Search on for Medford schools superintendent

The Medford School Board will hire a search firm to help find a replacement for departing Superintendent Phil Long.

A subcommittee of the board has so far spoken with four different companies in an effort to locate a new district head. They expect to speak with more agencies once they put the head-hunting process out to bid in about a week, said board President Jeff Thomas.

"We're looking for a strong leader," said Thomas. "Someone who will fit the values of our community."

Long's contract expires in June 2014. He told the board in August that he plans to retire from the district after 30 years as a teacher, administrator and, for the past eight years, as its superintendent.

Thomas has described the position as a key leadership post within the community. In addition to the search for candidates, the process to select Long's replacement will include town hall meetings and input from parents, students and community members, said Thomas.

Long began his career with the Medford School District in 1984 as a middle school English and German teacher. In 1990 he was appointed assistant principal at South Medford High School. From there he moved to district-level administrative positions as supervisor of secondary curriculum and director of curriculum and instruction. In 2005, the board appointed him superintendent.

A highlight of Long's tenure was the 2006 passage of a $189 million school bond measure, which allowed the district to replace or renovate each of its schools. Long was also at the helm for the creation of the Central Medford High School alternative school and for the development of small "schools within a school" system at South Medford High School.

After dipping into reserves for years, the district has received a $23.3 million increase to use over two years to add teachers and staff and make safety improvements. Long has said he also hopes to add four instructional days to the existing 170 days and perhaps reduce class size.

The most recent teachers' contract ran from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2013. The rules in the contract remain in place while bargaining teams from each side negotiate a new agreement. The district and the teachers union engaged in a tense, 10-hour negotiation session Tuesday. A second mediation session is slated to begin at 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 17.

If there is no settlement, mediation can continue or one side can declare an impasse, in which case both parties would have to submit their final offers. Teachers could then go on strike after giving 10 days' notice.

In the past, a minority of the board members have questioned the district's below-average graduation rates and expressed concern over Long's decision to grant pay raises to administrators as part of a package in which the administrators took on a greater portion of their health insurance expenses.

The board agreed earlier this year not to renew Long's contract, but did not move to remove him immediately.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or

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