October 8, 2012
With the Governor’s focus on 40/40/20 (40% of high school graduates acquire a four year university degree; 40% of graduates achieve a two year community college associates degree, and; 20% of graduates are trade/technical ready with a high school diploma), our District is exploring multiple options for our high school students to achieve success and opportunities beyond high school. One of these expanded options is a partnership with LBCC and Oregon State University which will allow our high school students to receive college credits and an associate’s degree while simultaneously acquiring a high school diploma. This will help create a seamless path to a four year university, such as Oregon State University. We have met with key leaders at both LBCC and OSU to begin a more detailed plan.
Along with the expanded options conversations, our secondary leadership team and key teacher leaders have been exploring a deeper understanding around proficiency-based education. Our elementary schools have taken the preliminary steps toward proficiency with the introduction to a standards-based report card. Generally, proficiency-based education begins with conversations around grading practices and is a process that is multiple years long with continual feedback and updates with stakeholders. This will be a year of gaining a common understanding about proficiency and what it means for the Corvallis School District.
Both of these areas are critical to moving in the direction of accomplishing a greater number of high school graduates who are ready to achieve success at a higher level. No longer can we be satisfied with a “one size fits all” approach to our educational system. These are complex systems’ changers and we will be slow and intentional in our research, engagement of staff and updates with the Board and community.
CLASS Project and TeachOregon Grant Projects
Both the Class Project and TeachOregon Grants launched this past month. The Corvallis CLASS Project’s Design Team has about 19 members who will begin the complex and important task of designing blueprints for our district to enhance the areas of performance evaluation, professional development, expanded career paths, and creative compensation.
TeachOregon is a collaborative project with Oregon State University and area districts to increase our impact on teacher preparation and enhance our mentor program. There are many possibilities that this team will explore, including lab classrooms for cohorts of teachers, OSU faculty and student teachers to practice, observe and learn together.
Both of these grant opportunities are not “add-on” initiatives, but are intended to build on our District strengths and enhance what we are already doing and allow for creative ideas and energy to emerg
I want to extend my appreciation to our facilities/maintenance crews, our food service team, all of our staff and students and building leaders, and especially John Meyer and Kim Patten for stepping up in a huge way during the power outage last week that impacted six of our schools. Even though this was a tremendous inconvenience to our teaching staff, learning was happening in all schools, patience and cooperation was prevalent and during what could have been a stressful and frustrating day, our team supported where and when needed. I am very proud!
For 10 years now, Love INC has coordinated donations from local churches, businesses and individuals for its annual School Supply Give-Away For Teachers. Love INC is a collaboration between local churches and their community to provide effective help for the disadvantaged. The school supply give-away was started in 2003 as a way to thank teachers for their work; to let them know they were valued. This year, donations of supplies equalled more than $199,000 – the best year yet! On behalf of all of our staff and students, we offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone at Love INC, and to all of the businesses and individuals who donated to this worthy cause. Their kindness and generosity will make a world of difference in the lives of our students!
September 24, 2012
Opening of School
The good news is that our students arrived the first week of September eager to begin a new school year, our staff was excited to start the learning process together and our facilities were clean and ready to withstand another year of brain power, physical activity and laughter throughout the hallways.
Our enrollment numbers are up 63 students beyond our projections. This is sweet melody to our ears. Steve Nielsen, our Business Services Director provided the Board with a full report at our September 24th Board meeting.
Corvallis School District kicked off the beginning of the CLASS Project, granted through the Chalkboard Project in September. A design team composed of teachers and administrators will come together to explore plans to support Performance Evaluation, Professional Development, Career Paths, and Creative Compensation. Our Board Chair, Anne Schuster will be representing the Board on the Design Team.
Another promising grant is the collaborative partnership with Oregon State University and districts Corvallis, Lebanon, Philomath and Albany called TeachOregon. This collaborative effort will explore ways to strengthen our student teacher and mentor program through four different areas:
Recruitment and Selection
Hiring and placement
Mentoring and induction of teachers
For more information on both grants go to: www.chalkboardproject.org
Last year I committed myself to participate in regular job shadowing experiences. Last week I shared lunch set-up, monitoring, and clean up duties with Campus Steward, Kevin Meyers at Adams Elementary. Kevin has a wonderful sense of humor and takes great pride in his work at the elementary school. The relationships he has built with staff and students is quite evident, as he greets everyone by name and with a smile. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from Kevin and thank him for the great work he does for our staff and students.
We have added a support program in collaboration with Old Mill to support students with high behavioral needs. These are students who exhibit high levels of behavior where many times the outcome is suspension or out of building tutoring. Our priority is to keep all children engaged successfully in school where they can learn and grow. This program includes two mental health counselors working with a few children per day with the goal of supporting the child, staff, and administration to create a transitional pathway to successful experiences in the classroom.
I had the privilege of providing the key note for the first day of school at College Hill. The theme was EMPOWER and each letter symbolized a specific attribute; For instance, E for effort, M for Motivation, P for Pride. I shared a story about each attribute and tonight, I’d like to share the story that stood for Empathy.
This is from an old story, back in the ’30s, in the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less. A 10 year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.
“How much is an ice cream sundae?” the little boy asked.
“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins he had. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired.
By now, more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing very impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied.
The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.
The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry. As she wiped down the table, there placed neatly beside the empty dish were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn’t have the sundae because he had to have enough money to leave her a tip.
Understanding of another's feelings: the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties…..empathy.
Last night, the Board was presented with the revised Achievement Compact for approval. Last June, we drafted our targets based on the previous year’s data knowing that we would revisit the compact after we received the verified achievement data from the state this fall. Even though the state is not requiring Corvallis School District to revise the submitted compact, we feel the new compact demonstrates an accurate and more realistic/comprehensive snapshot for our District.
The Board has had the opportunity to view the new targets set for each category and with their approval last night, we will be resubmitting our revised achievement compact to Dr. Rudy Crew, Chief Education Officer for the state of Oregon.
Additionally, tonight the Board appointed the recommended members of the Achievement Compact Advisory Committee. These members will serve to monitor and adjust the achievement compact goals and targets, as well as make recommendations to the Board for future revisions. The following were appointed to the Achievement Compact Advisory Committee:
One elementary level teacher to be determined
One high school level teacher to be determined
School Boards are not granted the authority to appoint parent representatives to the Achievement Compact Advisory Committee; however we deeply value parent input and two parents will serve on this Committee as non-voting members. Denise Cardinali and Lupe Diaz.
We are off to a great start!
Kudos Across the District
My eyes are opened! I am so impressed with the amount of tasks involved and the organization Christie must display as she successfully moves through her day of serving breakfasts, lunch, snacks, and now supper. She is a super star and greets students individually as they move through her lunch line. Christie takes great pride, as does our entire food service team, in providing healthy food to enrich our students’ health. I was able to affirm Christie for the important role she plays in the educational success of each student she serves every day!
(My next stop in shadowing is in the front office at CVHS . . .)
Congratulations to Lincoln Elementary
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to present the 2012 Celebrating Student Success Champion School Award at a special assembly at Lincoln Elementary School. This is a very prestigious award for recognizing huge academic gains while closing the achievement gap for all students.
My message to the students at Lincoln was clear -- hold your heads up high and smile! You are all champions. I had them look around and see every adult surrounding the gym and pointed out how we all care about their success and are here to support them along the way. Many community members were present to celebrate, along with the school’s past principal Oscar Moreno-GIlson.
Tonight, I want to recognize the efforts of the hard-working and dedicated Lincoln staff, past and present, the hard work of the students, and the positive leadership of Principal Lisa Harlan. Congratulations on a job well done and for creating a positive and enriching learning environment for our Lincoln students.
Staff Appreciation Week
This week we are honoring our educators for all they do for our schools, community, and children. We are so very fortunate to have such highly skilled and dedicated people working with our most precious asset, our children, each and every day. It is with great admiration and respect that we celebrate our Corvallis School District staff tonight.
In Public Forum (two-person) debate, the Corvallis High School team of junior Elijah Morago-Anderson and sophomore Eli Allen went 6-1 against the other teams in the district. They placed second, qualifying them for the national championship as well.
Alexander also was named the South Oregon District’s Student of the Year. This award is given to a graduating senior who has shown outstanding commitment to his team, school, community and the activity of forensics. He is now eligible for National Student of the Year, an honor which will be announced by the National Forensics League at the Indianapolis tournament in June.
McKenzie Huso, a junior and a tuba player in the Wind Ensemble at CHS, has been selected by the National Association for Music Education to participate in the 2012 High School All-National Honor Band. She will rehearse and perform with the most outstanding student musicians from throughout the country June 21-24 in Washington D.C. The final performance of the All-National groups will be at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
And finally, CHS students Nate Rockey and Bergen Sather have been invited to Carnegie Hall to accept awards from the Scholastic Art & Writing Competition and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have an impressive legacy dating back to 1923 and a noteworthy roster of past winners including Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford and Joyce Carol Oates. Both Nate and Bergen won awards for ceramic pieces. Bergen has been asked to ship her piece to the gallery in Manhattan and both artists will be showing their work in Portland at the nation’s largest ceramics showcase in May.
Several subcommittees of the OEIB have met during February and early March to draft the achievement compacts. The compacts are expected to be delivered to districts the first part of April populated with data . The compacts must be completed and returned to the OEIB by July 1.
The compacts include several key outcomes and measures of student progress:
Our next steps are to determine if we have any current board or district goals that fit the required sections of the compacts. If so, we can use these as a starting point for filling out our compact. Then we can identify additional targets and goals for the compact.
We also want to engage stakeholders in discussion about setting goals for the compact. With such a short timeline this year, we will utilize our board meetings to provide for public testimony. Next year, we will form an Achievement Compact Advisory Committee that will be responsible for navigating a more comprehensive engagement process.
Finally, the board must vote to approve the achievement compact and submit it to the OEIB by July 1.
The achievement compacts are important in the context of education reform efforts both in Oregon and Washington, D.C. They are a key element in Oregon’s efforts to obtain a waiver from No Child Left Behind and they represent a school accountability system designed by Oregonians. If Oregon’s waiver receives approval, schools across our state need no longer deal with the overly prescriptive and punitive aspects of No Child Left Behind.
Later this spring, we will be reviewing the achievement compact designed for our 2012-2013 school year at a school board meeting.
We lost three instructional days due to inclement weather this winter -- one due to flooding and two due to snow. It is always the district’s intent to make up any and all lost days if possible. In order to accomplish make-up days this year, our school year will need to be extended in June; students and staff will now attend school partially through the third week in June. More information will be sent out to staff and parents with specifics within the next few days.
My last item is on a personal note. As I enter my tenth month as superintendent, there are many things I am grateful for. Our community, staff, parents, and students have all made a difference in my personal and professional life already and I am so proud of all we have accomplished. I am equally excited about the challenges ahead, as we face them with an eye on opportunity.
One of the greatest challenges we face is our budget picture. As we all know, we are up against a huge budget reduction for next year. We have all been working diligently to look creatively at ways to make reductions as far away from the classrooms as possible. Unfortunately, with this magnitude of a shortfall, the classrooms will not go without being touched in some way.
I feel strongly about doing my part as superintendent. As I look to enter the second year of my two-year contract, I am asking the board to freeze my salary and am also requesting that I take four furlough days to help offset reductions for next year. While this is only a tiny sacrifice in the face of the challenges we face, it is a step in the right direction.
Their report, based on a huge amount of academic data and input from staff, parents and special education specialists, was thorough and detailed. It offered a number of “kudos” with regards to the high level of competence among our special education staff and for a variety of innovative school programs. But it also identified several areas in need of continued improvement.
After spending a lot of time in follow-up conversations and reflecting on the special education review report, I want to report on our next steps and how I believe we should move forward.
I have a great sense of urgency around this issue. I am not interested in “reacting” by doing business as usual and putting band-aids on the issues as a quick fix. What was included in the report is a complex systems issue and is not only a special education challenge, but an instructional and district challenge.
My first step as superintendent is to look at how I can restructure the systems we have in place so we can move forward in improving our educational program for all students and developing a more effective and positive model.
With the many conversations at the state and national level around educational improvement, we are faced with an opportunity to explore our own district’s improvement around integration and alignment of K-12 curriculum and the continuum of services for all students. We also must seek increased communication between general and special education staff and between buildings and the district office. Realizing these improvements can appear daunting in a time of diminishing resources, I personally and professionally feel a sense of urgency and belief that we must address these areas as an adaptive challenge while also shifting our way of thinking about current structures in place.
Currently our model for the delivery of special services and instructional services is quite segregated. This is actually the norm for most school districts. Our departments tend to be in silos. With the Common Core Standards, shift to proficiency, and new graduation and diploma requirements, it no longer makes sense to operate our two instructional departments (Student Services and Instructional Services) as two separate entities.
The district office is actually modeling this disjointed system, yet we desire more integration of general education and special education in the buildings. This is sending out a mixed message. The current model, historically, has not provided us with the dramatic results we desire and in order to show substantial growth for all our students we need to look for a different approach, a different model. This is a challenge of structure.
A shift in how we structure our district departments will require a courageous and transformational shift in the way we think and conduct business at both the district office and building levels. Over the next few weeks and months, we will be developing plans to unify and integrate our two existing departments into one to better serve all students and support all staff. An integrated model will allow for increased communication, efficiency of resources, support and capacity building out in classrooms, and a stronger alignment in K-12 curriculum and instructional practices. With a more unified approach, I also envision a greater degree of student and staff support.
Here is our basic plan for next steps:
The board will hear a report and recommendations to consider from the task force at the Jan. 23 work session. Specifics around the proposal and recommendations will be posted on the district Web site following that work session and public testimony and more information will be shared at the Feb. 6 board meeting.
Special Education Review Results
On Feb. 27, the school board will be hearing the results from our special programs review. The report providing commendations and recommendations will be presented by the review consultant. The report summary will be made public and posted on the Web site following that board meeting.
No Child Left Behind State Waiver
Oregon is seeking a waiver from the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Act, also known as the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Input from superintendents, districts, school boards and community members has been solicited by the Governor’s office. By submitting a waiver, Oregon strives to address:
A process for revising and improving the Oregon Report Card;
Recommendations for including measures beyond standardized testing to provide a more accurate picture of whether students are on track to college and career success;
A process for identifying schools and districts with the greatest need for support;
A customized system of supports and interventions based on diagnosis;
Changes to Title 1A funding and opportunities for schools and districts identified for improvement;
Guidelines for teacher and principal evaluation; and
Plans for implementation of college and career ready standards and assessments.
Small Rural School Funding Rule to Include Charter Schools
A proposed addition of charter schools to the small rural school funding rule will be heard and adopted in Salem this winter. The rule will apply to the entire 2011-2012 school year. I have been in communication with our regional superintendents, the OSBA, ODE, and legislators who have explained the intent of this rule. The small rural school funding adjustments have traditionally flowed through the districts to allow for additional resources and supports for schools in outlying areas. The intent was never to provide the total funding amount directly to the small school in isolation. This holds true for the charter school additions as well.
Based on what I am hearing, under the new rule, the entire amount of small rural school funding must be distributed to the charter school as per the contract with the district. For instance, in our case, that would be 80 percent of ADMw of the small rural school enhancement. The board will have a chance to ask additional questions about how this affects Muddy Creek Charter School later this evening.
A Busy End to the Year
December 12, 2011
Our Business Services Director Roy Burling and I have visited 10 schools this month to present the budget reality picture and gather feedback from staff members. We also invited parent leaders from school site councils and PTO/PTA groups to meet with us last week with over 40 participants. We are hoping for another big group at a communitywide listening session from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 14 at Linus Pauling.
Thank you to our Communications Specialist Carol Reeves for her work in preparing the Web page around out budget process. You will find our power point message and supporting documents on the district Web site, along with an online survey to complete. We are encouraging staff, parents, and community members to complete the survey to provide the district with their greatest fears, hopes and budget priorities.
In January, I look forward to meeting with students from both high schools to seek their feedback in the budget conversation as well. I also will be meeting with a special budget task force to frame what a $49.5 million budget will look like in Corvallis.
Dual Immersion Task Force
The Dual Immersion Task Force has met numerous times this fall to address the concerns around the English-only strand of the program at both Garfield and Lincoln elementary schools. The near 20-member task force has spent dedicated time in rich dialogue around best practice and the pros and cons of different solutions. The school board will be hearing a report from the task force in January and recommendations to consider.
Special Education Review Results
The special education review has been under way with multiple opportunities to have staff and parents provide verbal and written feedback. The review findings and recommendations will be shared with the board in early February to provide commendations, as well as ideas for improvement.
Oregon School Boards Association Conference
Our school board members and I attended the OSBA Conference in Portland in November. It was a great opportunity during this weekend event to spend quality time with the board in a learning and enriching environment. We had compelling conversations, attended informational sessions and also had a chance to learn more about each other both personally and professionally.
Revised High School Schedule
A few minor tweaks were made to the new high school schedule this month in order to provide a longer break and provide a bit more passing time for students to travel between classes. The results of these minor changes have been met with praise so far. Students and staff appreciate the extra breathing room between classes and the number of students able to eat breakfast at school has doubled. These changes have been made while still staying within the state guidelines for required instructional minutes.
With the holiday season upon us, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to our exceptional staff, parents, community members, and dedicated board members. Please enjoy a restful and joyful time with family and friends, remembering to take time to reflect and appreciate the gifts around us.
Ready or Not
October 10, 2011
Ready or not, fall has definitely come in with gusto!
Our schools are humming right along. With the opportunity for consistent Professional Learning Communities each week, our staff is engaged in deep, productive conversations around student growth and learning targets. In support of learning in the classroom, teachers are training teachers in the area of effective instructional strategies every month. These strategies are researched-based and are helpful tools in engaging all students and in increasing student learning gains.
I am now an official Corvallis Rotarian. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to share our Corvallis School District vision and strategic plan with a variety of community groups, including the Kiwanis Club, NAACP, League of Women Voters, and the Keller-Williams Realty Group.
Our first Sustainability Steering Committee meeting of the year was held on Sept. 29 where members of our school district and community shared the partnerships and activities that are happening in support of sustainability. I am impressed by the passion and quality of work involved with our community in sustainability. Our focus area this school year will be on water conservation.
I also attended the first meeting of the Dual Language Immersion Task Force last week. We had a diverse group of teachers, parents, and administrators around the table. The focus for this group between now and December is to study and recommend the best path forward for dual immersion programs and to examine the impact of dual immersion on English-only classrooms. The task force will engage in a process that will result in an informed recommendation by December of one to two options for optimal dual immersion opportunities for both native English- and Spanish-speaking students in our district. Assistant Superintendent Kevin Bogatin will lead the task force in a presentation of the recommended options to me and then I will share my findings with the school board at the January meeting.
Corvallis School District leaders will be participating with the Oregon Leadership Network this year. OLN has been together for over a decade focusing on enhanced practices through culturally competent/equity instructional leadership. The mission statement of OLN is to strengthen educational leadership, to increase equitable outcomes, and to improve student achievement and success so all students will meet or exceed state standards in reading and math, and there will be no gap between performances of different ethnic or socioeconomic groups. A team from Corvallis will be attending two leadership institutes this year and will have networking opportunities with other participating districts around the state.
Affiliated with Oregon Leadership Network and Education Northwest is the Equity Assessment Center. Corvallis School District has been offered the training expertise through the Equity Center around the topic of “Eliminating Harassment and Bullying.” Multiple training sessions will be provided to students, staff and parents in the upcoming months.
We are very excited to welcome consultants DiAnne Fentress-Rowe and Tass Morrison to our district for the next few months. The district is conducting a review of our special education program in order to get a comprehensive perspective on where the district’s strengths are and areas for growth. Multiple interviews with staff, administrators and parents, a review of budget and program efficiencies, and a review of process and documents will be conducted. A full report and recommendations will be provided to me and then will be presented to the board by the January board meeting.
The board has been presented with the non-represented contract agreement. District building administrators, directors, managers, coordinators, confidential staff and others not represented by the certified and classified groups fall under this category. In response to the district’s financial challenges with decreasing state funding and the economic shortfall, I would like to commend that our non-represented group for agreeing to receive a no cost of living increase and to take two furlough days, similar to our certified staff. Additionally, I recognize the sacrifices all staff has made this year, especially as we approach an especially challenging budget situation for next year; I have also agreed to take two furlough days as superintendent.
Finally, I would like to recognize a very unique and special group tonight. Love INC is a network of local church ministries and church volunteers, across denominations to help people in need. For the past nine years, Love INC has held a teacher school supply giveaway to honor and support our teachers in preparation for our students. The ninth annual event was held Sept. 2 and 405 teachers from throughout Benton County participated! More than $116,000 worth of school supplies was gathered this year. For the setup alone, more than 75 volunteers logged in with about 260 hours. For the actual event, an additional 127 volunteers participated.
What’s more, they are already receiving donations for next year! What a statement of dedication to our students’ success and support for our teaching staff!