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Phil Long will take reins at Cascade Christian

Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long will have one month of retirement this summer before he takes on his new role as principal of Cascade Christian High School on Aug. 1.

Grace Christian Schools, which operates the private high school, announced the appointment Thursday.

"He is a great fit for where we're headed," said Devon Rickabaugh, head of schools for Grace Christian. "He's relational. He's a learner, a teacher and a leader, and he cares a lot about students and their growth and development."

After former Cascade Principal Mark Perry left in 2009, the school was run by a leadership team until earlier this year, when the title and responsibilities were handed over to Rickabaugh, who was interim head of schools at the time.

"We knew we needed a high school principal," Rickabaugh said. "We were at a place where it was an absolute must."

About two weeks ago, the school advertised locally for the position and selected Long from a pool of fewer than a dozen applicants.

Long, who retires from his position as superintendent June 30, said he had already applied for administrative positions in secondary and post-secondary schools around the state and had several offers pending.

"But when this came open, I was like 'Wow! I can stay here and do what I love,'" he said.

On Tuesday, a committee, including one teacher, four administrators and three school board members, interviewed Long.

Rickabaugh, who has known Long about 15 years, said he was the committee's top pick because he is local, possesses a wide knowledge of instructional practices, cares about students and understands the Cascade community and culture. Long's wife, Lori, has taught English at the school since 2007.

Long's retirement announcement last year came amid pressure from the School Board, several of whose members had pushed for his ouster. His final year proved to be challenging as the district went through lengthy union negotiations that ultimately ended with its teachers walking off the job for more than two weeks.

Long will go from overseeing the ninth largest district in Oregon with 22 public schools, 13,700 students and 1,000 employees to overseeing one private high school with 263 students and about 40 staff members.

Nonetheless, he doesn't doubt the job will keep him busy and said he is looking forward to working directly with students and teachers again — something he missed as superintendent.

Long has been with the Medford School District for 30 years in a variety of roles, including as a middle and high school teacher, an assistant principal at South Medford High School, curriculum director, elementary education director and, for the last nine years, superintendent.

For the past decade, he's also taught adjunct classes for Concordia University and Portland State University.

"This is a great community to be in, and I am thrilled to use the things I've learned and the skill I have acquired in this new role," he said. "And I've never been a principal before."

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Long - Bob Pennell