The Humboldt County School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to extend Superintendent Dr. Dave Jensen’s contract an additional year. The vote took place at the June 11 regular meeting.
Jensen just completed his seventh year as district superintendent. His contract includes an automatic renewal provision for one year which the board of trustees must approve.
“I've been fortunate my entire career had been here in Humboldt County,” Jensen said in an interview. “I started a little over 23 years ago and as being an army brat. I never wanted to move my kids like we moved every three to five years, so I wanted someplace that would be a good environment for my children where they could go through all of their schooling.”
Jensen is expected to lead the district through at least June 2024.
Salary and other details of the extended contract were not announced and were not immediately available.
School Board President Glenda Deputy said the board is pleased with his work especially when it comes to accountability. “He has built an excellent leadership team that gets things accomplished,” she said. “They hold the district accountable and they get the things done that need to be done that are required by the state,” adding “we are moving forward because of their leadership. People don't like to hear that, but we are and it is because we are being held accountable.”
Jensen started with the district as a school psychologist in 1996 but his responsibilities quickly increased. Within four years, however, the district saw acute changes. In 2000, the gold mining industry saw a steep decline in prices. In the late 1990s the gold price reached its lowest level in real terms for two decades, resulting in the district having to scramble to meet reality. “When we had the big gold decline here in our community and gold prices fell to about $300 an ounce, prior to that we had been as high as 4,200 students in our district. As a comparison, right now, we're just over 3,400 so our district was at its apex … then gold prices crashed, and we saw students exiting and families leaving, and we had to cut positions as a district.” Jensen said the district let staff go as fast as it could to make up for the loss of the loss of students.
Staff cuts meant that the remaining staff had to step up and Jensen was no exception. The superintendent at the time told Jensen the district was cutting one of the one of the director positions and that he needed to start writing federal. Jensen said that at that time, the grants were only bringing in half a million dollars or less. But within a couple of years Jensen was able to bring in up to 2 million plus dollars.
Jensen was also encouraged to pursue his administrative credentials. “I went to UNR and finished the required credits,” je said. “I already had a master's and specialist degree, so I didn't need another master’s. I just had to take some courses I took the necessary courses and got my administrative credential.” Soon after receiving those credentials Jensen went on to complete his doctoral in 1999.
Looking forward to the next year and beyond, Jensen laid out his plans for the district. His two major focuses are on implementing personalized learning and the evolution of the district’s strategic plan. It’s clear to Jensen that the delivery of public education has to change if it is to remain relevant. “We're starting to think about what we are going to have to do three, five, ten years down the line in order to be prepared to be competitive and to keep the students that we have in our county [and] in our district,” he said. The reality for public school is that students and parents have more options than previous generations. Jensen says that because of the increasing numbers of online charter schools and homeschooling programs “there is every ability for our students to get an entire education through an online platform.”
Jensen believes that the best way to stay competitive is to meet the student where he or she is at in their learning journey. “We have to be flexible and right now,” he said, adding that he doesn't think public education is. “My fear is that if we choose to do nothing then over time public education is going to become obsolete. There are for-profit organizations out there that would be glad to give your child an education online. If we're not prepared to give our community options somebody else will come in and give them those options.”
Jensen has enjoyed the opportunities that have come his way as well as his life in the community. He intends to stick around for the foreseeable future and has put the board of trustees on notice. “It's been a fabulous journey,” Jensen said. “A great community and great school board and for those reasons I want to stay. So, my goal very clearly as my board knows, I want to retire here.”