Summer school produces positives, School Board told

By Scott Swanson
Lebanon Local
Summer school in the Lebanon School District was a positive experience, School Board members were told Thursday, Aug. 11, at their monthly meeting at the Santiam Travel Station.
But they also learned that the district continues to struggle to hire enough bus drivers, and is coming up with some creative ways to fill the gaps.
School Improvement Director Bill Wittman told the board that he’d gotten positive feedback from teachers and that summer classes were well-attended, at least early in the summer, at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
Wittman quoted one unnamed teacher who wrote that it was her second stint teaching summer school.
“This go-round was much more pleasant and I would definitely do it again,” the teacher wrote, adding that she had “such a great experience” that she felt “renewed and rejuvenated,” noting that with shortened weeks, shortened teaching times and smaller classes, “I was actually able to teach the way I wanted to and it was rewarding.”
Another teacher quoted by Wittman wrote: “I had a great time.”
Wittman said the elementary school programs held three sessions for a total of seven weeks at Pioneer and Lacomb schools ended on Aug. 11.
He reported that between 205 and 235 students participated in the three sessions, with attendance ranging from 65 to 70% during the first two sessions and about 50% for the last.
Seven Oak Middle School also offered three sessions, with 56 to 65 students in each one, Wittman said.
At the high school, 99 students earned a total of 105.75 credits in language arts, math, science or special education in on-site classes and others were continuing with online classes for one more week, he said. Wittman said the number of credits earned might be closer to 125, as some late results were still being tallied. Junior class members earned the most, with 44.75 credits.
He pointed out that a student taking an algebra class for one semester during the regular school year earns half a credit – a whole credit for the entire year.
One “pretty exciting” development was that at Ralston Academy, the district’s alternative school program, students earned 47 credits and one 11th-grader earned enough to finish high school, Wittman said.
Supt. Bo Yates noted that “those half-credits are $700, so when we start adding those up that’s a significant amount of money that we’re able to save,” adding that “it allows us to have more elective teachers because we’re not having to do all that credit recovery, plus it keeps the kids from having to do the entire class all over again.”
Yates reported that about 84% of freshmen are on track to graduate now, which is “significantly better than it has been – fantastic, because they’re coming off a couple of really rough years.”
Upperclassmen are struggling with “not just one thing – it’s a lot of things,” he said. “We’re trying to be diligent and keep working with them and get those graduation rates up and help those kids to be successful.”
He said early discussions about having COMP-NW medical students volunteer in the schools are coming to fruition and that will happen, though they will have to meet the same criteria as other volunteers in the schools.
“We are going to be reaching out and really pursuing getting that extra help and support from the community in our schools and get back to where we feel like we were a year and a half ago, two years ago, trying to get as many people surrounding these kids to be as successful as possible,” Yates said.
Whittman also talked about the plans for early release each Wednesdays in the upcoming year.
He said the approximately two hours of additional time “is a big component” in the district’s goal of supporting “continual improvement, not just for students in the classroom and test scores, but for our staff, so we’re all collectively getting better.
“I know it adds another layer of complexity for some family scheduling, but the academic return on investment is really worth it.”
The interaction among teachers promotes class collaboration, cross pollination of ideas, and sharing instructional resources, he said.
The program includes building time, when administrators can work with staffs on school needs, Advancement by Individual Determination (AVID) training, which focuses on best practices in areas such as reading and writing, training in classroom culture and academic rigor, and more.
Faculty will also meet about once a month in professional learning communities (PLCs), bringing together in one place teachers and administrators in similar jobs from all the schools across the district.
“The goal of these meetings is just to help people get better at their craft,” Wittman said. “We have some amazing teachers here in Lebanon. This gives us all an opportunity to learn from one another, especially from our exemplar teachers.
“We don’t always need to pay an expert from outside to come in and train us. We have a lot of expertise and knowledge and experience right here that we can capitalize on if we can tap into and Wednesdays are a big part of that.”
The PLCs will allow teachers to collaborate and get ideas and refine their plans, he said. He said he got “a lot of feedback” from teachers who missed having PLC time last year.
“Hopefully, this year will be a little bit more normal,” Wittman said.
Yates said the district continues to face challenges in filling “certain positions,” particularly in the transportation area,which has forced administrators to get creative.
One change this year, Yates said in discussing efforts to recruit drivers, is to provide extra support personnel on buses “so if I’m the driver, we have extra support on the bus so all I have to do is worry about driving that bus.”
He said the district still needs to hire “four or five” bus drivers.
A priority this year, he said, is to maintain consistency in school schedules, as much as possible.
“If we have to not run a route, we don’t want a group of kids who has to pay the price for that all the time.
“If we’re short a driver, we’re going to do an hour- or two-hour delay for that particular route, so it won’t be the school, it will just be the route that will be taking that delay.”
One mechanic has taken a route, he said, and the district is “working at all different angles,” including considering using Suburbans and vans on rural routes such as so that staffers without commercial driver’s licenses could transport students.
Also, he said, staggered school schedules is helping transportation.
Otherwise, Yates told the board, the district is in “really good shape, HR-wise,” though it is doing some “dancing” to replace staff members who have departed.
“We’re dealing with much fewer issues than what other districts are dealing with,” Yates said.

In other action, the board:
♦ Approved hiring Charles Bias as a roving teacher at Seven Oak Middle School.
♦ Approved hiring Kyla Creech as an eighth-grade teacher at Lacomb School.
♦ Approved hiring Justine Hynes as dean of student success at Pioneer School.
♦ Approved hiring Kalei Merrill as a math teacher at Seven Oak Middle School.
♦ Approved hiring Kristie Moseley as a special education teacher at Green Acres School.
♦ Approve hiring Kerry Slater as a science teacher at Seven Oak Middle School.
♦ Approved hiring Joyce Vasquez as a special education/TOSA teacher.
♦ Approved hiring Colby Wooten as a language arts teacher at Seven Oak Middle School.