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School board and administrators praise Dr. Duane Yecha for his accomplishments

HOLLY SCHOLZ - Crook County School District Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan made a farewell cake for retiring Superintendent Dr. Duane Yecha and shared it with school board members and staff Monday during the monthly board meeting. Pictured are Yecha and his wife, Suzy.

The caring relationships.

That's what Crook County School District Superintendent Duane Yecha says he will miss when he retires at the end of June.

"Students feeling connected to school is an important board and community goal," Yecha said, reminding the staff and community to establish relationships with students. "Every child deserves our best effort and instilling a sense of hope in our children."

He quotes James Comer, M.D., "No significant learning occurs, without a significant relationship."

"As Duane nears retirement, we wanted to reflect on the time he has been our superintendent," said CCSD Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan. "None of the accomplishments in an organization this size can be attributable to a single individual, but the quality of leadership definitely has a significant impact on what can be accomplished."

When Yecha became superintendent on July 1, 2011, the district's outlook was bleak.

The long-term projections showed multiple dismal scenarios for the general fund balance. The district had lost half a million dollars in forest fees, had lost revenue, and open enrollment was set to start the following year.

Continuing into 2015, full-day kindergarten had to be implemented, there were federal sequestration cuts, and the PERS debt service was continually increasing.

"In spite of all those things, progress over the last seven years under Dr. Yecha's leadership includes major financial achievements that he, the board, and the staff have been able to accomplish together," Logan said.

CCSD Board Chair Doug Smith ponders where they were seven years ago and where they are now.

"There are three areas that I look at as a school district. How are we doing financially? How are we doing with our facilities? And the third one is how are we doing with our students? If you can get all three of those in a school district going in the right direction, you have done very, very well," Smith said. "Our staff relations are very, very good between the administrative team and licensed and our classified staff. Financially, we're strong. Our facilities are in better shape by far than they were seven years ago."

CCSD Facilities and Safety Supervisor Leland Bliss pointed out that the maintenance reserve was around $135,000 in 2012 and was being used mostly for emergencies. Today, it is $660,000, and the capital reserve is $1.6 million.

In a 2012 assessment of the 10 district buildings, only the high school was rated good. The stadium and transportation building were rated fair, and all the other schools were either deficient or poor.

In 2013, the voters passed a $33.5 million bond for a new elementary school and districtwide renovations.

In the following years, Barnes Butte Elementary was built, and Cecil Sly Elementary was remodeled and became the new Crooked River Elementary. The original CRE primary building was remodeled and became Pioneer Alternative High School with the central kitchen and a behavior center. The rural Brothers Elementary School reopened. All other district schools were upgraded, and several preventive maintenance projects are planned.

"Duane has been so supportive of the facilities department," Bliss said, noting that Yecha has supported nearly every project he proposed. "The facilities are actually in really good shape. From what I read in the assessments from 2012 until now is outstanding."

Yecha lists the improved school facilities with planning that addresses ongoing maintenance and safety as one of his greatest accomplishments as CCSD superintendent. He also lists reducing the dropout rate and improving the graduation rate via improving student achievement as an accomplishment.

Smith said that although the district has a long ways to go in student achievement, the scores are gradually rising.

"If we look at where we were seven years ago, where our graduation rates were, where some of our scores were, we've improved," he said, noting that the graduation rate is now nearly 90 percent.

CCSD Curriculum and Instruction Director Stacy Smith pointed out the changes in state testing.

"In general, after suffering a drop when we transitioned from Oaks to Smarter Balanced, the district has seen slow but steady growth over the time Dr. Yecha has been here," he said. "The most dynamic improvements have come in both CCHS' and CCSD's graduation rates and a fairly new indicator, the freshman on-track data."

Yecha says he has enjoyed problem solving with the directors and administrators.

"Dr. Yecha has always maintained good relationships with labor unions," Logan said. "He builds those relationships through honesty, integrity and compassion."

Before coming to Crook County, Yecha was the superintendent of Winston-Dillard School District in Douglas County. Before that, he was superintendent for the Reedsport School District on the Oregon Coast and a high school principal in Boardman and Lakeview.

Over his career, he spent eight years as a teacher, 15 years as a principal, and 15 years as a superintendent.

Yecha says he's most proud of his service as a high school principal and his time working with students as well as coaching on state championship teams.

He said that locally, "our highly successful athletic teams build character and work ethic."

He's also proud of the work of the Crook County Foundation, student scholarships, and serving on the Better Together Board, which provides many programs to students in the region.

"In partnership with the community, together, we have successfully built stable and healthy budgets with adequate reserves," Yecha said, noting that they have also developed district board and building goals that measure student success with annual data tracking.    

Working together on the graduation rate, school facilities and budget stability is a high point of his tenure in Crook County, and he's proud to have witnessed the school board operate with a history of what he calls great decision-making.

Yecha enjoys the scenic surroundings in Crook County and plans to travel and visit family in retirement.

He and his wife, Suzy, who also retires from the school district this month, have two sons and a grandchild.

"My oldest son and his wife recently graduated from medical school and are now doctors in residency a great distance away," Yecha said.

The board chair noted that Yecha has left the district in good standing as he turns the district over to incoming Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson.

"On behalf of myself and my fellow board members and I'm sure most of our staff and most of our community, I think we need to recognize the job that Dr. Yecha has done, and it was incredible," Smith said. "He will be missed."

Sidebar

School district accomplishments during Superintendent Dr. Duane Yecha's tenure

Facilities and equipment

Successful bond measure

New elementary school constructed

Extensive remodeling to other school buildings and major projects, such as stadium

Bond projects completed on time and within budget

Adopted Model Contract Rules and ensured compliance with public contracting laws

Sold Ochoco Elementary to an organization that will honor its past

Reopened Brothers Elementary

Moved Pioneer Alternative High School to a larger, more adequate building

Bus fleet improvement — continuous

Tech Reserve — funded infrastructure improvements and continues to fund one-to-one student devices

Future obligations

Fully funded early retirement reserve

Increased PERS reserve

Paid off several forms of debt early

Created a capital reserve fund

Maintained adequate general fund balance

Staffing

Restored step increases for salary schedules

Added two elementary music teachers

Added an elementary counselor

Created an in-house behavior program

Created an alternative program at the middle school

Hired a dedicated nutrition services supervisor

As grant funding ended for CTE and natural resources teachers, funding was absorbed into general fund

Added art teachers at CCHS and CCMS

Added autism teacher

Added five instructional assistants for special education

Added two FAN advocates

Added an ELD (ELL) teacher

Additional elementary counselor

Pioneer counselor/licensed clinical social worker

CCHS dean of students

Programs

Restored funding to Outdoor School, athletics, and field trips — reducing the fundraising burden

Implemented AVID at CCHS and CCMS, and will be expanding into elementary

Opened and closed online charter school

Created in-district online program

Current year math initiative

Expanded Dual Language from K-3 to K-5 and sustained the program

Increased the number of teachers at Pioneer Alternative

Added the Advanced Diploma program

Added a Youth Transition program

Kiwanis Summer School

Increased pass-through percentage to Powell Butte Community Charter School

Removed student fees for classes

Reduced athletic pay-to-play fees

Implemented full-day kindergarten

— List complied by Crook County School district

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