The Cheney School Board decided at last week’s meeting that current associate superintendent Deb Clemens would be the school district’s next superintendent.
Pending successful contract negotiations, Clemens will take over for retiring Superintendent Larry Keller in July.
After 14 years of work in the school district and being selected as a finalist for the top job when Keller was hired in 2008, Clemens was overcome with emotion after the four attending board members (James Whiteley was absent) voted unanimously to offer her the job and the meeting’s attendees rose for a standing ovation.
“I always knew I would be a superintendent,” she said after the meeting. “I’m thrilled it’s here.”
Clemens came to Cheney in 1997 as assistant principal at CHS. She moved up through the ranks, serving as principal in 2002 and moving to the district office in 2004 as the human resources director. She was named assistant superintendent in 2006. Clemens, a native of Wisconsin, holds a doctoral degree from Gonzaga University and a superintendent credential from Washington State University.
In February Keller announced his plan to retire in June and the school board decided to hire his replacement using a “successor strategy.” The strategy allows the board to invite a candidate or candidates from within the district to apply for the job. While there are a few current district employees with the proper credentials to serve as the superintendent, the board opted to only invite Clemens.
Following two interviews, including one witnessed by a gallery of district stakeholders who shared feedback with the board, board members said last week they knew Clemens deserved an opportunity to lead the district where she has worked for many years.
Board member Rick Mount thanked Clemens for staying with Cheney after she didn’t get the superintendent job in 2008.
“I know that you had other opportunities and you could have gone,” Mount said. “I admire the fact that you hung in there not knowing if this opportunity would come your way, not knowing how long Larry would be here, so I thank you for that.”
Clemens said she hoped to sell her South Hill home and move with her husband and two young children within the district borders as soon as possible. The board opted to require district residency of the new superintendent.
Clemens plans to start preparing for her new job in the coming months by visiting each school and holding open hours for staff and patrons to talk to her about the district’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I would describe it as an entry plan,” she said. “You want to have that opportunity for a fresh perspective.”
She said the conversations would help her set “clear, measurable goals for the next few years.”