Meet an Administrator: Doug Kernutt
Position: Executive Director of Student Support
Years in Education: 43
Years at Clover Park: 8
Doug Kernutt served as superintendent of Centralia School District for five years before retiring for the first time in 2007. He joined Clover Park School District later in 2007as administrator for human resources and served as deputy superintendent from 2012-14 before retiring a second time. He re-joined Clover Park at the end of last year as executive director of student support and will take on the role of interim superintendent beginning July 1.
What originally attracted you to a career in education?
In college, I wasn’t thinking about education at all. My naïve look as a young man was that I wanted to help people. My dad was a minister and my mom was a teacher, so I took my cues on helping others from them. I ended up earning a master’s degree in counseling and school psychology and the school psychologist jobs sounded exciting. That’s where I ended up and never looked back. It’s been a great career with doors opening that I never would have imagined!
How has education changed over the course of your career?
For me as an educator, I am focused on the school board’s vision of making sure our students learn enough and have enough to be successful in life — however they define that. That might mean going onto college or trade school or into the military. No matter what you do, though, you need to be a lifelong learner now. Manufacturing jobs we know are going away, and we need to help our students get ready for the world they will be living in.
You’ve held a wide variety of positions during your career, how will that help you as interim superintendent next year?
I think it gives me a broad view of what goes on in schools, and provides me with perspectives on a variety of communities, from urban to rural. I have a sense about the business aspects as well as the impacts of teachers and staff. And most importantly, I have a sense for the varying needs of students as we look at the Clover Park community. I think all of it allows me to effectively continue the positive change that has been happening here.
Does having “interim” in your title change the way you will approach the superintendent position?
I don’t think so. The world is changing so fast these days. We continually look at how we can get students ready for their future, because it’s going to look so much different than mine did or even many of our current staff members’ did. For me, that adds urgency to even an interim role. Luckily, the school board has made it clear that they want to keep moving and growing to keep the momentum we have been building. I am excited about that.
What has surprised you most about working in education?
We are a big business with a different outcome than most. Our outcome is kids. As a young man going into school work, it was more directly about helping students learn. That is still a key, of course, but as you get into leadership roles, we see the multitude of things that a normal business does. School districts are often the biggest employer in a community, so you have many of the budget issues, operations management and personnel challenges of a typical large business.
What motivates you to do what you do?
For me, it’s all about having an impact. It’s about saying we may not quite be at 100 percent yet, but we are getting better at helping all kids graduate. And more than that, it’s about seeing students use their education as a chance to think about what the next steps in their careers will be. Students, even in middle school, are thinking about their future careers in a more formal way now and thinking about what it takes to get there.
How can you help create promising futures from your position?
From a system standpoint, it’s all about getting the right people in leadership positions and in classrooms. I think that’s the biggest way to make an impact. You need the right people and you have to help them grow and learn. Most of the time it’s the right fit, but sometimes it is not. You just need to make sure you find the right people for the right spots.
What is the best part of your job?
I think being able to influence a big system is a big part of it. The tougher part is you’re not at the student level anymore. That’s been the case for a big portion of my career now. But being able to see that if you get the right people in the right places, things can take off and students can really learn. It’s the yin and yang of working at the district level. You can make a big impact but you’re more removed from it and don’t have those relationships with kids anymore.
What are your hobbies?
I like to hike, and I have enjoyed playing golf as I’ve gotten older. We do a lot of hiking at Mount Si off the I-90 corridor or at Eagle Peak in the Cascade Range, which is just gorgeous during the winter. I’ve done Mount Rainier, but I don’t do the rock climbing. If the snow even looks like it’s going to come off the mountain, I’m not going there!
Who was the educator that had the biggest impact on you and why?
Larry Nyland, who is the superintendent in Seattle now. He was the superintendent in Pasco for part of the time I was there. I worked with him for 10 years. He is a very bright leader and helped me understand the value of lifelong learning… how, if you aren’t learning, you’re going backwards.