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NCSD parents list school strengths, concerns

Expressing a strong sense of community in a recent survey of 2,300 people, North Clackamas parents generally view their schools positively and ranked class size as their No. 1 concern.

District spokesman Joe Krumm said parents appreciate the unique programs available in North Clackamas, such as music, counseling and PE at all grade levels. During high school, students can take orchestra classes or learn technical skills at Sabin-Schellenberg, the largest such career readiness program in the state.

“This was reflected in this survey by the high intensity of the appreciation for music, drama and the arts in the schools,” Krumm said, pointing to the almost 34 percent of parents who rated these categories “excellent,” followed by reading at 32 percent.

Combined percentages for excellent and good ratings were highest for reading and classroom instruction at 82 percent, followed by PE, music, arts and drama at 78 percent. Math received a combined approval rating of 77 percent, writing received 76 percent, social studies 75 percent and science 74 percent. The counseling services/family support category received the lowest combined approval rating of 73 percent.

Parent concerns in the October survey largely echoed Superintendent Matt Utterback’s announcement that restoring class size would be among the district’s top four initiatives. To return class size to previous levels, the district would need to restore 230 positions, equal to more than $22 million in salaries.

Another $2.3 million would be needed to restore a full school year. That’s also not counting funding that would be needed for the other two goals: a 5 percent fund balance and regular cost-of-living increases for staff.

To save an estimated $450,000 in annual expenses, the school board voted 6 to 1 Dec. 12 to close Concord Elementary School. Their decision to save money by moving students was painful to members of the community such as Concord classroom volunteer Lynda Jordan. Excepting Trisha Claxton, who voted against the decision, Jordan vowed to support replacement board members if they did not reverse their decision.

“I found the school, its teachers and students, welcoming me like a big, extended family,” Jordan wrote. “Teachers, students, volunteers, parents and administrators are in a state of shock.”

Generally, respondents did not provide their names and only provided individualized details in the form of demographic information.

“Concord Elementary is a school that has served the community faithfully for many years, and we are immensely proud of Concord School’s many accomplishments and achievements,” Utterback wrote to parents. “I know that our school community will warmly embrace Concord students, parents and staff in their new school communities and help to ease the transition.”

District staff asked principals to follow up with any issues raised by parents in the anonymous surveys specific to each school where their children attend.

Most notable from the survey, Krumm said, were the high positive ratings given to the schools and the strong sense of community.

Although only 78 percent of parents think their school seeks out and hears their opinions and feelings, 87 percent think teachers are responsive to parents and students. Ninety percent think their child feels included, connected and has good friends at school; 87 percent think technology is easily accessible and integrated into the learning experience; and 83 percent say teachers meet their child’s unique learning needs. About 90 percent of parents also think that school is a safe environment, that their local school encourages them to participate in their child’s education and that their child is learning necessary information from highly skilled educators who care about each student’s success.

“When asked what success for their child would look like, the answers were wide and varied,” Krumm said. “However, among the top themes were the value of being prepared for college, having their children challenged, engaged, enjoying school, getting good grades and developing confidence and ability.”