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Texas man to head Medford schools

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The Medford School Board has hired Bret Champion as its new district superintendent to replace Brian Shumate.

“I’m blown away by the quality of candidates that applied for this, and this one that we’ve chosen is outstanding,” said Cynthia Wright, chairwoman of the Medford School Board.

The board voted to begin contract negotiations at a special meeting Tuesday night. Board members took turns praising Champion’s leadership and previous experience.

Champion, who comes to Medford from the 54,000-student Klein Independent School District in Harris County, Texas, said he’s excited to make the move.

“At the end of the day, we’re all about educating all students and ensuring that every kid has an equal life chance,” he said. “And that’s true regardless of the size of the district.”

Before he was hired by the Klein ISD, Champion worked for more than two decades in the Leander Independent School District as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and superintendent.

He said he loves Klein ISD, but a serious health scare last year caused him to re-evaluate what he wanted to pursue professionally and personally. He started looking for other jobs.

Champion had never been to Oregon before applying for Medford’s superintendent position.

“The work this district is doing with the Pathways and the focus on students really appeals to me,” he said. “Everyone I talked to talks about the most important thing, which is keeping students at the center of everything.”

He thanked Shumate, who was not present at the meeting, for his work.

Shumate will leave his post June 30, after five years at the helm. In February, the Troup County School System Board of Education in LaGrange, Georgia,unanimously voted to hire him.

Shumate said he and his wife began to look for jobs in the Kentucky area this past Thanksgiving. Significant familial events, from children’s marriages and the birth of their first grandchild to death and illness, made them want to be closer again, he said.

“It’s very bittersweet,” Shumate said in February when he was hired.

During Shumate’s time in the Medford district, the four-year graduation rate jumped from65.21% in 2014 to 80.5% in 2018. One of Shumate’s passions was introducing and growing the district’s Pathways program for high school students based on their interests.

Wright said she expects Champion will fit in “super well” with the focus of driving more personalized learning and a wider range of options.

“I’m confident he will build on what we started,” she said. “I think we need to buckle our seat belts and get ready to go.”

The board will begin negotiating Champion’s new contract Wednesday morning, building on Shumate’s most recent contract. After two contract renewals, Shumate’s salary this school year will total $212,000. By next year, his salary would have reached $230,000.

Champion’s contract in Klein is $340,000 per year, not including any accrued vacation time, according to the Klein ISD’s website.

He will spend the next few days touring the area and meeting with community members, according to the Medford School District.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Dr. Bret Champion
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune{ } Bret Champion addresses the Medford School Board after being announced as the new superintendent Tuesday at Central Medford High School.