Ryan Carpenter: Compassionate leader, PSU doctoral student
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: April 2, 2020
A recent article in the global, multimedia news organization “Time” highlights Estacada School District Superintendent Ryan Carpenter’s compassionate response to the coronavirus quarantine.

Carpenter, also a doctoral student in the Educational and Leadership Policy program in the Portland State University College of Education, knew that half of the 1,700 students in his rural district qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. Due to statewide school closures during the COVID-19 quarantine, students no longer have access to school breakfasts and lunches.

But Carpenter wouldn’t let his students go hungry. He established a food service delivery program for his district via school bus, with help of about 40 staff members.

“We have a lot of families that may not have the gas money to receive the proper nutrition for their children,” Carpenter said in the “Time” article.

But how did Carpenter become a compassionate leader in education? He will be the first to tell you that he followed in his father’s footsteps, in terms of his profession and his personal values. That means working hard for those you love and for what you believe in.

Carpenter: The Student

Carpenter’s goal is to complete his doctor of education (Ed.D.) in educational and leadership policy by Spring Term 2021.

“I’ve already completed three years of my degree and my coursework,” he said, “and now I’m in the spot where I get the opportunity to really focus on my research and prepare to defend my proposal for the remainder of my time.”

While in school, the research Carpenter said he is most interested in involves using educational methodologies to improve professional learning communities inside school systems.

Prior to pursuing his Ed.D. in the PSU College of Education, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Eastern Oregon University and a Master of Arts in teaching at Concordia University. While at Concordia, he obtained experience as a social studies teacher at Grant Union High School in John Day. That is significant because it’s the area where his father and his father’s friends used to take him deer and elk hunting. His father was a major inspiration for him.

“In sixth grade, I wrote a letter to the principal at Grant Union High School and said I would be a social studies teacher at Grant Union High School,” he said.

Carpenter kept his word.

“It’s something that I smile at even as I share the story,” he said. “It’s a special place for me. It’s a special accomplishment.”

Carpenter: The Professional

Carpenter had dreamed of being a teacher and coach since he saw his own dad, an English teacher and coach, at work. Carpenter achieved his goal, but the subject he taught was social studies. Carpenter also has served as a teacher on special assignment, the athletic director, high school vice principal, high school principal, and interim superintendent. It was a quick rise.

He said it happened: “first of all, by God’s grace,” and second of all, that he put his full energy into every leadership opportunity he got.

Carpenter has had a wide range of experience, but it is his commitment to improving his school that garnered him, and his district, some attention. K-12 professional development and educational material company Solution Tree recognized the Estacada School District as one of three schools or districts in Oregon to be a model professional learning community (PLCs). Solution Tree named the entire district of 1,700 students—its high school, middle school, and two elementary schools.

The other two designees in Oregon are River Grove Elementary in Lake Oswego and Desert View Elementary in Hermiston, and there are about 285 model PLC schools or districts in the U.S. and Canada.

According to the Solution Tree website, PLCs are operated on a premise of continual “job-embedded learning for educators,” and a PLC involves a “process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.”

When Carpenter heard about the accolade in late February, he said in a school district news release: “We are thrilled to receive news of this award. This represents years of dedicated work from our teaching staff, and a constant focus on student-centered improvement.”

His other accolades include: 2016 Oregon Future Business Leaders of America Principal of the Year, Federal Emergency Management Administration’s 2016 School Emergency Preparedness Leader, and Estacada Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 School Employee of the Year. In addition, in 2008, 2009, and 2014, the Eastern Oregon and Tri-Valley Leagues, named Carpenter The Coach of The Year.

Carpenter: The Author

In addition to his many other laurels, Carpenter is a published author. He was one of four PSU academics responsible for four chapters in “The Educational Leader's Guide to Improvement Science: Data, Design and Cases for Reflection,” which came out in March 2019.

PSU Associate Professor Deborah Peterson created Chapter 14 with Carpenter, called “Using Improvement Science in Professional Learning Communities: From Theory to Practice.”

Improvement science is about collaboration and problem solving. Carpenter said he has seen this concept create real results in professional learning communities (PLCs).

“Using improvement science tools in the PLCs in the district I serve has proven significant growth in student achievement,” he said last year after the book had published. “Our graduation rate has risen 10% in the last two years, we are seeing double-digit gains in K–5 achievement, and our staff morale is high, with a 93% job satisfaction rating among certified teachers.”

The Educational Leader’s Guide to Improvement Science is available online on the Stylus Publishing website and on

In addition, Carpenter has just had another chapter in a book accepted, and more details are still to come on his latest accomplishment.

Carpenter: The Family Man

Despite carrying on a vast amount of work, studying, and publishing, Carpenter is an actively involved father to his three children in grade levels fourth, second, and first as a youth basketball coach.

But he says all that he has achieved would not have been possible without his wife of 11 years, Amy, who is a fulltime stay-at-home mom.

“We’re, without a doubt, a team, and I could not do the things I’m able to do professionally without her love and support,” Carpenter said.

He says he also keeps his priorities straight, and puts family, school, and career before his own fun time.

“A wise person once told me that the fish and the elk and the deer will still be there, but life goes fast, and I need to focus on the things I need to do and I can hunt and fish when I’m retired,” he said.

That wise person, was his father. He not only follows in his shoes as a teacher, and he follows in his shoes as a man who works hard for his family, his community and his school district.


Photo 1: Estacada School District Superintendent and PSU doctoral student Ryan Carpenter is making sure his students don’t go hungry during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Ryan Carpenter

Photo 2: Ryan Carpenter has been a coach for many teams and
the athletic director for Estacada School District. Photo courtesy of Ryan Carpenter

Photo 3: Ryan and Amy Carpenter beam with their three children: Dane, 10; Reagan, 6; and Grant, 9.
Photo by Lindsi Boss Photography

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