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Article overlooked North High excellence

I was very frustrated when I read the article "North Medford seeks direction" in the May 15 Mail Tribune.

When I read the headline, I believed it would be a constructive article, perhaps about North Medford High School's anticipation of much-needed renovations and improvements, its progress toward small-school structure or its search for a permanent principal. I was sadly incorrect and terribly disappointed.

To begin with, I am angry that the article is so unjustly derogatory of North Medford's current principal, Ron Williams. When it says, "After a year without steadfast leadership "¦" it sounds as though Mr. Williams has done a poor job as principal when in fact quite the opposite is true.

Mr. Williams gave up retirement life specifically to provide North with a year of steadfast leadership, enabling North to conduct a thorough and thoughtful search for a permanent principal. He has done a fantastic job, and there are those of us who wish we could keep him as our principal.

He has gone into many classes to get to know students, and his office is always open. He attends every sporting event, play, concert, and more. He has done so much more than his temporary role as principal required of him, and for that we at North are all grateful.

Making comparisons between North and South is problematic on several levels. The article's statement, "Once renowned as the best of Medford's two high schools, North Medford now trails its sister school "¦" is unjust and misleading. Isolated comparisons give a false picture of school at North. Select examples misrepresent athletic and academic achievement at North and completely omit many other North accomplishments.

With regard to sports, each year North has multiple teams make state playoffs. This year North's volleyball and girl's golf teams took third in the state, and North's boys' tennis doubles team took the state title.

Furthermore, North's athletic teams have some of the highest collective grade point averages in the state: Boys' soccer (3.54), boys' track (3.67), girls' track (3.66), volleyball (3.88) and football (3.55) all finished with first-place grade point averages among 6A schools in the Oregon School Activities Association Dairy Farmers of Oregon Academic All-State standings. This hardly seems like "doldrums" to us.

With regard to academics, isolated test scores or failure rates do not give a complete picture of academic strength. North has a multitude of students enrolled in approximately 18 advanced-placement or college-level courses for which students may receive credit at universities nationwide. Additionally, North offers several vocational and technical classes for which students may receive community college credit. It is possible for students to graduate from North with more than a full year of college already completed.

Additionally, The Oregonian and OSAA sponsor The Oregon Cup, an award for "overall excellence by schools in academics, activities, and athletics." North consistently places in the top 10 in the state for this award. This year, North is currently standing in third place, as it did last year. In 2004, North finished first in the state.

With regard to school spirit and involvement, school spirit is somewhat intangible so is difficult to measure. School spirit is what students make of it, and involvement brings a sense of pride. North has a multitude of students involved in approximately 45 clubs, many of which participate in community activities. For example, Torch Honor Society contributes thousands of hours of community service each year. North's bands have won multiple awards this year, including first place at the district band competition, going on to state. Several of North's musicians won their categories in the district solo competition and went on to compete at the state level, as did North's drama, culinary arts and other vocational and technical groups.

Most seriously, comparisons between North and South provide potential for division and resentment between the two schools. It is important to look closely at the relationship between the schools.

We are rivals, always seeking to outplay each other in sports or outperform each other in activities, but this is a friendly rivalry — a way to challenge and improve ourselves to be our best. For example, school spirit is phenomenal at any North-South game — for both schools. No matter who wins, we all leave with smiles, laughing and joking with people from both schools.

Further, students from North and South compete against each other at the school level, then play with each other at the club level and in community activities. There are students from South who come to North to take specialized classes not offered at their school, and vice versa.

North and South support each other, and comparisons are counterproductive to the unity we have formed. North and South are two schools, but within one district, within one community.

Mary Struckmeier is a junior at North Medford High School.