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PHS puts Measure 98 to good use

PHOENIX — Phoenix High School Principal Don Rugraff found a committed staff that didn’t always have enough time to do what they wanted during his first year. But as Rugraff enters his second school year, a voter-approved measure may provide some of the time needed to pursue desired outcomes.

“(The teachers) are committed and passionate about their work, and they want all kids to succeed. When it doesn’t happen they are frustrated,” said Rugraff. “It’s about time and realizing there are things they can't control."

Measure 98 was approved by Oregon voters last fall to set up or expand career and technical education (CTE) in high schools, increase college-level education in high schools and create dropout prevention strategies. Phoenix-Talent School District received $325,524 in Measure 98 funds for 2017-18 and will get $338,503 for the following school year.

PHS hopes to create internships for students in the career track programs it has had for a number of years. There are tracks in agriculture, auto technology, marketing, digital media and health care. Students often complete the three-year programs by the end of their junior year, but the school lacked the resources to work with businesses to establish internships.

“Ideally we would like to get three to five internships in each pathway and one to two industry tours in each pathway,” said Rugraff.

Academic Adviser Tami Ingwerson, who has worked on CTE during many of her 15 years, will gain an assistant through Measure 98 funds that will free up time to allow creation of an internship program and other tasks. She also will continue in an adviser role.

“At this point, we are still making our plans,” said Ingwerson. “This year will really be about figuring out with some specifics, what directions our programs will need to go.”

The new specialist will support both advising and CTE programs advancement. The specialist will work with students who are not on track with credit to complete their diplomas. In addition, newly hired replacement Assistant Principal Dave Ehrhardt will have CTE responsibilities as part of his position.

Marketing, automotive technology, agriculture and digital media get federal Perkins grants to help with the programs, said Ingwerson. There are also career tracks in health care. A culinary track will be created following class offerings for several years. Career track programs are tied to offerings at community colleges, and students can earn college credits while in high school.

Measure 98 also adds an attendance specialist who will be a field person to make home visits, appear in court and help families in need of special assistance so that students can stay in school, said Rugraff.

Extra funding also allowed the school to bring back a full-time art teacher and a world languages teacher. Both positions had been scheduled for elimination as the district faced a more constrained budget for this year.

New students will start school Tuesday, and all students will be in class Wednesday.

PHS ranked 20th in Oregon in this year’s U.S. News & World Report evaluation of top high schools in the nation, up 10 positions from last year’s ranking. Locally, Ashland High School ranked 17th and North Medford High School ranked 30th. PHS was ranked at 2444th overall in the nation. U.S. News & World Report creates its rankings by reviewing data from 22,000 high schools across the nation.

“That’s a nice little accolade and honor, but that’s an outcome,” said Rugraff. “We are going to continue to work on ways that best serve our kids. If we do that, all those other things will happen.”

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.