YONCALLA — Longtime Yoncalla principal Brian Berry has been named the new superintendent of the Yoncalla School District, replacing Jan Zarate, who retired in June.
Berry may have been born and raised in Iowa, but he is no stranger to the city of Yoncalla. He’s been working with the district since 1996 and continues to enjoy working with children.
“I like seeing students succeed and being a part of that,” Berry said. “It’s a huge process, but I want every student who graduates to be better and more intelligent than I could ever be.”
Before his arrival to Yoncalla, Berry graduated from Oelwein High School, in Oelwein, Iowa. He later attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he graduated with a degree in physical education.
Upon moving to Oregon in 1990 with his wife, Jean, the couple’s first stop was Eugene. Once there, Berry earned his master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. He also earned a certificate in special education.
His first job was with East Primary School in the Sutherlin School District, where he worked for four years as a special education teacher. He then taught special education for a year at Harding Elementary School in Corvallis.
In 1996, Berry began teaching special education at Yoncalla High School.
“I love special ed,” Berry said. It may be one of the more difficult fields in education, but Berry claims, “it’s one of the most rewarding, it’s an incredible field. I love it to this day.”
Berry eventually earned a certificate in administration at the UO while teaching at Yoncalla. The superintendent at that time then asked Berry if he would consider serving as high school principal in 2003.
With plans to step down, Zarate recently asked Berry if he would consider taking on her role as superintendent. Berry agreed but will continue to serve as the middle and high school principal as well.
In August, Berry plans to meet with the Yoncalla School Board to finalize the official superintendent goals. But today he has four personal goals of his own.
His first goal proposes to expand the dual credit offerings at the high school along with post secondary opportunities including college and trade schools.
“I want students to get ongoing training so they are able to get out and get a job,” he said.
Berry’s second goal aims to improve communication with the community. He plans to get a new reader board that will help interact with local residents.
“Keeping people better informed is a lot of work, but we owe it to the community to do that,” he said. “We have to be better about getting the information out.”
His third goal proposes a seamless transition for preschool to 12th grade. With the school district recently established a high-quality preschool program with parents getting involved, Berry would like to see that momentum continue into high school.
His last goal is a long-term maintenance plan for the school buildings. Currently, the school district has three seismic grants to improve the buildings. The elementary school is being upgraded now, while the high school will be upgraded next year.
“After that, the board needs to sit down and have a conversation about what the next steps are, as far as our buildings go, and to put a plan in place,” Berry said. “It’s long-term planning.”
Today, Berry lives in Cottage Grove with his wife who’s a retired medical social worker. Berry, 57, said he has no plans to retire soon because he still has much work to do with many children’s lives to impact.