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C.P. School Board names its principals for 'small schools'

The Central Point School Board hired leaders Tuesday for four "small schools" set to debut in the fall at Crater High School, marking a milestone in a two-year school reform effort.

Most notable among the new hires is Mark Wolfe, principal of CrossRoads alternative school for grades 6-12.

Wolfe, who gave up a career as an attorney 15 years ago to pursue teaching, will head the Crater Academy of Health and Public Service. He did not immediately return a phone call late Tuesday seeking comment.

The other principals are Bob King, Crater school reform coordinator; Mike Meunier, Crater assistant principal; and Kay Dorner, principal of Technology High School, a "small school" of 240 students in Rohnert Park, Calif.

The principals came from a pool of 10 candidates interviewed by a 25-member selection team. The team consisted of Superintendent Randy Gravon, Education Director Samantha Steele, Board Member Kerry Bradshaw, faculty, staff and teachers. The recommendation was based on a vote by members, setting a hiring precedence in the district, Gravon said.

Each principal will receive an annual salary of about $97,000.

Crater joined the national movement toward breaking down large high schools of thousands into smaller schools about two years ago when it netted a $1.1 million grant from the Oregon Small Schools Initiative. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust fund the initiative.

The effort touts the idea that personalized environments, collaborative teaching and the propagation of proven instructional practices will lead to a higher graduation rate, students who are better equipped for postsecondary education and enhanced academic performance.

King, who spent two years overseeing the grant, will head the Crater Renaissance Academy, an arts and humanities school. Though he was one of Crater's business school founders, he sought to lead the arts school because it adheres closely to a common small-school model of collaborative teaching, keeping some teachers with the same class for more than a year and more in-depth coursework.

"I plan to know the name and something about every student by the first month of the school year," King said. "There are not going to be any invisible students."

Meunier, who has a strong science background, will serve as principal of the Crater School of Business, Innovation and Science, the school he helped fashion.

"I'm super excited after spending a year working with this staff to develop the school," Meunier said. "I think it'll be an attraction to kids."

Dorner, an 11-year administrator, will lead the Crater School of Natural Resources.

"I agree with Crater's vision and belief that small high schools in offering more personalized relationships with kids promote more academic success," Dorner said late Tuesday. "I'm very excited about this opportunity."

Crater Principal Kirk Gibson will remain at the campus to oversee the restructuring, though his position will likely disappear in the next couple of years, district officials said.

Each school will consist of 350 to 400 pupils, keep its own schedule and develop its own curriculum.

Parents and students are slated to meet the new principals and submit choices for their respective schools the week of April 2.

What the departure of Wolfe will mean to CrossRoads is not yet known. Officials with Community Works, a Medford nonprofit organization that operates CrossRoads, could not be reached late Tuesday to discuss the fate of the alternative school.

The Central Point district is the primary source of students for CrossRoads. However, under the small schools plan, the district will stop the practice of sending students to alternative schools, Gravon said.

On the Web: cratercomets.com/small schools/

Reach reporter Paris Achen by calling 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.