North Clackamas superintendent: Grateful for work with community
It has been an honor to serve the North Clackamas community for over three decades.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have spent my entire professional career serving the students of this high-achieving school district. Thirty-two years ago, North Clackamas took a chance on a young, fresh-out-of-college graduate to teach middle school science.
From a middle school teacher to a middle school administrator, to a district level administrator, to a high school principal, to serving as your superintendent since 2012, I've been provided so many opportunities to learn and grow.
Over the years, I've worked to better understand the unique perspective and experiences each individual brings to the table and to amplify the voices of those who are silent or who have been silenced. I've grown as a listener and as a collaborative decision-maker.
I've learned that challenges are frequent in this work, especially in the past 16 months, and as we worked together to overcome those challenges, we've done so with integrity and transparency.
We've cried together at the loss of a student taken far too early and celebrated together the successes and achievements of our students and staff. I've been moved to action by the stories of our students and families. I'll never forget the moment I was listening to a small group of Black students talk about their experiences in our school system when a young woman looked me in the eyes and said, "Mr. Utterback, I just keep my head down so I can graduate."
It was moments like these that reinforced for me that our purpose is the development of the human being. It is about ensuring that when students leave us they have the opportunity for social uplift, it's about giving them a voice in this world, it's about them being empowered to claim their humanity and it's about each student knowing they are important. Our schools must be places where each student knows we care about them and we are with them — every single one of them.
Our students count on us to put in place the conditions and environment for this to happen. Each of us, no matter what we believe, how we look, where we were born, or whom we love, is entitled to move through the world feeling respected and safe. Love for one another can make this happen. Unlike tolerance, which would have us acknowledge our differences, love knows that each of us has worth and value. Love compels us to defend each other from hurt and harm.
Since my first day as superintendent, we've worked tirelessly to build a more inclusive and more equitable school system for each of our students. We understand that a strong school system leads to a stronger community. Working with you and guided by our values of equity, engagement, care, integrity and excellence, we've achieved improved outcomes for our students and in the process set our community on a path for continued success.
Together, we've improved the graduation rate by 21% and closed the graduation gap for traditionally underserved students.
Together, we've made the social-emotional health of our students a priority with new curriculum, the addition of mental health professionals and the expansion of school-based health centers in each of our neighborhood high schools.
Working together, we passed the 2016 Capital Construction Bond that invested over $500 million into our schools and facilities while exceeding our bond commitments. Today, our schools are safer and increasingly modern learning environments that will benefit students for decades to come.
Together, we've made equity the foundational principle of our school district. From the adoption of diverse curriculum, to efforts to diversify our staff, to the utilization of an equity lens in our decision-making, North Clackamas Schools strive to honor and affirm the identity, history and experience of each student. I am also extremely proud the district has named its newest schools after inspiring Black female leaders.
Working together, over the last five years we've averaged the highest attendance rates of the largest school districts in Oregon.
Together, we've expanded career and technical programs, Spanish dual language options and enrichment opportunities for students.
Working together, we've expanded Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and college credit options for students to build their college transcripts while still in high school.
These achievements would not be possible if not for the hard work and determination of our students, families, staff and community partners, who inspire me each day. Thank you for what you have taught me and for allowing me to be a part of your journey. I am tremendously proud of the work we've accomplished together.
As I prepare to leave the school district, I do so excited for our future as Dr. Shay James begins her tenure as superintendent. Her knowledge of the school district, her ties to our community, her vast experiences and leadership skills and the respect and trust she has garnered both in our district and in the broader community position her well to lead the North Clackamas school community to new heights.
Thank you for your grace and support over the years. I am grateful.
Matt Utterback is retiring as North Clackamas School District superintendent effective July 1.
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