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Smith named new school board chair


Doug Smith will take the place of Patti Norris, who led the board since 2010

At last Monday's Crook County School Board meeting, outgoing chair Patti Norris handed the gavel over to fellow board member Doug Smith, who will take the reins for the 2014-15 academic year.

By a unanimous vote, the board nominated and elected Smith as their new leader and named Norris as vice chair.

After four consecutive years of leading the board, Norris deserved a break.

Not that she had any choice.

"By state statute and board policy, I am prevented from serving as chair for more than four consecutive years," she explained, adding that she was first elected to the school board in May 2009.

Norris said it has been wonderful serving on the board and noted that every member is committed to providing the best possible education to all students in the district.

For the 2014-15 academic year, members of the board remain the same as last year. Smith, who represents the northwest area, and Norris, who represents the southeast, will be joined by Scott Cooper for the northeast, Walt Wagner on behalf of the southwest, and at-large member Gwen Carr.

Stepping down as chair does not mean that Norris' commitment, or time spent, is any less when it comes to the local community.

A self-described "mother, wife, college professor, business adviser and trainer, finance and marketing consultant, and community advocate," Norris remains committed to empowering those around her to achieve more than they think is possible.

"I wear a number of hats personally and professionally:," she said. "And, while it may seem a little crazy and disjointed to some, each is a way for me to serve my larger mission."

Smith was quick to acknowledge the contributions Norris has made to the board and the quality of her leadership.

"I believe we are in a better position to serve the educational needs of Crook County because of her time as board chair," said Smith.

Both agreed that the state of the school district was not so positive a few years back, mostly due to the economic recession.

In a letter to the Bend Bulletin, Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe said, " Four years ago, at the height of the Great Recession, Prineville and Crook County had the highest unemployment rate in Oregon at a whopping 17 percent. The situation was dire: A major employer had moved its headquarters elsewhere, and wood-products manufacturing went through major downsizing following the national housing bust. People were struggling to feed their families, and many were leaving the area to find work."

Smith and Norris were all too aware of the problem and its impact on the school district.

"The last several years have been a real challenge in education, as they have been in the economy as a whole," noted Norris. "We are still recovering from the severe funding cuts of a few years ago. I am proud of what we, as a board and a district, have been able to accomplish in terms of returning programs that had been cut or scaled back."

She named the Career Technical Education programs, additional college credit courses, increased use of educational technology, strategies to increase student engagement, and the dual language program as examples of the progress being made.

Smith added that, in his time on the board, he is proud that the district has worked so hard to recover from those difficult times.

Smith is currently vice president of product strategy at Les Schwab Tires, where he has worked for nearly 39 years. A member of the Crook County Booster Club, he lives with his wife, Carol, and their three sons on a small farm near town.

Both board members look forward to the continued construction, and completion, of the new elementary school, along with anticipated capital improvements to Cecil Sly, the high school, Paulina and others.

"Certainly, one of the most exciting things recently has been the passage of our construction bond last year. It is wonderful to see construction starting on the new Barnes Butte Elementary School," said Norris.

Smith agreed.

"I look forward to the construction of the new elementary school as well as the repair and upgrade work at other facilities including both Powell Butte and Paulina," he added.

In addition to capital improvements, Smith is eager to focus on the opportunity for all students to learn life skills to go along with the requisite top notch reading, writing and math education curriculum.

"We have a solid school board and educational team that I feel will make the upcoming school year very successful," said Smith.