October Message From the Superintendent
Greetings Hood River County community members,
We’ve had an exciting beginning to a new school year in the Hood River County School District. So many “thank yous” are in order to so many committed HRCSD community members who meaningfully contribute to our vibrant learning community. While teaching and learning will always be our primary focus, this year we’ve seen our staff, parents and students navigate cougar sightings, an ammonia leak at a local fruit packing plant forcing evacuations and transportation disruptions, and the expected (yet frustrating) issues that usually come with major construction activity. All this while managing the many teaching and learning projects that make school… well, school! Student safety and excellent instruction for each and every student are the top priorities in HRCSD and I’m proud of our educators’ ability to maintain high academic expectations while keeping our children safe.
I’m also excited for this opportunity to spotlight some of the projects and achievements that don’t always make the “breaking news” headlines.
Oregon Report Card Update
Attendance matters. Chronic absences — or missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason (excused, unexcused absences, suspensions, etc.) - often translates into third-graders less able to master reading, sixth-graders failing more subjects, and higher drop-out rates in high school. In fact, 9th-grade attendance is a better predictor of graduation rates than eighth-grade academic achievement, according to the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. While chronic absenteeism presents academic challenges for the student not in class, all students suffer because the resulting classroom churn hampers a teacher’s ability to engage all students and address their learning needs. In Oregon, students who miss more than 10 percent of school are considered chronically absent. Since 2013, our schools have reduced the number of chronically absent students by nearly 10 percent. That means about 350 more students are now attending school regularly. Let’s continue this positive trajectory by making sure our children attend school regularly.
Academic Success. While the Oregonian often bemoans the stagnant educational outcomes across the state, you will see significant progress at HRCSD on key indicators for measuring student success. Some quick facts:
- In the last three years, the number of Hood River County students who are proficient in English Language Arts grew by 4.3 percent, while the statewide average dropped 0.3 percent. This rate of improvement is steeper than any other demographically similar school district based on factors like socio economics, race, and home language diversity.
- In the last three years, the number of Hood River County students who are proficient in math grew by 3.9 percent, while the statewide average dropped a full percentage point.
- HRCSD’s on-time graduation rate continues to increase, far surpassing the statewide results.
- The proportion of high schoolers meeting the very high proficiency standards in English Language Arts jumped over 30 percentage points in the last three years. Our schools are achieving these results despite the comparatively large number of parents who chose to opt their children out of taking the state exams. (Students who opt out are considered failing by the state.)
Productive and Active Play in HRCSD Elementary Schools
Thanks to the leadership of Tom Moline, Mark Thomas, Paul Lindberg and others in our engaged Health Care Community, the nationally recognized Playworks recess program has kicked off at all our elementary schools. Playworks promotes physical activity while building social-emotional and conflict resolution skills. Teachers and schools partnering with Playworks report overwhelmingly positive results:
- 95% report increased cooperation among students during class
- 84% report fewer incidents of bullying
Playworks funds come from shared Medicaid savings directly invested back into our community via grants with Columbia Gorge Health Council and Providence Hood River Hospital. I’m looking forward to joining some students for a few rounds of four square!
October has been chock-full of exciting construction updates that will be hard to beat. Hood River Valley Senior (and my former next-door neighbor!) Ben Kaden filmed and edited the HRVHS homecoming video that shows off the brand-new Henderson Field:
In addition to breaking in the field, the new May Street Elementary School has begun to take shape. The construction team is accepting large-scale photo submissions to adorn the building. You can also watch the construction progress via Aden Cross’s webcam:
Many of our school entrances have been renovated. New “vestibules” provide security and emphasize a welcoming and safe school climate by ensuring all visitors are directed to an inviting main entrance. These entryways offer an opportunity for friendly reception and wayfinding by defining a clear entrance and lobby. The entries at Mid Valley Elementary School and Hood River Valley High School underwent a remodel over the summer, while the Wy’east entryway was renovated last school year. Parkdale, Cascade Locks and Westside Elementary Schools are in the design process for entryway remodeling scheduled for next summer.
Contractors have also been busy with less obvious, yet still necessary infrastructure improvements: roof, electric, waterline and heating/cooling repairs, playground improvements, and important seismic upgrades. Thank you to all Hood River County residents for supporting your community schools!
Teaching Civics in Divisive Times
My very best-