Howell named Pocatello’s superintendent

Trustees in the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District have extended a permanent superintendent position to longtime administrative employee Doug Howell.

“I’m excited to continue working with the people here,” Howell said. “I work with great people, which has made the job wonderful so far.”

Howell has been serving as interim superintendent in the district since July 1, 2015. His recent completion of a superintendent certificate from Idaho State University opened the way for his newly appointed, permanent position—raising his salary from $110,000 to $126,593 and extending his contract to June 30, 2019.

Howell earned the interim spot last year after board members dismissed their top three candidates. Howell was serving as human resources director.

“In our search last year, one of our major concerns was finding someone with experience in a larger district,” said Janie Gebhardt, board chair of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District. “Most of our applicants came from either no experience in a district office or only in a smaller district. Dr. Howell didn’t initially apply, but when his name came forward we were delighted he would consider.”

Howell has since earned his superintendent certificate.

“The reason for his interim status was the need to complete some work toward credentialing, which he completed early in this school year,” Gebhardt said.

Howell began his teaching career in Texas but his out-of-state stint ended abruptly because of a family illness.

“My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer years ago,” Howell said, “so we came back to Pocatello, where I began teaching at Alameda, where I attended junior high.”

After teaching for several years in Pocatello, Howell decided to take a supervision-of-instruction course at ISU — a decision that sparked his interest in school administration.

“The professor in that class said that if you can make a difference in the classroom, you can make difference as a building-level administrator,” Howell said. He earned an administrative certificate and obtained positions as a principal at Pocatello High School, Jefferson Elementary and eventually Highland High School — all within the bounds of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District.

Howell said parents and students can expect to see some changes in the district.

“We have a continuous improvement plan more along the lines of what the state wants,” he said. “We will report more in terms of metrics.”

Howell pointed to two specific “quantifiable” ways of improving education in his district: graduation rates and attendance.

“We hover right around a 90 percent graduation rate at Pocatello High, which is pretty outstanding,” he said. “We also have a graduation rate of around 60 percent at New Horizons, the district’s alternative high school, which is also pretty impressive for those kinds of schools.”

Pocatello High School tallied a 91.9 percent graduation rate during the 2014-15 school year, and New Horizons came in at 64.4 percent.

Gebhardt said the board had no intentions of advertising the position to other possible candidates.

“We have been very pleased with his work with us,” she said. “There wasn’t any need to go back to a search process. The interim status was just to allow him to jump through the necessary hoops — and perhaps time for him to adjust to the enormity of the job.”

Gebhardt pointed to Howell’s district-wide experience to justify the board’s decision not to vet other candidates this go-round.

“He has worked in our district for a number of years and has varied experience — as teacher, administrator and most recently in human resources.”