New faces at Monument School

<I>The Eagle/Cheryl Hoefler</I><BR>New superintendent/principal Earl Pettit settles in at Monument School's helm.

MONUMENT - Schools in a small community such as Monument might expect one or two new faces when the doors open each fall.

This year, there are four - all among the staff.

New on the education side are superintendent/prinicipal Earl Pettit and math teacher Phillip Zoller.

Pettit, who has a long career in education, is most recently from Douglas, Ariz., where he was superintendent for the Douglas School District.

He also served in the U.S. Army, where he was a military intelligence officer, retiring after 13 years.

"I've always been the 'hired gun' coming in to clean things up, and I've been successful at it," he said.

But Pettit said he's done with that role and is "happy to walk into a successful place here."

Despite Monument School's already steady program, Pettit said they are always on the lookout for areas to improve, such as language arts and writing skills.

He said he's thrilled to have such a wonderful staff and also gave kudos for involvement from the parents.

"This is the most fun job I've ever had in my life," he said.

He also is enjoying the small-town environment for his two children, ages 7 and 9 - he said they already have made more friends in Monument than they did in Douglas.

Raised in Montana's Flathead Valley, Pettit said he attended a small school in an area he compared as similar to Monument.

His hobbies include traveling, mostly to places that are off the beaten path. He's been to China and Turkey and has his sights on central Africa and the Congo next.

Pettit hopes that his fiancee in Thailand will soon be joining him here.

"This is where I want to be and I'm here for the duration," he said.

He's even been drawn into volunteering already.

After letting his knowledge of goat breeds be known to Grant County Extension agent Gary Delaney, Pettit wound up judging goats at this year's county fair.

"I had a great time," Pettit said, "and I hope to do it again sometime."

Also new to the area is Zoller, who is teaching six high school math classes at Monument. He is one of the eight teachers at Monument.

Originally from Kent, Wash., Zoller lived in the San Francisco Bay area for about 25 years from the 1970s to late '90s, mostly working in the high-tech field.

After some time in Fairbanks, Alaska, he and his wife, Miranda Ho, a software analyst, moved to Beaverton about three years ago.

Zoller began pursuing a career in education while in Beaverton and was substitute teaching there when he started looking around the state for a full-time teaching job.

He said with new teachers having such a hard time right now trying to find jobs in Oregon, he expected it might take awhile.

Zoller saw the position open in Monument, looked up the town on Google maps and decided it looked inviting.

"My mind became set on a rural environment," Zoller said.

The only downside so far is that his wife and two daughters, Josie, 7, and Natalie, 5, are still in Beaverton for now, with Zoller commuting there on weekends.

But otherwise, he's enjoying his new job, said that Monument is a nice community and the people are very friendly.

He like the small class sizes, too; one of them has only one student.

Zoller also teaches website design and development. According to Pettit, they decided to try out the new elective class precisely to take advantage of Zoller's expertise.

"I love teaching kids," Zoller said, "and I love teaching here."

One more perk about the school: "The cafeteria food here is really good," Zoller said.

The two new people responsible for those tasty meals are Jody Milton and Kristi Emerson. Emerson runs things for breakfast and Milton heads up the lunch counter.

Both are longtime Monument residents. They replace Barbra Hawkins, who moved out of the area.

Monument's enrollment in kindergarten through grade 12 is 45, including 22 in elementary and 23 in high school and junior high.

The senior class has five students.

Those numbers are down from last year, which ended with 56 students, according to school secretary Jennie Mund.

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