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Phoenix High principal to lead Cascade Christian HS

Toby Walker will leave Phoenix at the end of this year, while Kalin Cross, principal of McLoughlin Middle School, will take his place
Toby Walker is leaving his job as principal of Phoenix High School to be principal at Cascade Christian. [Submitted photo]

Phoenix High School’s principal is leaving to head up Cascade Christian High School next year, and the principal of McLoughlin Middle School in Medford was chosen to replace him in Phoenix.

Toby Walker, who served as Phoenix High principal for four years, will be succeeded by McLoughlin’s Kalin Cross, the Phoenix-Talent School District.

“I have been incredibly blessed to serve in and be part of the Phoenix-Talent School District and Phoenix High School for 15 years. I have had the opportunity to work with and serve fantastic staff, students, families and this wonderful community, and for that, I am forever grateful,” Walker said. “I thank Phoenix-Talent for all the opportunities, experiences and memories. I wouldn't trade the last 15 years for anything.”

At the same time, Walker said he is also “incredibly excited” to serve at Cascade Christian.

“I firmly believe that all of us are called to serve a specific purpose, and if we don't keep our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open to that purpose, we can miss out on a crucial opportunity,” he stated. “With that, I am being called to serve and lead Cascade Christian, and I am thrilled to be part of their school community.”

In a statement about the hiring, Cascade Christian said Walker “articulates a strong vision for academics, discipling and community building.”

“We’re just thrilled to welcome Mr. Walker to the team at Cascade Christian High School and are excited about all the expertise and enthusiasm for students and strong school community that he brings to us,” Head of Schools Erik Ritschard stated in the release.

Walker will succeed Tim Dexter, who will return to his original role as principal for Cascade Christian Middle School.

“We look forward to having him and Mr. Walker work together as a team, with a closer focus and strategic emphasis on each of their respective schools,” Cascade Christian stated.

Cross’s career in public education began when she was hired as a ninth-grade language arts teacher at South Medford High School in 2012. She was later the school’s activities director before leaving for McLoughlin, where she was assistant principal before ascending to the top job.

Superintendent Brent Barry stated in a news release that Cross’s name “kept rising to the top” in the Phoenix High principal search, which included 11 applicants and three finalists.

“It’s very challenging any time you have to replace a great leader like Toby, but I think our students, staff and families are going to love what Kalin brings to PHS,” Barry said. “It’s a perfect fit, and I’m very excited to see what she has in store for the Pirate ship.”

Speaking to staff in the Phoenix High library Friday, Cross said every student she has met has “nothing but incredible things to say about how the staff here goes above and beyond for kids.”

But the interview process, before a panel of constituents, also convinced Cross that Phoenix was right for her.

“I really wanted to know, ‘OK, I’ve seen the stats; I’ve seen the percentages; I looked at the report card, but what is it?’ And every single person in the interview panel said, ‘It’s us. We’re the family; we’re the people,’” Cross said. “I believe in that so much, and I believe that staff sets the cadence for the school, and I am so excited to just be part of that rhythm here and to serve alongside you.”

The imminent shakeup in leadership comes at a unique time for the Medford School District, in particular.

The district is on the precipice of having its school board decide the new middle school attendance zone boundaries to make way for Oakdale Middle School when it opens in fall 2023.

District officials and school board members have said they’d like the decision on the boundaries to be made soon (likely June 2) so that leadership at Hedrick, Oakdale and McLoughlin can communicate and prepare to inform families of what the attendance zone changes will mean for their kids.

Hedrick’s principal is Beth Anderson, and at Oakdale, Karina Chavez Rizo, the current principal of White Mountain Middle School in Eagle Point, will be the new school’s first leader.

Natalie Hurd, spokesperson for the Medford School District, said that Charity McLeod, the former principal at Wilson, will succeed Cross at McLoughlin. Meanwhile, Jean Bendele, former assistant principal at Hoover Elementary, will take the helm at Wilson.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.