PORTLAND, Ore. -- The sole finalist to become the new superintendent of Portland Public Schools will not take the job.
The school district confirmed Dr. Donyall Dickey has withdrawn his candidacy. The school board said it did not ask Dickey to withdraw.
"We found out it was not the best fit and this is too important of a position not to be not to be 100 percent sure," said PPS Board chair Tom Koehler during a press conference Thursday.
Dickey, who is also an author, had expressed interest in pursuing other interests while in the role of superintendent. Koehler said from the beginning, the school board made the district's needs clear.
"From the beginning we were very up front that we needed a superintendent who would be with us 100 percent of the time," he said.
Koehler said a thorough vetting process took place that included contract negotiations. In the end Dickey decided to end his candidacy, which the board supported. Koehler said he could not give further details due to the confidential nature of the search.
The district, plagued with administrative problems and health concerns after district-wide lead issues were revealed last year, has been under the helm of interim superintendent Bob McKean since Carole Smith announced her retirement in the summer of 2016.
Portland Public Schools previously said Dickey, who was a top official at the Atlanta Public Schools district, would start July 1 if the hire was finalized.
McKean will continue to lead the district until his contract expires in June. PPS Deputy CEO Yousef Awwad will act as superintendent until a new superintendent is found. The school board will continue its superintendent search and board members said they hope to hire a replacement soon.
"Sometimes you take a step sideways to take a step forward," McKean said.
The district released the following statement:
Statement by the Board of Education on Superintendent Process
Today our finalist for PPS Superintendent, Dr. Donyall Dickey, withdrew his candidacy. We know his decision was not made lightly and we respect it. After a thorough and comprehensive process we came to a mutual understanding that our expectations for the job were not in complete alignment.
Dr. Dickey is a talented educator who has an impressive record of improving student success - and he has a bright future in education. We wish him only the best in the next phase of his career.
Our responsibility as a Board is to make the best decisions on behalf of our students and the taxpayers we serve. We now must turn our attention forward.
PPS has a remarkable team. We have an active parent community, an inspiring student body, a creative force of teachers and a dedicated administrative staff led by Interim Superintendent Bob McKean and Deputy CEO Yousef Awwad. We are very confident we will hire a permanent superintendent who will help lead our district in our next phase because of what we have to offer - a vibrant, caring city with a passion for public education.
We will not let this decision distract from the great work happening across our schools or stop us from pressing ahead on important initiatives like literacy adoption, middle school curriculum, health and safety improvements in our schools, and building 21st century learning facilities for all of our students.
The announcement is not the only recent shakeup at PPS. Human Resources Director Sean Murray resigned this week, PPS spokesman Dave Northfield said.
On Thursday, the district also lost a $1 million lawsuit involving two maintenance workers who alleged racial harassment, The Oregonian reported.
The staffing issues could impact a major bond up for election this month that would address health and safety problems district-wide. The PPS board is asking Portland homeowners to fund a $790 million bond to fix lead, asbestos and radon problems, and rebuild four derelict or severely overcrowded schools.
Following the superintendent announcement, the group Healthy Schools PDX issued a statement calling for bond support to keep kids safe.
"BREAKING NEWS: Neurotoxins and Carcinogens still present in all 90 Portland Public Schools," the statement said. "As Portland Public Schools resumes a search to find the district's next superintendent, the Portlanders for Safe and Healthy Schools campaign wants to remind everyone that lead was found in the water at every single school across the district."