the City Council for a hookup for the restroom facilities, required as part of the Cedarcrest sports fields.
"I have talked to city officials in Duvall," Robertson said. "And I am confident we will be able to work through that."
He is also very enthusiastic about the passing of the technology levy, the results of which can be seen now in the school labs.
"Carnation and Stillwater schools are done installing their technology labs," he said. "The high school will have its technology update done next summer. In Montana schools, the technology was very good. We got there by using some funding with the state and our own curriculum dollars to purchase equipment."
In Montana, Robertson was an active superintendent for three different school districts, and served on various boards and foundations. He was named Montana Superintendent of the Year last year by the Montana Association of School Superintendents.
He has been a superintendent for 20 years, the last 12 in Lewistown, a school district of 1,700 students, compared to a district population of 3,000 in Riverview. He said Lewistown has the same number of schools as Riverview, but with a physically larger high school due to the fact that it doubles as the town's community center.
Robertson, at 51, says he still considers himself "young" and is anxious to take advantage of all the cultural opportunities in Seattle that were not available in Montana. He is already a Mariners' fan, and has attended two games.
He says he would have preferred to live close to work in Carnation, but when he and his wife were looking for homes, "anything for sale was gone before we even had a chance to look at it. Of course now, there are about four houses on the market here in town."
The couple ended up buying a house in Duvall, which he says they are very happy with.
He says his personal goal with the district is to provide the best education possible for all the children in Riverview. He supports the senior project, saying it prepares the students for the world beyond high school.
"I realize the senior project is a lot of work for students and staff, but soon it will be law in all schools in the state," he said. "The senior project sets a higher standard for the students. Because of it, students will graduate ahead of the game."
Robertson has hired several staff members, including two principals. He says the hiring of former Cedarcrest High School counselor Anthony Smith as curriculum director is a very positive step.
"I think he (Smith) will do an excellent job directing the curriculum for K-12," Robertson said. "We were very lucky to get him for that position."
Robertson will begin a strategic planning process in September that will involve the board, community and staff to develop a mission for the schools. He also emphasized that he intends to stay with the district.
"My individual goals are linked to the strategic planning process," he said. "I'm in it for the long haul. The district needs stability. Anthony Smith will be valuable because we need sustained curriculum development. I feel good about our academics and equally positive on the business end with Sue Tucker, the new business manager, who comes with years of experience from the Renton School District. We have a tight budget and experienced people are an advantage to the district."
He said district studies need to be done every five years.
"Studies give us a roadmap for the future," he said. "There is a lot of potential here and the teachers and administration are excited about the opportunity to improve the district."