July 1, 2008

ESD Names New Chief

By The Observer, La Grande, Ore.

Jul. 1--ISLAND CITY -- An Astoria superintendent with 38 years of experience in education was handed the Union-Baker Education Service District's reins Monday night.

Michael Sowder was named the ESD's sixth superintendent since 1985 and fifth in the past five years by its board Monday. Sowder has served as the Astoria School District's superintendent the past five years. He succeeds Mary Apple, who resigned after two years to take a position as director of regional programs with the Umatilla-Morrow ESD.

Sowder, who is technically retired, will work halftime and be paid an annual salary of $48,000. He has a two-year contract that begins today.

"We are very excited to have him,''said Jess Roberts, chairman of the Union-Baker ESD Board.

Roberts said Sowder is highly respected among his colleagues and that the ESD is fortunate to have an education leader with his talent coming on board.

The Astoria School District Sowder led has about 2,000 students. The district has three elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.

Sowder served as superintendent of the Yoncalla School District in Southern Oregon for two years before taking the position at Astoria. He was superintendent of the Quincy School District in Central Washington from 1996 to 2001 before going to Yoncalla.

Sowder, who was not at Monday's board meeting, has been a school administrator since 1979. He started his education career in 1971 as a science teacher at North Albany Junior High School.

The educator received a bachelor's degree in education from Oregon State University in 1971. Sowder received a master's in education administration from Whitworth University in 1981 and a doctorate in administration from Gonzaga University in 1994.

Sowder's hobbies include taking mountain pack trips.

Also on Monday the Union-Baker ESD Board ratified new three-year contracts for the ESD's teachers, classified staff and administrative staff. The contracts will provide all of the ESD's employees 3 percent salary and wage increases each of the next three years.

The ESD will pay a maximum of $900 a month for health insurance premiums for all employees all three years of the contract. This means ESD employees will pay money out of pocket for health insurance because of anticipated premium increases. In 2007-08 the ESD paid $1,200 a month per employee for full family medical insurance.

Joel Goldstein, an ESD education specialist, said the teachers agreed to the health insurance cut to help the agency through a tight financial situation.

"We were willing to do what was needed to make it happen,'' Goldstein said. "We are all trying to work together so that we can continue to do what we believe in, which is serve kids. We all agree that financial times are tight. The greater issue is helping the agency continue.'


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