School leaders consider phase out of Salem program
Changes could be forthcoming for educational programs in Salem and Woodburn that have ties to the Estacada School District.
As leaders from the school district and the Eagle Creek-based Summit Learning Charter renegotiate their contract, one topic of discussion is potentially finding a different school district to sponsor Summit Community College High School, a program where students can complete high school or receive a GED. In addition to its main location at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, the program offers additional options for GED programs in Woodburn.
Though Summit Community College High School is backed by the Estacada School District, the charter school is open to students around the state. As the sponsoring school district, Estacada receives funds from the state for each student enrolled in the program.
"We support these kids and we support the situation, but at the same time as we kind of audit . . . the achievement numbers that come out of this program and how it correlates with the representation of the Estacada School District . . .we just feel like, when it comes to prioritization, we want to continue the focus on the kids who are within our school district boundaries, which is our program, as well as continuing to grow the Summit Learning Charter," said Ryan Carpenter, superintendent of the Estacada School District.
Approximately 260 students are enrolled in Summit Community College High School, which was launched in 2008.
"Kids enrolled by and large don't have a home anywhere else. In many cases, they're trying to get back into the game," said Rick Slater, director of Summit Learning Charter and Summit Community College High School. "Summit Community College High School serves a lot of kids, but it's also a source of difficulty because of state reporting."
Slater noted that graduation rates released by the state focus on students that complete their high school education in four years, and are not reflective of those who finish in five or more years.
"That school has touched hundreds of kids, but not all of them get high school diplomas, so the graduation rate is (lower)," he said.
According to statistics from the Oregon Department of Education, Summit Community College High School had a graduation rate of 20.08 percent for the 2016-17 school year.
That same school year also saw 61 seniors who earned a GED and 45 who were continuing their enrollment for the next school year.
At Estacada High School, the graduation rate for the 2016-17 school year was 76.03 percent, and Summit Learning Charter had a graduation rate of 83.24 percent during the same time.
One element included in the contract that leaders from Summit and the Estacada School District are negotiating is "a slow and controlled phase out" of the Summit Community College High School program, Carpenter said. If approved, he estimated that the process would take a minimum of two years.
"We don't want to just pull the rug out from under these kids. We also want the charter school to have a little opportunity to offset some of the change that would take place," he continued. "We're looking at a. . .slow closure where we start to gain the interest of other potential school districts who might want to take this program on so that these specific kids are served."
Carpenter noted that it could be valuable to have a school district closer to Salem sponsor the program.
"Hopefully it's a district that has had experience with kids like that in the past," Slater added.
The contract will likely be voted on by the Estacada School Board and the charter school's board by the end of this school year.
Carpenter noted that the change would allow the Estacada School District's student achievement scores to be better represented at the district level, along with a continued focus on local students.
"We're just trying to put our best district foot forward and represent our community and its achievements in a more reflective manner," he said. "Estacada, for decades, has been focused on serving all kids, regardless of where they're at. . .that's always been the mission of the Estacada School District, and it's awesome that we've had this opportunity to do so, but right now, we believe (we) should be more narrowly focused on the kids who live inside the school district and serving them to our fullest capacity, as well as supporting the Summit Learning Charter School."