School board grants Supt. Lisa Riggs furlough

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home School District Supt. Lisa Riggs will take a leave of absence for the remainder of the school year for “personal” reasons, School Board members agreed Monday night, May 2, following a closed- session meeting.

The board unanimously approved the leave of absence requested by Riggs for the remainder of the school year, which extends until June 30.

Immediately after, the board unanimously appointed Sweet Home Junior High Principal Terry Martin as acting superintendent for the rest of the school year.

In a letter to the School Board, dated April 30, Riggs wrote, “I am writing to request a leave of absence for the remainder of the school year starting May 1, 2022. The nature of this leave is personal and I appreciate your understanding in granting this request.”

School Board Chairman Jason Redick said Riggs’ request for a leave of absence did not come as a surprise to him, noting that he and Riggs “had some conversations that led up to this” over the last few weeks.

He said the conversations were “around what was best for her, moving forward.”

“She’s obviously taking the time that she needs, and that’s going to be beneficial to her,” Redick said.

Redick said Riggs will be using up any benefit time she has during her leave of absence, and will then be on paid leave.

He said he does not know whether or not Riggs will be superintendent after the June 30 end of the school year.

Riggs became Sweet Home’s superintendent Aug. 17 of last year. Redick chose not to comment on Riggs’ performance so far as superintendent, but did state, “I worked well with Lisa.”

Riggs did not respond to a request for comment from this reporter before The New Era’s deadline.

Despite the change, Redick expressed optimism for the rest of the school year.

“I’m confident that the employees of the district are going to come together, move forward and finish out the year strong,” he said.

Of the board’s choosing of Martin, Redick said, “The thought process was getting somebody who was in the district who was a steady hand, steady leadership.”

He said that Martin knows the district and the employees, as well as the direction of the district.

“He will do a good job continuing with the direction that we need to go,” Redick said of Martin.

Reacting to his new title as acting superintendent, said Martin, who came to the district from Alaska in 2020, hired by former Supt. Tom Yahraes.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity and honored to be asked. I’m looking forward to bringing our team together to complete the school year.”

“This is a great community, and we’ve got some work to do,” Martin continued. “It’s going to be a team effort.”

Asked what it’s like to take the helm in this unique situation, Martin said, “I had an assistant superintendent tell me that no matter what we do, oftentimes we leave knots behind. You take care of those and keep what’s important in front of you. That’s the kids.”

He later clarified, “That’s in no way a reference to the previous superintendent. That is simply change from one leader to the next.”

Martin has 26 years of educational experience, including 22 years in education administration.

He started off his career in education in Oregon as an English teacher at Stanfield Middle School from 1996 to 2000. That role preceded a long stint in Alaska for Martin, during which he held various career titles in education.

Martin was the principal at Nikolaevsk Elementary-High School in Nikolaevsk, Alaska, from 2001 to 2004. He was then principal at the Ninilchik School in Ninilchik, Alaska from 2004 to 2011, and principal at Marshall School in Marshall, Alaska for one year after that.

Martin served as director of human resources at the Northwest Arctic Borough School District from 2014 to 2020, before he became principal of the Sweet Home Junior High School in the fall of 2020.

He received his associate of arts degree in liberal arts at Blue Mountain Community College in 1990, then his bachelor’s of arts in language arts from Western Oregon State College in 1993. He received his master of education in school leadership from Eastern Washington University in 2000.

Redick said: “I am confident that Terry’s steady leadership will help to finish this school year strong.”