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Two hours of testimony leans heavily on career/technical education, bullying, funding

The Oregon Legislature's Joint Committee on Student Success has been taking testimony around the state, with the goal of finding solutions to problems in the state's public schools. And on Wednesday, July 11, the road show came to Washington County.

Lawmakers toured schools throughout the county and held roundtable discussions with educators and business leaders.

Wednesday evening, they took two hours of testimony from community members at Beaverton's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy. And while topics ranged widely, many people spoke in favor of career and technical education; for stable school funding; and for programs to address bullying.

Lawmakers are expected to present a series of bills in the 2019 legislative session based on this summer's state tour.

Sen. Kim Thatcher, whose district includes portions of rural Hillsboro, said testimony in rural, suburban and urban Oregon have been similar.

"We've heard a lot about local control and accountability," she said.

Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton commented on the diversity of the testimony.

"It's all over, A to Z," he said. "There are a lot of concerns."

State Rep. Susan McLain of Hillsboro isn't on the committee, but sat through the testimony.

"We're hoping to hear from people," she said. "What resources do you need? What outcomes would you like?"

After hearing from business and education leaders in the early roundtable discussions, McLain — who worked as a teacher for more than 40 years — said the biggest topics of the day included early childhood education, reducing class size and offering so called "wrap-around" services, such as counseling, family resources and nutrition in the schools.

Among those who testified Wednesday, Southridge High School Principal David Nieslanik spoke in favor of career and technical education, or CTE, programs. His school now offers two tracks, business and communication information systems. Starting next year, the Beaverton high school also will offer engineering, communication arts and health.

"I'm 100 percent a supporter of CTE," he said. "They help us increase our attendance."

That thought was echoed by Trampas Simmons, a carpenter from Lebanon, who urged lawmakers to back career-oriented programs.

"Let's be honest, not every kid is going to college," he said.

Katie Riley of Hillsboro is chairwoman of Washington County Kids, an organization that supports students at risk of dropping out. She spoke up to champion early-childhood education, after-school programs and summer programs.

Calum Nguyen spoke in favor of drop-out prevention programs and duel-credit classes, which provide both high school and college credits. Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant, was in danger of dropping out of Sunset High School, he said, but counselors and teachers helped him through bad times. Nguyen graduated this spring as salutatorian and will attend the University of Southern California this coming year.

Another student, Hillsboro resident Danny Adzima, talked about mental health counseling, telling lawmakers about two classmates, one who contemplated suicide, and one who committed suicide. Adzima is an incoming sophomore at the Hillsboro Big Picture School.

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