Dr. Kenneth Cox has ended his time as the Superintendent of the Vernonia School District. Cox took part in his last School Board meeting on Thursday, June 12, 2014, leaving behind a legacy of service that went beyond the call of duty.
Cox, who has been Superintendent of the Vernonia School District since 2006, has accepted a position as Superintendent of the Minidoka County Joint School District #331, located in Rupert, Idaho. The Minidoka district serves 4,000 students in four elementary schools, two middle schools, and a high school, as well as alternative middle and high schools.
Vernonia Elementary School Principal Aaron Miller succeeds Cox as the Superintendent.
“Thank you Ken for your years of service and for being a friend to all of us and for being a friend to Vernonia, and a friend to the students and staff of this school and to the whole community,” said School Board Chairman Bill Langmaid at the conclusion of Cox’s final meeting. “This [new school] wouldn’t have happened without you. We owe you a great debt of gratitude.”
Cox was the new Superintendent in Vernonia when the community was devastated by the December 3, 2007 flood which damaged the Washington Grade School, the Vernonia Middle School and the Vernonia High School buildings.
Cox has worked tirelessly since that day in 2007, helping perform the herculean task of rebuilding the entire school district and constructing a brand new K-12 school campus that is outside the flood plain in less than five years. He managed the initial demolition of part of the Vernonia High School and arranged for modular classrooms to be brought in to serve students and faculty on an interim basis.
In 2009 he helped orchestrate a $13 million bond campaign that raised the initial funds for the new school construction, setting the stage for the community to leverage additional private, philanthropic, state and federal funding sources.
Cox served on the Oregon Solutions Team, designated by then Governor Ted Kulongoski, to secure a suitable location for the new campus and raise the funds to build it. He worked with architects to develop a cost effective new building that is designed to be Leeds Platinum certified. He also oversaw the remodeling of the new District Office.
Cox helped create a Natural Resources curriculum, changing the way natural science is taught in all the schools. The program features Forestry Studies and teaches students about the natural environment that surrounds the Vernonia community.
In August of 2012 Cox was center stage for the grand opening of the new Vernonia Schools campus, proudly sharing the lectern that day with Kulongoski, US Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, US Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson, and others. “There were a lot of people who never thought this day would come,” said Cox at the grand opening ceremony. “I was reminded this past week of someone who said it was just a dream. Ladies and gentleman, behold the dream!”
Following the opening of the new school Cox directed the deconstruction of the old school campus as well as the start of the construction of the new Spencer Park at the old school site.
In May of 2013, with the Vernonia School District facing tough budget constraints, Cox agreed to retire from his position and was then immediately re-hired at half time, saving the District thousands of dollars in benefits and salary costs.
On Thursday, June 5, 2014, in one of his final acts as Superintendent of the Vernonia School district Cox presided over the official School Dedication, as the District unveiled plaques that honor donors, others who were instrumental in the construction of the school campus and the School Board. As part of the Dedication ceremony Cox was celebrated by having the school computer lab named in his honor.
Vernonia’s Voice would like to thank Dr. Kenneth Cox for his unwavering commitment to this community during some of its darkest days, for his continued personal sacrifices and for his dedication to the students, parents, faculty and staff of the Vernonia School District. We wish Dr. Cox and his family the best of luck in their future endeavors.