Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Ben Merrill to replace Jerry Peacock as Baker High School principal

By Chris Collins


With school districts throughout the state scrambling to secure modulars, the Baker School District is one of the few to make a successful purchase.

Doug Dalton, the district's chief financial officer and business manager, told the School Board Tuesday night that the district is the new owner of three 2011 used modulars, at a cost of $318,000, that will be placed on the grounds of Brooklyn Primary School.

Two of the buildings will be used to house kindergartners in 2014-15 and the third will be an open space that can be used for PE, music and reading classes.

Dalton said district maintenance crews will begin the prep work needed to install the modulars at the end of the school year this spring. They are scheduled to arrive July 1 and the plan is to have them in place and ready for teachers to move in by the first week of August.

The district will continue to offer a half-day kindergarten program in the modulars with some enhanced offerings in 2014-15. Classrooms will move from the northwest wing of Baker High School where kindergartners have been housed for the past five years.

In 2015-16 the district will have full-day kindergarten, as the state requires.

A fourth modular building will be added to the Brooklyn grounds to accommodate the full-day kindergarten classrooms if state funding is available to finance the expansion. An additional modular also is expected to be needed at Haines School to accommodate projected enrollment increases, Dalton said.

Haines was awarded a $5,000 state facility grant to help pay for its modular building, and Dalton said he will apply for another state grant for the Brooklyn modulars. There is a possibility the state will provide funding to help pay for modular expansions across Oregon as districts work to decide how best to prepare for all-day kindergarten, he said.

Of the 200 districts seeking to buy modulars, Baker was one of three or four that were successful, Dalton said.

Moving the kindergartners out of the high school will make way for expansion of career and technical programs there. Jerry Peacock, Baker High School principal for the past 22 years, will take the lead in that expansion.

Peacock will serve as director of the Baker Technical Institute (BTI) in 2014. Ben Merrill, the current BHS assistant principal, will be the new BHS principal.

The district has received grant funding to help expand its career and technical training programs.

Peacock said today that he will focus on developing vocational pathways to help prepare students for the workforce. The pathways will be based on what businesses in the community say they are looking for in entry level employees.

"It has to be something that supports a need in our community," he said.

The program also will focus on "soft skills" such as the ability to communicate, collaborate, solve problems, show up on time and work hard on the job, Peacock said.

"We eventually want to encourage adults in the community to be a part of that," he added.

Peacock also will be directing activities at Eagle Cap, the district's innovative high school housed at the North Baker Campus, and looking to expand the college credit available to those students. And he is charged with developing a GED program and a new alternative school that would provide a more suitable option for students whose needs are not being met at BHS, Eagle Cap or the district's charter schools.

With the exception of the charter schools, which stand on their own, Peacock said he looks at the other programs as "a school within a school" all supporting each other.

Peacock believes his experience as BHS administrator for the past 31 years, including seven years at Brooklyn and two years as assistant BHS principal, as well as his knowledge of the community will serve him well in his new role.

"It's pretty exciting," he said of the new position. "It's a great opportunity for kids and hopefully it will have an impact on our community."