Current Deputy Superintendent Denny Waters will replace Ross
BATTLE GROUND — Battle Ground Public Schools will have a new superintendent next year.
During a sometimes emotional meeting on Monday, current Superintendent Mark Ross announced he would be retiring as of June 30, 2021.
The Board later voted 5-0 in favor of naming current deputy superintendent Denny Waters as Ross’ replacement.
“I’m kind of glad we’re not in person, because that would make it even harder,” Ross said, referring to the virtual meeting format due to the pandemic. “My time in Battle Ground has been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my 39 year career in education.”
Ross began as a language arts teacher and athletics coach at Camas High School in 1982. He eventually moved north, teaching in the Issaquah and Renton school districts, before becoming assistant principal and dean of students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.
In 2000, Ross returned to Clark County, moving from assistant principal, to athletic director, and eventually a principal position in the Evergreen and Vancouver Public School districts.
He joined Battle Ground Public Schools in 2014 as an assistant superintendent, moving into the Superintendent role in 2017, replacing Mark Hottowe after his retirement.
“Probably my lasting impression of Mark is going to be the first time I walked through the district office,” said Director Troy McCoy, who was the lone board member to vote against accepting Ross’ resignation. “Every single person there was like, ‘oh my gosh, the environment is so much better. It’s so great to have him here.”
Ross’ time as the district’s top administrator has been far from easy.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the district had struggled through a pair of failed building bond measures, prompting difficult decisions over boundary realignments to ease overcrowding at several southern schools in the district.
In 2018, following the state legislature’s McCleary basic education funding decision, Battle Ground faced one of the longest teacher strikes in the state, eventually ending up in court before a new contract was ratified in September of that year.
Then, in 2019, the district faced community backlash over plans to adopt a modified version of the state’s Comprehensive Sexual Health curriculum.
“It hasn’t always been easy,” said Ross, “but I’m proud of the collaboration and the professionalism by everyone involved. And that the decisions we’ve made were always with the best interest of students at heart.”
“Thank you so much for your service, and your willingness to step up to a difficult job,” said Director Rob Hendrickson. “I appreciated your approachableness, and being able to come talk to you when I needed to.”
During a lengthy executive session, the board decided to enter negotiations with deputy superintendent Denny Waters to become the new leader of the district and its 12,500 students once Ross retires.
“To make any hiring decision, I go to the character of the person, and Denny has great character,” said McCoy, who recommended the hiring. “When you have the skills to do the job and the character to do it effectively—when you combine those two things—then you have a great candidate. And we have that in Denny.”
Waters has 31 years of experience as an educator and administrator, starting in the Evergreen and Hawaii school districts. He came to Battle Ground in 2007 as an assistant principal at Battle Ground High School before moving to the district office in 2012 to be the executive director of Special Services.
He was named the district’s deputy superintendent in 2017, moving to take Ross’ spot after he was named superintendent.
“I am thrilled beyond words,” Waters said after the board approved the decision. “I am just so grateful to everybody … I will not let you down.”
“I think the board made a great choice to keep moving the district forward the next several years,” Ross added before joking, “is it too late to rescind my June 30 date? Maybe I’ll head out with Santa Claus and go somewhere.”