After a yearlong search that drew about 50 applicants, the board of Grace Christian Schools decided they already had their leader.

After a yearlong search that drew about 50 applicants, the board of Grace Christian Schools decided they already had their leader.

Devon Rickabaugh, who has been interim superintendent since January 2013, was named head of schools shortly before spring break.

"Based on the candidates we received applications from, hers was the best in every way," said board member Tom Strouth. "She did a great job as interim, and it made the decision very easy."

Rickabaugh was named interim superintendent after Ray Johnson resigned for "personal reasons."

"It was an easy transition because of all that Ray had invested in the schools," Rickabaugh said.

The school board formed a search committee, which included board members, Cascade teacher Chris Hillis and a parent, Patty Chesney, and began advertising for the job last summer, renaming the position "head of schools." Of the 50 who applied, five were interviewed, including Rickabaugh.

"Even before we asked for references, staff (at Cascade Christian High School) voluntarily started sending us letters of recommendation and acclamation," Strouth said. "She's got quite a fan club over there."

Over the last 35 years, Rickabaugh has served in both teaching and administrative roles in public and private schools, including eight years as Grace Christian middle-school principal and six years as assistant superintendent of Grace Christian Schools.

She earned a bachelor's degree in special education from Central Washington University in Ellensburg and a master's degree, as well as her administrative credentials, from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash.

Rickabaugh and her husband, Karl, a retired college professor, moved to Medford in 1999 and currently live in Jacksonville.

As head of schools, Rickabaugh will oversee nearly 800 students and 100 certified and classified staff at Grace Christian School and Cascade Christian High School.

"On a day-to-day basis, I'll be supervising the total operation of the schools, setting the spiritual tone, overseeing the teaching and learning ... as well as setting the vision for the future," she said.

Rickabaugh said she would like to grow enrollment at both schools, integrate more vocational and technology courses and college-readiness programs at Cascade, and provide more financial support to families who can't afford tuition at the private schools.

"I don't want to deny any family enrollment because they can't afford it, so we're working to provide a robust, needs-based financial assistance program," she said.

Rickabaugh also will be part of the search for a new high school principal and continue to negotiate with Jackson County for the use of Table Rock Park, which borders Cascade.

"We're also in the process of strengthening our school governance to include greater representation of partnering churches on our school board," she added.

The school board consists of two pastors and the Elder Council of First Baptist Church, which shares a building with Grace Christian School.

In 2013, the average SAT score at Cascade Christian High School was 1601 — 51 points above the SAT College and Career Readiness benchmark.

Students at both schools post nationally competitive scores on standardized tests, Rickabaugh said.

"We want to be a school that pursues education through that lens of scripture, so when students walk out of here they have a worldview that is biblical and based on truth, so it impacts their character and work ethic and who they become after high school," she said.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or Follow her at