September 7, 2023
Dear PTS families,
Three years ago tomorrow, the Almeda fire tore through the Phoenix-Talent School District, destroying 2,428 homes and 173 businesses between Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford and displacing more than 3,000 people, including 798 PTS students.
As awful as those numbers are, they don’t do justice to the fire's full impact on so many of our families. Some of you reading this – about 100 PTS students at last count – are still living in what most would call a temporary housing situation, doubled-up with another family, or bunking in a motel room. And still others (over 300) whose lives were changed that day will not read this because they were forced to relocate and will likely never return to the place they called home.
If you’re like me, you still remember almost every detail about September 8, 2020 – the billowing smoke, the traffic jam and of course, that panicked confusion as we all struggled to get a grip on just how devastating the fire was. It still brings tears to my eyes every time I recall the conversation I had the following morning with a firefighter. That’s when I found out that all our schools were somehow saved and that our students would have a place to go once we managed to pick up the pieces. A huge thank you to our first responders!
Many of our families are still recovering – for them, there are some great resources, including our own Community Care program as well as the Jackson County Community Long-Term Recovery Group – but I continue to be inspired by the strength and resilience this community has demonstrated in the 36 months since the fire. One of the things I’m most proud of is that something that could have easily torn us apart instead brought us all together for a common cause, to help our neighbors in their hour of need. Staff, students, and families supported one another with open arms, and through the lens of that tragedy we saw clearly the true strength of PTS Rising.
Your friends and family members, as well as news reports, have no doubt been marking the three-year anniversary of the Almeda fire with recollections of that awful day, and for many of you that will mean revisiting the trauma and heartache caused by the events of September 8, 2020. Looking back can be therapeutic and painful. It’s also a reminder that we have come a long way since the fire and still have a long way to go. What comforts me, however, is the knowledge that we are headed in the right direction and especially that we are headed there together.
We sent this video to our friends in Hawaii when we were contacted by them. We wanted to share the hope that can be when we pull together. Hope you enjoy it.
Brent Barry, Superintendent
September 1, 2023
PTS superintendent Brent Barry welcomes back students and families heading into the 2023-24 school year.
Brent Barry has been Phoenix-Talent’s superintendent since 2017 when he was promoted from the role of assistant superintendent for academics and student programs. He worked his way up through the ranks, teaching health and math in Prineville, Oregon City, and Medford before taking over as vice principal and athletic director of Phoenix High School. Later, he served as principal at Orchard Hill Elementary, one of three elementary schools in the Phoenix-Talent School District, before becoming one of the district’s two assistant superintendents.
Prior to the 2021-22 school year the Oregon Association of School Executives (OASE) and the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) named Barry the 2022 Oregon Superintendent of the Year.
Barry was born and raised in the Rogue Valley, attending McLaughlin Middle School and later South Medford High School before heading to San Diego State University on a baseball scholarship. Barry later attended Southern Oregon University and Linfield College (now Linfield University), where he met his future wife Sara. The Barrys, who were married in 1996, have two daughters: Alex and Lauren.
Phoenix-Talent School District Superintendent
Executive assistant to the superintendent and school board secretary