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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Summit’s 2024 Principal Forum

Here’s what the final candidates for 2024-2025 Summit High School Principal are saying

This story has been updated as of March 13 to reflect the Bend-La Pine School District’s decision. 

The Principal Interview Community Forum took place in the Summit Commons on Wed., Feb. 21 at 5:30 p.m. This was the last of four stages in the interview process to select a new principal, following current Principal McDonald’s retirement at the end of the 2023-2024 school year. Attended by teachers and Summit families, the final two candidates—Donna Servignat and Mary Thomas—introduced themselves to the Summit community and fielded questions from attendees. 

“The whole of the hiring process was focused on filling the needs of Summit staff and students,” said Ryan Kelling, Bend-La Pine Schools Director of Recruitment and Retention. “The process began by sending out a survey to Summit staff; the most common responses wanted a candidate who would support teachers but still give them autonomy on the day-to-day things.” 

“I want teachers to feel like they can come to an administrator and not have it be viewed as a weakness,” said Summit parent and substitute teacher Stacy Abena. “I think if teachers step forward and say, ‘hey, this is really hard over here, could I get some ideas or some support?’ You need to know the person you’re asking isn’t gonna go ‘wow, are you less professional?’ no, you’re more of one because you see the need, and you’ve reached out, but I think [that] hasn’t always been the case.”

“Whoever they pick needs to be strong. They need to be ready to be grilled by parents, ‘cause when it comes to that, our population of parents are really good at getting what they want,” said an anonymous Summit teacher. 

Attendees at the event were asked to fill out a feedback form and choose their favorite candidate. Students, parents and staff were given the opportunity to give feedback via form. Teachers also weighed in before and at the forum. 

“I do think that the general perception [amongst the teachers] is that downtown already has their favorite and that they’ve already picked,” said the anonymous Summit teacher.  

Donna Servignat

Donna Servignat is a former French teacher, Activities Director, administrator and current Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning at Reynolds School District in Fairview, Oregon (a Portland suburb). Servignat is a mother of two and described how her kids were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to being involved in school. This experience encouraged her to approach school administration with the individual needs of all students in mind. Servignat believes that a school should “operate as a family” and be centered around relationships with students, staff, families and the community at large. 

Mary Thomas

Mary Thomas is currently an Assistant Principal at Summit, with five years of experience in the job throughout the district. Thomas has been a lifelong educator, starting at a young age in Outdoor School, which eventually culminated in teaching around the world. Her educational philosophy is grounded in hard work, communication and follow-through. 

Candidates’ Views and Philosophies: 


“All students should receive a well-rounded education by graduation,” said Servignat. “All students in the building should be ready for college — not that they have to go to college — but that if they choose not to go, it should be their own choice and not because they feel unprepared.” 

“I would like to work with all of the teachers and make sure that they feel they’re getting the professional development they need, they’re getting the tools they need,” said Thomas. “And they’re getting the time to work together as a professional learning community.”


“Every student should feel that they belong and are safe at school,” said Servignat. “A part of this is involving students by making sure that students have access to sports and clubs. I understand this is different for every student, but we need to allow them to find their niche. Also, making sure that it’s safe and inclusive for everybody means earning that trust everyday and having a space where you can have the hard conversations and [address] the things that we should address.”

“This is a challenging environment if you don’t look like anybody else. A couple years ago I created a forum with students, and we met once a week, and they were the students who didn’t look like everybody else, who felt a little bit underprivileged,” said Thomas. “Just to create that safe space to be heard is what’s important.”

Leadership Style 

“I am a transparent and open leader, within the bounds of sharing what is allowed,” said Servignat. “When something isn’t working, I’m a solution-oriented thinker, and I want to keep school a family through the fun and hard times.” 

“My Summit philosophy is communication, connection, community and consistency,” said Thomas. “I also love the idea of going back to hands-on-learning and traveling around the school to give students the opportunity of learning as they are doing. And that became my philosophy; tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I will learn. That is still my motto today.” 

Engaging an Indifferent Student Body 

“I will learn about each student — learn who they are and what they need, and integrate that into their education,” said Servignat. “We need to promote social-emotional learning in schools, so we can guide students and staff to learn about themselves, to be successful so they can carry this into their lives.”

“We need to address the anxieties that some of our students have when they walk through the door,” said Thomas. “We have fantastic counselors, but we also need to create a culture where students feel that they can go to their peers if coming forward isn’t an option.”

Building Relationships with Staff

I think that comes with, number one, earning it. Having staff know that when you say you’re going to follow up with something, that you follow up with that thing,” said Servignat. “For me, it’s getting to know all the staff. In buildings that I’ve been in, I think sometimes there’s been a divide between what attention is going to teachers and what attention is going to nonteachers, and really coming together as an entire staff, knowing that all of us are faculty here. Knowing that all of us are staff, all of us have an impact on student lives and really leaning into that.” 

“One thing I would like to do—and I haven’t had quite enough time this year—is to meet with staff one on one,” said Thomas. “I know we’re halfway through the school year, so spending time in the classroom, talking with the teachers and saying, ‘what do you need?’ ‘What do you wish you had? What’s your magic wand say, what can I help with?’”

Our Conclusion

The 2024-2025 school year will undoubtedly have a qualified candidate for principal. How either candidate handles the responsibilities of the job is yet to be determined—for many teachers, the common sentiment is that they would rather have the candidate they know than the candidate they don’t. However, many teachers know what they want and need from a candidate: someone who is an educational leader, systems thinker, available, and ready to work with staff and students for Summit’s betterment. 

“I’ve worked with Mary Thomas before, and she is a compassionate leader who can set boundaries but also sees individuals in students—and that’s something I really appreciate and love about her,” said substitute teacher Stacy Abena, who teaches primarily at Summit. “I was looking to see if I would see the same things in Donna, and I came away feeling like there isn’t a wrong choice.”

For many students, Thomas isn’t the frequent figure for them as she is for teachers. Servignat, although new, is in much of the same standing as Thomas for the student body. 

“Both candidates really wowed us, I think that they both have great strengths in their different areas,” said Quinn Raynak, a Summit junior who was on the student interview panel. “We all felt that we couldn’t go wrong with either of them; they were just both very well-rounded candidates.” 

“The decision ultimately lies with the district,” said Kelling. By the end of the week, a candidate will be officially selected as the 2024-2025 Summit principal, and only time will tell how effectively they enact their plan for the future. 

In an email sent on March 13, Bend-La Pine’s Director of Communications, Scott Maben, announced that Superintendent Steven Cook officially named Donna Servignat as the next principal of Summit High School.

“We are fortunate to have someone with such rich experience join our administrative team and the Summit High community,” Superintendent Cook said in the press release. “Donna brings extensive classroom teaching experience, as well as building and district-level experience. Her time as a coach and activities director also will serve her and the Summit High School community well. I look forward to the leadership and dedication to fostering a positive learning environment that Donna will provide in this role.”

“She succeeds Principal Michael McDonald, who is retiring after six years as Summit’s principal and 22 years at the school,” said Maben in a follow-up email, confirming that Servignat will start on July 1.

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Wes McGovern
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Meet Wes McGovern, the last (or first?) third of the Editor-In-Chief team. After enrolling in News Staff three years ago, Wes fell in love with journalism, politics, law and contributing to the community at large. Although, it is really Mr. Williams’ table-top-talks that keep him coming back. Despite the rumors, Wes doesn’t bite, so if you see him wandering the newsroom or running to a class at COCC, always feel free to stop and talk with him. 

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