Paisley opportunities abound

Small school in Lake County has international flavor

By Beau Eastes / The Bulletin / @beastes

Paisley High: Now hiring

Intrigued by the small-town pleasures of Paisley, the 200-person community in the middle of Lake County?

Paisley Public Charter School is looking for an individual or couple to supervise the district’s high school dormitory. The district expects that between 12 and 16 students — international and out-of-area residents — will live in the dorm during the 2014-15 school year. The salary depends on the number of students in the dorm, while benefits include medical, dental and participation in the Public Employees Retirement System. The dorm supervisor or supervisors will live in an apartment in the dorm. Supervisors have select weekends off, as well as winter break, spring break, and the summer.

For more information, contact the Paisley Public Charter School at 541-943-3111.

PAISLEY —

Paisley High senior Jessica Arrington has a theory about her school’s recent success at the state track and field championships.

For the past three years, the Broncos have ended the Class 1A girls state track and field meet with a win in the 1,600-meter relay. Three different lineups but always the same result.

This May, at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Paisley goes for its fourth straight girls 1,600-meter relay state title, something that would be a first in Oregon, according to Broncos coach Mark Douglas.

“If you can run fast here you can probably run real fast on a smooth track,” Jessica says looking down at the dirt oval that serves as Paisley High’s track. “This goat trail helps you build a better work ethic.”

With Highway 31 bordering the track to the south and a horse pasture to its north, the Broncos’ running surface isn’t even 400 meters long, checking in about 80 meters short. The running loop is a mix of sun-baked soil, river rocks and dandelions. And when Paisley’s throwers are practicing, runners best keep their heads on a swivel, as the school’s discus-throwing area encompasses a good part of the track.

But none of that seems to matter in the grand scheme of things to the students at this 33-person high school, one of the smallest public schools in the state.

“Yeah, we don’t have the best facilities,” says Jessica, a three-sport standout, math Olympian, and the school’s student body president, who plans to attend Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls this fall. “But it’s our work ethic. In this environment, it’s all about your work ethic.”

Located approximately 130 miles southeast of Bend just south of Summer Lake, the 200-person community of Paisley has ensured its hardworking students have a school to call their own through a series of bold and creative moves the past two decades. In the mid-1990s, Paisley Public Charter School built a 16-room dormitory to house out-of-area and foreign-exchange students, and more recently the district created an online K-8 distance learning program that has doubled the district’s total enrollment to just under 300.

“Having the distance learning program, that keeps us afloat,” says Bill Wurtz, a longtime Bend-La Pine Schools administrator who is in his first year serving as Paisley’s superintendent and high school principal. “It keeps us solvent.”

Despite having a high school student body roughly the same size — 33 kids — as some classes at Bend High or Mountain View, Paisley High is per capita one of the most multicultural schools in Oregon, with international students making up 20 to 30 percent of its enrollment. In the last two years Paisley has hosted foreign exchange students from Kyrgyzstan, China, Russia, Mongolia, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Ecuador, and Germany.

“The hard thing is you get to know them, become really good friends with them and then they leave,” says Bronco sophomore Lizzie Hyde, who stayed in the dorm last year.

Lizzie, whose family has a ranch in Beatty, a small unincorporated community about 100 miles west of Paisley, was home-schooled until her freshman year, when her parents sent her to live in the Paisley dorm.

“When someone is from Mongolia, you think about Genghis Khan and sheep-herding,” Lizzie adds, “but they’re from the city. … It’s really interesting.”

The school’s international component is another draw to Paisley, says dorm supervisor Kris Norris.

“Our valedictorian last year, Tess O’Leary, is a sixth-generation cattle rancher,” says Norris, who manages the dorm with her husband Michael. “Her roots run deep here. But her speech focused mostly on how open she is to the world because she’s always had foreign exchange students in her high school classes.”

While Paisley has traditionally relied on international students to boost its enrollment numbers, the Broncos are hoping to entice more out-of-area Oregon students in the coming years. The school district is running print and radio ads in Bend, Medford and Ashland, among other places, ideally to secure more Oregon students who want smaller class sizes, more one-on-one attention, and a better chance at playing varsity sports.

“We don’t think we’ll get too many families that’ll move their whole family down to Paisley,” Wurtz says. “But we’re trying to target families who live in the outlying areas that don’t want their kids going to a school with 1,500 or 1,700 kids.”

An added benefit to families who are interested in sending their children to Paisley is the county’s scholarship opportunities. The Anna F. Jones Scholarship, established in 1975, is awarded to college-bound students who spend their entire high school career at Paisley. While the foundation originally only benefited students whose parents were Lake County residents, which excluded most dorm residents, the scholarship is now available to students who accumulate all of their high school credits at Paisley, regardless of where their parents live.

“The amount varies depending on financial need,” says Paisley guidance councilor Mike Jones, a 1997 graduate of Paisley High who himself was a recipient of the Anna F. Jones Scholarship. “But the amount of grads we have on scholarship (each year) is typically pretty low, maybe around 10 students. When that’s the case, they’re able to divvy up (the money) in a very helpful way.”

According to Jones, low-need students received between $1,000 and $2,000 this school year while high-need students were awarded between $12,000 and $14,000. Scholarships renew each academic year as long as students are in good standing with their colleges.

“The big selling point out there (to come to school in Paisley) is for a student who wants some room to grow and figure out who they are, they’re not going to be lost in the crowd in Paisley,” says Jones, who after getting out of the military moved his family of seven back to Paisley. “Everyone here is a standout. Your individuality shines through. “

The scholarships are just part of the Paisley experience, according to Jones.

“My biggest class since I’ve been here (the past three years) is 22 kids,” Jones says. “This year my biggest class is 16. I have a class of three, a class of seven and a class of 10 and a class of 16. … The great thing here with our staff of five or six high-school level teachers, it’s easy to get the ball rolling when action needs to be taken or when a kid needs individual attention.”

All that personalized instruction has led to a steady stream of Paisley grads excelling at the university level. Jenna Chiono, a 2009 Bronco alum, attended Willamette University in Salem on the Mark O. Hatfield Service Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship she earned coming out of Paisley High.

“We didn’t always have everything readily available at Paisley, but the opportunity was always there if you wanted to work hard and makesomething happen,” says Chiono, 22, who works for a staffing agency in Duluth, Minn. “That’s the reality of life and college and work. You have to get the process started, but people are there to help you as long as you’re going to try.

“It was such a valuable experience,” adds Chiono, who while at Paisley High went out for volleyball, basketball and track, presided as the student body president, wrote for the yearbook, worked for the school radio station, participated in the Future Farmers of America, and served as a student representative on the state board of education. “At Paisley, you’ve got the ability to step into a lot of different roles.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0305; beastes@bendbulletin.com.