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H.D. Weddel and Mark Neffendort ready to walk away after leading Madras High School to incredible graduation improvement

In a couple months, H.D. Weddel and Mark Neffendorf will drive home to Bend after their last day working at Madras High School. They'll be able to make that hour trek south on 97 with pride, knowing they delivered on their promise and helped MHS reach new heights.

Special circumstances surrounded the hiring in 2015 of Neffendorf and Weddel, two people who were late in their careers, essentially coming out of retirement, both public about plans to only work a couple of years, to help put the school on better footing, then make an exit.

But they came with a ton of credentials, and the school board and district administration jumped at the chance to bring them on.

The "two-headed" attack, when all is said and done, proved a huge success.

Under the leadereship of Neffendorf and Weddel, graduation rates, which were dismal and a black mark on 509-J, shot through the roof. Graduation went from 57 percent to 91 percent, from 33 percent for Native American students to 80 percent.

Several targeted projects that gave students more hands-on options, more options in general, were adopted. Among the biggest changes in the district, an alternative school (though district officials dislike the term alternative) was started, the Bridges school. Many kids who weren't succeeding in the regular high school went across town to Bridges. Within the Bridges school, 71 percent graduated.

Many of the kids who wound up going to Bridges would have been making up part of that near-50 percent of the MHS students who weren't graduating a few years back. To be at 71 percent within Bridges, that's fantastic.

What's just as important as the great graduation increase was how Neffendorf and Weddel were able to change the culture at MHS.

When they started, the principals were somewhat flabbergasted, seeing many students aimlessly walking the halls, how assemblies would be collections of quiet, blank stares.

That isn't the case any more. More students started taking more pride in their own efforts at school, and, what do you know, school pride increased.

Both men, like the good leaders they are, praised the teachers and other support individuals within the school. And it's true, many others deserve praise as well.

But it started with Weddel and Neffendorf. Their impacts will be long felt.


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