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Superintendent welcomes staff to a new school year

Medford teachers and classified staff met their new superintendent, Brian Shumate, for the first time Tuesday at the school district’s annual welcome-back assembly.

Nearly 1,000 teachers and classified staff, as well as administrators, other district employees, board members, police officers and community members, crowded in the gymnasium at North Medford High School for Shumate’s inaugural “pep talk.”

“My desire is to see everyone in this room supporting the classroom,” Shumate said, charging district staff to “own every kid,” eliminate excuses, have can-do attitudes, practice servant leadership and build coherent systems, among other things.

“We cannot fly by the seat of our pants in this business,” he said.

Shumate started work July 7 and has since met individually with each principal, as well as with members of his cabinet, and worked with the school board to revise the board goals to make them more measurable. 

For example, a goal to “increase the graduation rate” now has detailed objectives of an 80 percent graduation rate by 2017, 90 percent by 2020 and 100 percent by 2025.

“Our graduation rate is at 66.8 percent,” Shumate said at the assembly. “(The board) has charged me to be at 80 percent by 2017. I think that’s possible with the help of everyone in this room.”

“But that means being on the look-out for the invisible kid,” Shumate added.

Afterward, several teachers and classified staff said that they were impressed with their new boss and his plans for the district.

“It sounds like a breath of fresh air,” said Mary Ellis, a campus monitor at Oak Grove Elementary School. “(Shumate) sounds like a smart man, and I think he’ll be fun to work with.”

North Medford astronomy teacher and planetarium director Robert Black also appreciated Shumate’s perspective.

“My first teaching job was in the mid to late '80s in Texas and my first superintendent said that everybody in the district needed to work to support the classroom,” Black said. “I hadn't heard that message since the '80s, but I heard that today. I’m 100 percent behind that model.”

North Medford High School science teacher Josh Smith said he is hopeful that Shumate will be able execute all his ideas for the district.

"He's got a lot of good things to say, but people prove themselves through their actions," Smith said.

Staff will spend the rest of the week prepping for the new school year, which begins September 2. 

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