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Parents question need to transfer principal

Several parents from Orchard Hill Elementary School in Medford turned out Tuesday to make a plea to keep their principal who has been reassigned as a part of budget cuts.

Orchard Hill Principal Gerry Flock will be transferred temporarily to Phoenix Elementary School when Principal Zuna Johnson retires at the end of the school year, a move that will save $110,366.

Two district directors in charge of personnel and special education will serve as Orchard Hill's principals next year on a rotating basis while continuing their regular duties.

Parents at the Phoenix-Talent School District budget committee meeting said they didn't understand why Personnel Director Cally McKenzie and Special Education Director Suzanne Gargas can't instead lead Phoenix Elementary.

The Phoenix school has 443 students; Orchard Hill has 399 pupils.

"I am trying to understand why you are creating upheaval in two schools when only one is in need of change," said Orchard Hill parent Jennifer Platt.

Ben Bergreen, superintendent of the 2,700-student district, said a full-time principal is needed at Phoenix Elementary because the school has a higher need student population. About 40 percent English Language Learners and more than 70 percent come from low-income families, Bergreen said.

But parents bemoaned the departure of Flock, just one face of the district's restructuring.

"Mr. Flock is a tremendous asset, which is probably part of the reason this decision was made," said Orchard Hill parent David French. "While it may seem like a good solution, Mr. Flock created an environment I haven't seen in other school settings. I took my children out of a private school because I heard such good things about Orchard Hill."

Parents said removing Flock from the campus could cause regression at the campus.

About 45 positions have been eliminated next year as a part of an overall plan to help make up an expected $3 million to $6 million deficit next year.

"All of the decisions we made were difficult," Bergreen said.

Some parents asked why they weren't consulted before Flock was reassigned.

"Yesterday I received a letter mentioning the transition of the principal, but there was no mention of this meeting tonight," said parent Kathleen Iriawan. "How can we be involved?"

Parents can have their say on the budgets cuts at a series of three meetings organized by the district: 6:30 p.m. May 11 at Talent Elementary School, 307 Wagner Creek Road, Talent; 6:30 p.m. May 12 at Phoenix Elementary School,

215 N. Rose St., Phoenix; and 6:30 p.m. May 19 at Orchard Hill,

1011 La Loma Drive, Medford.

More information about the district restructuring is available at www.phoenix.k12.or.us.