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A positive result

Steve Wisely's tenure as schools chief was good for the district

The sum of any lengthy career is like a math problem, with numbers added and subtracted each year and totaled at the end.

Steve Wisely's career as superintendent of the Medford School District should be measured that way, with the total given more weight than the parts. That total clearly comes up in positive territory.

As a former math teacher, Wisely probably appreciates a good equation. While counting the negative factors is no fun ' especially if those negatives are being dumped in your lap ' he recognizes that it's the total that really matters.

And Wisely's total in his 18 years at the helm was impressive. He directed the overhaul of a district that was in financial and educational disarray and he brought stable leadership to a system that had suffered from instability at the top for far too long.

Wisely's final year was difficult, a situation uncomfortably familiar to most school administrators in Oregon. Budget cuts led to a shortened school year, lost teaching positions and program cuts.

— The troubles were compounded by a school watchdog group that raised a variety of concerns and by Wisely's secret retirement, in which the school board agreed to allow him to retire and then be rehired on a contract basis. The retirement deal was not announced and when word finally leaked out, many people were upset that the superintendent was given a golden parachute just as the district faced its worse financial crisis ever.

But you can't measure a career by one crisis or one year. For Wisely, the positives began almost from the day he was hired in 1985. The Medford School District had seen five superintendents come and go in three years. Morale was low and the financial situation rocky when Wisely arrived. He brought a cheerleading enthusiasm and a fiscally conservative approach that helped the district recover emotionally and financially.

Wisely oversaw the opening of South Medford High School, passage of bond measures to improve facilities and build new schools and, most important, the rebuilding of community pride in its schools.

Some critics would say Wisely was too much of a micro-manager, too involved in what went on at the school level instead of focusing on broader policy. That may have been true at times, but his focus on those smaller issues was driven by his determination to improve the district.

Above all, Steve Wisely was ' and is ' a supporter of Medford schools. He wanted excellence for his district and, by and large, he achieved it. He leaves the district a much better place than it was when he arrived.

And that's an equation that adds up to success for all of us.

A path less traveled

Don Stathos, the father of the Oregon bicycle law, has started the Afghanistan and Iraq Needy Children's Bicycle Foundation to help poor children in the war-torn countries. Stathos's plan is to buy new bicycles and have them distributed by charitable organizations.

His attitude toward the project reflects his pragmatic approach to serving in the state Legislature in the early 1970s. After campaigning on a bicycle, the Jacksonville Republican pushed through the first state law in the country setting aside — percent of state highway funds to build bike and pedestrian paths. The path between Medford and Jacksonville is named in his honor.

He says sending bikes to Iraqi and Afghan kids may help the image of U.S. soldiers there ' but that's not why he's doing it. He's doing it because he wants to send bikes to kids. If the soldiers benefit too, so much the better.

We could use more projects motivated by a desire to do something good for someone else regardless of the political ramifications.

To support Stathos' project, call him at 770-2000 or write his foundation at AINCBF., P.O. Box 659, Medford, OR 97501-0044.