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Superintendent Shay James aims to engage community in understanding issues in education, both in the district and nationally.

North Clackamas Superintendent Shay James has had to navigate a series of issues affecting schools nationally — from preventing gun violence to vaccine mandates — largely without the benefit enjoyed by previous superintendents to meet with concerned citizens in the district at large.PMG PHOTO: ETHAN M. ROGERS - Ivonne Dibblee, North Clackamas assistant superintendent, from left, Superintendent Shay James and Rotary Club President-elect Stephanie Rose presented at the Aug. 8 meeting.

James' focus in a recent public presentation was to introduce the North Clackamas new strategic plan, which emphasizes engaging families and community. Asked about Critical Race Theory after her Aug. 9 presentation, James was direct in responding.

"CRT gets taken out of context — it's a college-level theory, and it is not taught in K-12," James said.Shay James

Milwaukie Rotary Club members hosted James for her second public in-person speech since she took up the mantel of superintendent in July 2021.

James said that speaking at service-club functions, and allowing volunteers into the schools to help out, have been made difficult by COVID, but it's important to engage families in the education conversation.

James wants the school district to teach students to communicate, give them the all the tools to succeed in life, give them support, and help them grow as individuals and part of a community.

"Do we have inclusive practices? Yes," James said. "Students need to see themselves in what's being taught."

James began her presentation by recognizing the tough times faced by many industries around the globe due to the COVID pandemic, which also created numerous problems for educators, students and their families.

In tough times, James said it was important to express gratitude for the many blessings received by the district over the past year.

"This affected all students throughout the district," said James, referring to a 2016 bond measure that paid for construction and capital improvements throughout the district.

Among its many projects, the bond measure paid for communication boards at playgrounds to facilitate communication for non-verbal students. Students who want to swing need only point to the picture, no words required.

"It allows everyone to be involved," said Ivonne Dibblee, assistant superintendent and a co-presenter, invited by James to share in the privilege of informing the public on what the North Clackamas schools are up to.

"It seems so simple, like why didn't we do this sooner, but we have it now," Dibblee said. "It's important to connect and this helps. They say it takes a village — it's important for students to know they have a community behind them."

Several club members expressed the desire to get back involved with volunteering at schools.

"We want to be there to support you in ways that we can, when we can," said Rotary Club member Dave Potts.

During the 2020-21 school year, North Clackamas schools joined others statewide in tackling the challenges of hybrid learning and comprehensive distance learning. Last school year, James said, was about transitioning from online classes to full-time in-person learning while dealing with challenges like COVID-19 protocols, supply-chain issues and staffing shortages.

This school year will be about alignment and direction, James said, focusing attention on the district's new strategic five-year plan for 2022-2027, in that district officials are coming together with families, staff and community around plans, as an attempt to move forward together in the same direction.

NCSD's previous strategic plan also had the words "equity, care and integrity." "Relationships and empowerment" are new to the five keywords for the district's strategic plan, as they replace "excellence and engagement." The new plan adds the phrase, "to act with courage," in an effort to get youth to be more vocal about their own educational experience.

There are four points in the district's strategic plan.

Student Experience & Success: "Everything we do is about student experience and success," James said.

People & Culture: James wants student and staff culture, as well as how staff interact with students, to be frequently taken into consideration and discussed.

Resources & Services: When making important decisions, James asks the following questions about the district's resources and services: "Are there enough, are they appropriate, are they fulfilling student needs? What can be done to improve access?"

Family & Community Collaboration: This collaboration can come out of something like the Rotary Club meeting, which had a goal to communicate with mutual understanding — no easy feat but certainly a worthy goal, James said.


North Clackamas schools:

Milwaukie Rotary Club motto: Service above self

When: Weekly lunch meetings typically noon on Tuesdays

Where: Elks Lodge, 13121 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd.

Community service: Besides community projects, many of which have a youth component, the Rotary Club also engages in global projects and peace building.

"We put about $20,000 a year into the community through our service projects," said club member Joel Bergman, "and we have a $5,000 scholarship for graduating high-school students."

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