Cheser finalist for superintendent position in Washington state district


Julianna Russ

Dr. Karen Cheser, current Superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools. Courtesy of LinkedIn.

     Earlier this week, Fort Thomas Independent Schools (FTIS) Superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser was announced as one of four finalists being considered for the role of superintendent at Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) in Vancouver, WA. Vancouver is the largest suburb of Portland, OR, situated along the north bank of the Columbia River. 

     When asked about her finalist status, Cheser explained, “I am honored to be a finalist for the superintendent position and am hopeful that I can make a difference for the students there.”

     The new position would be a significant transition for Cheser following her tenure at FTIS. VPS has 23,400 students and 34 schools, in comparison to the 3,057 students and five schools she currently oversees at FTIS. 

     The other finalists for the role include Jeff Snell, superintendent of the Camas School District in Camas, WA; Kenneth Hurst, superintendent of the Othello School District in Othello, WA; and Hector Rico, the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, CA. 

     Tuesday evening, a virtual public forum was held for the finalists to field questions from the VPS school board. The two hour webinar was attended by hundreds of Vancouver community members, as well. Cheser stood out when asked about the FTIS district response to COVID-19, citing rapid teacher vaccinations and strict adherence to CDC protocol as reasons Fort Thomas has had zero spread of COVID-19 in schools. Other questions revolved around plans for increased equity and inclusion, reopening of schools, and potential challenges facing the next VPS superintendent. 

     According to the VPS website, the district has only had four superintendents in the past 47 years. 

     Cheser elaborated, “As I transition to the next chapter of my life [after retirement in KY], I can’t imagine not continuing to work with students and the educators who inspire them. Vancouver is a fantastic district with great people, a thriving community, and of course, it’s a beautiful place to live.”

     Cheser will meet with the VPS school board later this week for a series of individual interviews.