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Get to know Post Falls’ new school superintendent

Staff Writer | August 10, 2020 1:07 AM

Teamwork, open communication are part of Dena Naccarato’s leadership style

She's new to the role of superintendent, but Dena Naccarato has been a familiar face in education in North Idaho for many years.

She graduated from West Valley High School in Spokane and really enjoyed the subjects of history and English as well as participating in DECA, a popular program that gives students experience in entrepreneurship and management.

She received her bachelor of arts from Eastern Washington University after spending two years at North Idaho College. She majored in English and Social Studies with secondary education.

"My favorite class was teaching literature to adolescents because we read great novels and figured out how to inspire teenagers to love reading," she said.

Naccarato's first job was at Lakeland Junior High teaching eighth grade English and U.S. history. She taught at Lakeland for six years at Lakeland High School, as well as two at Lakeland Junior High and two at Centennial High in Meridian.

"I had some pretty amazing teachers throughout my childhood who influenced me in a very positive way," she said. "I was hoping to make the same impact."

Naccarato was the superintendent of secondary programs for the Post Falls School District. She took the reins as superintendent of the Post Falls School District on Aug. 1 as longtime Superintendent Jerry Keane retired. She said she's not sure she ever imagined herself in the role, but with Keane's encouragement, she went for it.

"Having dedicated the past 16 years to Post Falls School District and the larger community, I felt my experience as a teacher, coach, administrator and federal programs director gave me a unique K-12 perspective and would provide a well-balanced vision for the entire system," she said. "Honestly, Jerry’s are big shoes to fill. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him directly for the past six years. The biggest things I learned from Jerry are to not put artificial timelines on big decisions — don’t make time your enemy — and to focus energy on things we can control."

Naccarato said her superintendent style is one of teamwork, collaboration and open communication, and her decisions will be based on what is in the best interest of the kids.

She plans to continue to build upon the strong relationships she has already forged with students, parents, faculty, staff and the community. She said the shift in her role will require renewed attention to this area.

She also understands that the River City is rapidly growing, and is prepared to manage the population increase.

"Fortunately, the district has land available if/when we need to build more schools," she said. "We are fortunate to have a strong working relationship with the city of Post Falls and are thankful for the community support we have experienced."

As far as what will happen this fall, she realizes that reopening plans are complex as public opinions are varied.

"It seems no matter what districts decide to do to reopen, there will be people who disagree or are unhappy with the plan," Naccarato said. "Recognizing this, our reopening plan will include various options to meet the needs of students and families."

When she's not immersed in education, she and her husband, Jeff Johnson, enjoy traveling and spending time on Lake Coeur d’Alene. She also enjoys bike riding, water skiing, reading and boating.

"Physical fitness is an important part of my life," she said.

As a leader, Naccarato strives to model a positive attitude every day. She quoted Pastor Charles Swindoll: “I am convinced life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% how I react to it … We are all in charge of our attitudes."

And as a superintendent, she believes in the power of public education.

"The United States is one of the only countries in the world requiring a free and public education to all," she said. "It is a foundation of our democracy. In addition to all we provide academically, we provide breakfast, lunch, child care, social emotional support, character education … The list is endless. People do not realize the comprehensive services public education provides to our youth."