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Incoming school superintendent Sara Johnson attends first board meeting, hears reports of programs and upcoming projects

HOLLY SCHOLZ - M.F.D. Quadruplets won the mock Battle of the Books battle during the board meeting Monday night. Pictured left to right: Jillian Mapes, Cairo Wrolson, Rocky Berger and Addison Floyd.

Incoming Crook County School District Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson witnessed a mock Battle of the Books round, was invited to the season finale drama performance, and heard updates on district projects during her first school board meeting Monday evening at Crooked River Elementary.

However, this time, she was in the audience.

"The board meeting is a very good time to see the school district working and functioning. One can learn about personnel, finance, operations, curriculum, instruction and assessment," Johnson said.

Following are a few highlights of the meeting.

School lunch prices increase

The board approved a listing of student fees for the 2018-19 school year, and lunch fees were among them.

Beginning in September, CCHS students will pay $3.25 for lunch, a 10-cent increase. Crook County Middle School lunches will increase 5 cents to $2.90. Elementary school lunches will also increase 5 cents to $2.80.

Adult lunches at all schools will increase 25 cents to $4.

Federal regulations require the district to raise paid meal prices every year to be sure they cover all the costs associated with producing the meals, explained Nutrition Services Manager Dana Rudy. They can't use the reimbursements for free and reduced meals to subsidize the paid ones.

"Usually USDA requires a 10-cent to 15-cent increase in the average price of paid meals to make sure that they cover the costs of the meal," Rudy said. "It usually ends up being about 5 cents more at each grade level, but this year it was a little higher, so I raised the high school 10 cents."

She pointed out that the high school gets a wider selection.

"Next year, I am planning on some more 'upgrades' to their lunches, so hopefully they will still see it as a great value," Rudy said.

Special Education Report Card

The annual Special Education Report Card for CCDS came out in April, documenting school progress in evaluation, least restrictive environment, achievement, graduation and post-secondary outcomes.

CCSD Special Education Director Mona Boyd pointed out that the data is two years old, prompting her to look into the numbers. She found that the current data is different than what was contained in the report card.

"When you look at graduation rates, it compiles both the high school and Pioneer together, and so I started digging into that," Boyd said. "The good news is that Crook County High School does really well with special ed students."

The state's target graduation for special education students is 78 percent. The CCHS graduation rate for special education students is 81.5 percent. At CCHS, 14 percent of the population is considered special education. The dropout rate for CCHS special education students is less than 1 percent.

Comparing the data from 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, Boyd found the Pioneer Alternative High School special education graduation rates improved from 20 percent to 25 percent. The school fluctuates between 40 to 60 students, and has had up to 25 percent special education students.

The Pioneer special education student completion rate went from 42.9 percent to 60 percent. The dropout rate decreased from 37.5 percent to 5 percent.

"That's incredible," Boyd said, noting that comparable alternative high school special education students have a 91 percent drop-out rate. "We've done a lot of work around serving students at Pioneer."

Board Chair Doug Smith said Boyd and others who play a part in those numbers should be very proud of the results.

Board member Scott Cooper agreed.

"The data that are on this page don't reflect what I hear parents say out in the community," he said. "They have nothing but positive things to say about the way we run our special ed programs in Crook County."

Battle of the Books

CCSD board members and administrators got a snapshot of Battle of the Books at the start of their meeting when the top two Crooked River Elementary teams competed in a mock battle.

CRE Principal Cheri Rasmussen asked questions of the 16 books that the eight students had read to prepare for the battles. The readers duked it out in a close contest, with the M.F.D. Quadruplets claiming a 1-point victory over the Bookeneers, who had been named school champions in March.

"This started in 1998 at Ochoco, and it went until 2015," Rasmussen pointed out, adding that they restarted the statewide reading challenge this year, and the names of the four Bookeneers are on a new plaque at CRE.

Board members then asked the readers about their favorite books.

CCHS drama students

A partial cast and crew for the last production of the school year shared their roles in Noel Coward's "Hay Fever."

"Written in 1924, it is a farce comedy of manners about a really nice family who has very poor social skills," said Crook County High School drama teacher Anita Hoffman.

The students will perform this weekend and invited the board and audience to attend.

Hoffman then recognized CCHS junior Anna Williamson, a Thespian and the president of the CCHS Drama Troupe 4906.

Thespians attended a conference this spring, and Williamson was elected the representative for the Southern Region.

"She had to develop a platform to run on and did a great job moving beyond the typical platitudes like better communication and keeping troupe morale high," Hoffman said. "She had to put herself out and meet lots of kids, explain her platform, ask for their concerns, then listen. She's just a great kid with lots to offer."

Williamson will attend several meetings throughout the year and be in charge of leadership conferences, a camp and a festival.

"It is no small feat that somebody from Prineville got to be voted into that position," Hoffman said. "It's a big recognition for Anna and for Crook County."

Dr. Sara Johnson

CCSD contracted with Johnson's current employer, Klamath County School District, so she could spend five days in the local district with retiring Superintendent Duane Yecha before she takes the helm on July 1.

Monday was one of those days.

"It was a very good opportunity to see all of the district leaders together in one place and enjoy seeing children present as well," Johnson said.

She appreciated hearing the questions asked at the meeting and learning more about the context of the work at CCSD.

"I observed a group of people very committed to their students and community. I'm excited to contribute to the system as I join and connect with people," Johnson said.

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