WOODBURN, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — After an exhaustive national search for a permanent superintendent, Woodburn School District discovered the ideal applicant about 15 minutes away.

Former Newberg Superintendent Joe Morelock accepted the offer to become WSD superintendent on Friday, March 11.

Minutes after officially signing the contract, Morelock, 52, of the West Linn/Wilsonville area, chatted a bit about the panel he would be working with, pointing to the name plaques around the board chambers. The conversation touched on work each board member had done within the realm of education.

Morelock welcomes working with that caliber of experience and views it as refreshing.

“Running a school district can be bewildering; it can be like a black box — overwhelming,” he said. “When you think about it you have hundreds of employees and thousands of clients, essentially.”

Consequently, having a former superintendent such as Linda Reeves, a longtime educator and education administrator like Eric Swenson and similar board members who have hands-on experience within some aspect of education should prove beneficial.

Morelock is a seasoned veteran of education himself, having spent 21 years in the Canby School District in various leadership roles and served as an assistant superintendent in the Lake Oswego School District.

“Dr. Joe Morelock couldn’t have been more highly recommended,” WSD Board Chair Anthony Medina said. “He is an equity-minded leader and has a track record of putting staff, students and community first. We are excited to welcome him to our district.”

Most recently, Morelock was the superintendent of the Newberg School District where he served for 3 1/2 years. But a controversial school board with members who frequently appeared more immersed in picayune, ideological reactions rather than running a school district dismissed Morelock in November.

Months later, Woodburn announced that its school district pared 18 applicants down to three, and Morelock was among the finalists. Beyond his deep experience and understanding of the region, the new superintendent also shared some history that weaves well with the WSD’s heavily Latino base.

Morelock has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and was a Spanish teacher early in his education career.

A WSD news release noted: “Morelock is a fluent Spanish language speaker and began his career in education as a Spanish teacher. He has a passion and dedication to bilingualism and looks forward to investing in Woodburn’s already extensive dual language programs.”

As far as how his career lays out, Morelock wants to be in an environment where he can apply his experience. He said there is no tougher time to be working in education than right now, hence its important to have people dedicated to the task.

“Honestly, I’m just looking for the right place to do what needs to be done,” Morelock said. “Working in any position in schools is as hard as it’s ever been, that’s why it’s important to do it in a place where you can do it right.”

That would be Woodburn.

“I look forward to doing the things that we can and highlighting Woodburn School District,” he said.