For 25 years, Marshall High School has served as an alternative for students who wanted a more intimate educational environment than what was offered at Bend’s three large high schools. In September, after substantial changes, Marshall will still serve that purpose, but with a narrower mission: to be the career and technical education hub of Bend-La Pine Schools.

The school district decided to shift Marshall’s focus after promoting Sal Cassaro, former director of secondary programs, to Marshall’s principal. Cassaro, 50, was a career and technical education — known as CTE — curriculum designer for High Desert Educational Service District from 2007 to 2012, creating programs for schools from The Dalles to Lakeview. District officials figured they’d put his expertise to use.

“We see this as capitalizing on (Cassaro’s) strengths and capitalizing on the strengths that already exist at Marshall,” said Deputy Superintendent Jay Mathisen. “Let’s continue to be good at what Marshall is good at, which is providing a smaller, more intimate setting for students.”

Cassaro, a Brooklyn native, couldn’t hold back his excitement regarding the changes awaiting the 189 students expected at Marshall in September.

“We are essentially building a new school,” he said. “We have rewritten the student handbook, we have rewritten the curriculum guide (and) we have hired seven or eight new teachers and staff.”

According to Cassaro, students will be presented with “four and a half” CTE programs to choose from. The first is construction technology, which will produce students ready to enter the workforce, thanks to ample internship and work experience, Cassaro said.

“We’re not really into building chairs and chessboards and those types of things,” he said. “We want to help fit industry’s need to produce electricians, plumbers, HVAC, framing, roofing, tile … that’s what we’re about.”

The other programs include:

• Science, technology, engineering and math (also known as STEM), in which students will work with 3D printers, engineering plotters and laser engravers

• Business, marketing and entrepreneurship

• A job-shadowing program at St. Charles Bend for students who want to work in the medical field

• A National Guard-sponsored program in which students can participate in ROTC and take military science classes.

Debbie Cole, the center director at Cascades East Area Health Education Center, which runs the St. Charles job-shadow program, said Marshall had previously participated, but students came after school, which didn’t work for kids who worked an after-school job. The program, in which students will follow caregivers in 15 departments from pathology to the emergency department, will now be during the school day.

“Marshall students, who are absolutely the target population for us — under-served, often minority, often the first in the family to go to college — those are the kids we want to come here. But those kids often have tremendous pressures on them outside of school,” Cole said. “Coming after school was not an ideal way to get these students to fully participate.”

Cassaro said he hopes Marshall’s hands-on approach to classes will appeal to students.

“What we’re about is giving kids a real purpose for getting out of bed and coming to school every day,” he said. “(They’ll say) ‘Hey, I’m going to school, and I’m going to understand why I need to learn math because the Pythagorean Theorem in math class is actually how you square a building.’”

After a few years, Cassaro said he plans on “blending” the CTE and more traditional academic classes at Marshall. For example, a geometry credit might be earned in a construction class.

Cassaro also praised his new hire, Cindy Jarrett, whom he called “the best school-to-career professional within 300 miles.” Jarrett will help students find internships and guide them toward a career path.

If a student gets partway through one of Marshall’s CTE programs and decides to switch, Cassaro said the change will be painless. He added that a student realizing what they don’t like is important.

“We just saved their parents about $20,000 in college tuition,” he joked.

The new Marshall High is receiving some physical changes to go along with its new curriculum. Bend-La Pine is building a $6.5 million new gym and engineering-focused classrooms for the high school, both of which should be completed in January. Earlier in August, Project Manager Hal Beumel said the project was still on budget. Marshall will also have a secure lobby by the first day of school. All of these projects are funded by the 2017 $268 million bond.

Because Marshall is still a relatively small campus, Cassaro said every classroom will be used at every point in the day.

“The days where (teachers) have a cup of coffee and a sandwich at your desk during your prep period, those are gone,” he said. “You better walk to Starbucks and get off campus, because we’re using your classroom for something else.”

Despite the ongoing construction and cramped quarters, Cassaro said he was more than ready to start the school year.

“I’m excited to get students in the building, start talking about their hopes, dreams and aspirations, and go forward from there,” he said.

Mathisen seems to feel the same way as his new principal.

“This could be a new season for Marshall, and we’re excited for them to continue building on their success.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854;