Celebrating our 25th Year

Our Timeline

For 25 years, Bridges Middle School has been committed to providing students with the opportunity to develop self-confidence, increase academic achievement, and learn the self-advocacy skills needed to achieve life-long success.


The idea for Bridges Middle School emerges from a Providence Youth Services program for students with learning disabilities. Supported by Providence, Gately Academy opens in September 1998 with its first staff member, Mr. John Pank.


 The school continues to grow and passionate new teachers join the team — Ms. Desi Pritchard in 2004, Mr. Craig Lowery in 2005, and Mrs. Heather Hofeld in 2007.


 Gately Academy hosts its first annual Top God student showcase, kicking off a 15+ year tradition.


Providence ends its fiscal sponsorship of the school, and the parent community elects a committee to oversee the transition to an independent nonprofit organization. The founding board of directors then hire Beven Byrnes to lead the school through an exciting period of growth and transition.


With community and student input, the school officially changes its name to Bridges Middle School and a new location for the school is secured on Marine Drive.


Founding Board member, Pat Karamanos bequests $200,000 to the school to provide crucial financial aid to families in need. Dr. Carrie Hall is welcomed to the teaching staff. The administration and Board focus on future growth, building academic programming, outreach, and marketing. Growth is more gradual than anticipated, and the board elects to reduce the administrative staff by combining the Executive Director and Academic Principal position. Bridges esteemed principal, Craig Lowery, transitions to a leadership position at another school.


The beloved Mr. John Pank retires and Bridges successfully renews its AdvancEd external accreditation. With community input, the Board adopts a strategic plan with four main goals: to steward a vision of learning, increase academic achievement, increase enrollment, and increase community support.


Facing reduced enrollment, the Board opts for an aggressive community fundraising campaign to save the school from closure. Stakeholders, families, and supporters help to raise $150,000 in 3 weeks, and a plan is created to address decreased enrollment and move the school to a more central location.


The board seizes an opportunity to secure a below-market lease rate on a new location in late August. With a herculean effort from the entire Bridges community, the school reopens to students at SW 1st Ave. on September 9, 2017. Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Bridges’ new facility boasts floor to ceiling windows, large open floor plan with spacious classrooms, a beautiful reception area, full kitchen, art room, private counseling offices, indoor play area, outdoor fenced play areas, and a private parking lot. Applications for the following school year double.


Bridges celebrates its 20th year of operations with 50 enrolled students and a passionate and engaged faculty. Mr. Pat Lautenbach joins the growing Flamingo 5th/6th room as assistant teacher. The Board resumes planning efforts and publishes a strategic plan for the school with the primary goals to: grow and diversify its student population, strengthen the academic program, build organizational capacity, improve financial stability and enhance community engagement.


In March 2020, Bridges halts in-person instruction due to the emerging COVID 19 pandemic. With only one week of preparation, the staff creates a full, four-day, virtual schedule, including all core academics, lunch groups, social connection time, and open office hours with counselors. The 2020 Gala pivots to an entirely virtual format with only three weeks notice, exceeding fundraising goals.


Bridges’ lead teacher, and Principal/Executive Director are both diagnosed with cancer, and the school community rallies behind them. Long time teacher and Board member, Dr. Carrie Hall is appointed Academic Advisor. The school year is conducted almost entirely online, with the Annual Fund and Gala combined into a single, virtual fundraiser. In-person instruction resumes safely in April of 2021, weeks ahead of the surrounding public and private schools, owing to Bridges’ small class sizes. Beven Byrnes announces her retirement amidst ongoing cancer treatment.


Many long time staff retire or move on to other careers amidst the continuing global pandemic. Former parent Mrs. Karen Pane is hired as the Office Manager, Dr. Karen McKibbin is welcomed to the clinical team, and a second 5th/6th Grade Flamingo classroom is opened, taught by Mr. Jay Keenan. Bridges completes its 5-year external review in June of 2022 with an institution IEQ score of 316, with schools around the world averaging 278-283.


Bridges welcomes new staff, including Mr. Anthony Leonette as school counselor, and Bridges’ alumni, Mr. Zach Zeitzius as experienced paraeducator. Dr. Carrie Hall is contracted as Interim Principal and Beven Byrnes shifts her role to Executive Director. The annual Gala is held in person, for the first time in 3 years, and exceeds fundraising goals. Zalika Gardner is contracted to support leadership in implementing an intentional and thoughtful professional development plan.


Bridges 25th anniversary year kicks off with a focus on student-centered decision making, staff collaboration, high school preparedness, social-emotional learning, diversity, equity and inclusion. Mrs. Heather Quinter, Mr. Pat Lautenbach, Mr. David Ekstrom and Mrs. Leia Jex are welcomed to the growing upper grades teaching team, and Dr. Carrie Hall and Beven Byrnes agree to stay in Interim Principal and Executive Director roles through the school year and beyond. In 2024 Bridges will launch its new and improved website!

25 Years | This Is Our Story