When it comes to opening new schools and forming their identities, educator Chris Boyd has been there before.
In January 2009, he was chosen as the principal for under-construction Happy Valley Middle School in the Portland suburbs. Five years later, Bend-La Pine Schools hired him as the principal for the new Pacific Crest Middle School.
And this spring, Bend-La Pine hired him to lead its new high school, expected to open in southeast Bend in September 2021.
Boyd, 46, likes to think of a new school as a small town — a community of students, staff, families and even neighbors.
“Opening schools are like opening little towns, particularly a high school,” he said. “I think if you have a really healthy school, it’s seen as the hub of the community.”
Boyd, who grew up on a farm west of Salem, has been an educator since 1998, when he began teaching English at Sunrise Middle School in Clackamas. He’s worked in Bend since 2014, spending most of that time as principal of Pacific Crest. He has four kids: a senior and sophomore at Summit High School and twins in fourth grade at William E. Miller Elementary.
Despite the new school not opening for two years, Boyd said he’s already laying the groundwork for its identity, practices and specialized programs. Boyd said he needs two years to prep for the high school — unlike the one year he needed for Pacific Crest — because the scale is much larger.
“Instead of planning for 650 students, we’re planning for 1,600 students,” he said. “Instead of having introductory music, we’re planning for programs that will be lettered sports, where they’ll be competing statewide.”
One of Boyd’s first steps this fall will be to find six Bend-La Pine administrators and teachers to serve as his “design team,” he said. This group, who will continue their current Bend-La Pine jobs while working part-time for Boyd, will help shape the new school’s culture, programs and mission.
Boyd said that when opening both Pacific Crest and Happy Valley middle schools, the most difficult part was creating a distinct culture for the school.
“When students came here (to Pacific Crest) on their first day, some of those students had been at Cascade Middle School for two years, or Pilot Butte, or wherever,” he said. “They came here with an idea of what middle school was, and we had to work really hard to say, ‘Our identity and culture is different from where you came from.’”
Crafting a separate identity will be difficult for the new high school, which has not been named, as many of its students will likely be taken from neighborhoods that feed Bend High School, which has had more than a century to leave an impact, Boyd said.
“By the time we open as a new high school, Bend High School will be almost 110 years old,” he said. “They’ve had 110 years to shape and mold this powerfully strong culture and identity, and we’ll just be getting started.”
Boyd said the culture of his new school will be influenced by different factors. For one, it will host a Spanish-language dual-immersion program, which could entice students from around the school district.
Boyd said he also wanted to have a strong focus on interdisciplinary education, where teachers in different subjects collaborate. This is similar to the focus of two of Bend-La Pine’s magnet schools, Realms high and middle schools.
Another of Boyd’s goals is to promote internships and apprenticeships for students. This would let students see how their school subjects apply to real-world careers in Bend, he said.
Boyd also said he was considering eliminating barriers, including tests, for students to enter high-level or honors courses at the new school. However, he said he wouldn’t make any drastic changes until he received feedback from teachers.
This fall, Boyd said he would spend lots of time in Bend-La Pine’s middle and high schools, finding out which schools’ programs work and what programs his school could introduce. He’ll also host open house events where the community can give input on the new school’s name, mascot and colors — three things that will be decided during the 2019-20 school year, along with the school’s attendance area boundaries.
Boyd said he’ll make sure to gauge student opinion on the school’s name, mascot and colors — and not just middle schoolers who will eventually attend the new school, but also today’s high school students who will likely never set foot in the new school.
“They’re currently living in high school, and I think by going to that direct user, you’re likely to get the most authentic feedback,” Boyd said.
Most of the high school’s teaching staff will be hired in the spring of 2021, once the school district has an idea of what the school’s population will be in its first year, Boyd said. Construction work on the school, which will be located at the corner of Knott Road and SE 15th Street, began this summer.
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