Progress drives new Rogue River School District boss

ROGUE RIVER — Just last spring, the community was in turmoil over the restructuring of schools and the closing of Evans Valley Elementary.

But Paul Young, the Rogue River School District's new superintendent, is not looking in the rearview mirror.

"Everything that we need to turn and focus on the future, and to make really great progress ... all those things are in place," said Young. "I think you can see that, and I can see that. ... I have really motivated community people. I have supportive businesses. I have a strong staff.

"I do have parents who have been waiting to see how we're going to be doing," he said, "and I've been getting a lot of feedback from those parents that they are pleasantly surprised with what we're doing."

Young, 53, was born in Los Angeles but grew up in the little town of Tenmile, outside Roseburg. His mother and his future mother-in-law were teachers.

Young earned a master's degree in education from the University of Oregon and taught for more than 18 years, starting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg and later in the Port Orford-Langlois School District. The subjects included programming robotics, videography and computer networking.

"I honestly thought I would probably teach for a few years and then wind up doing something in the private sector. But once I got into the classroom, I fell in love with the kids, and I could never leave after that," Young said.

"Teaching isn't the most highly paid profession in the United States, if you just look at it from a dollars-and-cents perspective. But being in the classroom, working with children, watching the light bulb come on as they learn new concepts, is an experience you can't understand until you've been there."

During his time at Port Orford-Langlois, he became technology coordinator and an assistant principal. He came to Rogue River from the Camas Valley School District, where he had been superintendent-principal since 2008.

For reasons he saw no point in revisiting, "Camas Valley was a district that was heavily divided when I came in," Young said. "I tend to look at all of the parts that make up the problem, the entire system, and then I look at how you can manipulate the parts, how you can use the resources, to make the system work."

Young sees Rogue River getting a big boost from its new special programs director, Kathy McCollum, who he said is extremely knowledgeable in making schools and teachers effective. McCollum is a former Medford elementary principal who also served as interim superintendent in that district before retiring. She also worked as interim director of school improvement at Southern Oregon Educational Service District.

"We are really working on focusing this district on a single set of goals," Young said. "One of the things that has plagued Rogue River in the past is that there has not been a clear, unified goal that everybody could buy into."

Young sees a lot of promise in the help Rogue Community College can offer in vocational training at Rogue River Junior-Senior High School. And he believes Rogue River's restructured schools can live with shrinking enrollment.

"We are not in the pinch position we have been in for the past several years, where our operating costs were significantly higher than our incomes," he said.

Reach Daily Courier reporter Howard Huntington at 541-474-3726 or hhuntington@thedailycourier.com.

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