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McLain hosted a conversation on education at the city library on Saturday to address concerns and take suggestions.

Around a dozen community members gathered around a table at the Forest Grove City Library on Saturday, July 28, to discuss the current state of education and what's being done to address prevalent issues surrounding the topic. STAFF PHOTO: OLIVIA SINGER - Susan McLain, a retired teacher herself, talked with community members about the current issues in education and how she hopes to help with education reform.

Leading the conversation was Rep. Susan McLain, a Democrat who represents District 29, which includes Forest Grove, Cornelius and parts of Hillsboro. Having been a teacher for 42 years, working at Glencoe High School and Hillsboro High School, McLain is passionate about education, and she serves on the education committee in the Oregon House of Representatives.

The small group addressed issues surrounding early childhood education, college and career readiness, curriculum mandates, teacher workload, online and alternative schooling, and representation in schools, to name a few.

Neil Armstrong Middle School teacher Marcia Camacho raised the issue of representation in some local schools, saying that the racial makeup of the staff does not always reflect the student population. That leads to some students' needs not being addressed, she suggested.

"It's frustrating that we feel like the system is sort of working and it's just a question of adding people of color to the system, versus the system itself being transformed a little bit so that it's more comprehensive of our differences and the needs," Camacho said. '"If you're the first generation going to college, there are so many barriers ... There are problems of even feeling like 'I have to leave my home culture and my community in order to become successful.'"

Camacho added, "When we are working on these opportunities, we should also be expanding the understanding of what it should look like."'

McLain agreed that there needs to be more work put into college and career readiness. As a former debate coach, she also mentioned the significance of programs like speech and debate and how well those learned skills translate into other elements of a young adult's future.

"That teaches kids how to critically think," McLain said. "That gives them skills ... that can help them in a wide variety of ways to be able to do better things at their skill level, no matter what kind of a job they have, no matter where they are going after school. ... Critical thinking will help everyone."

McLain also talked about how much of students' individual success as they go through school derives from the fundamental years in a child's brain development, up to age 3.

The group made suggestions on how to encourage parents to read to their children more often and inform more parents of the free resources available for early literacy, like classes and storytime at local libraries.

Those in attendance at Saturday's meeting were mostly comprised of retired teachers from the Forest Grove and Hillsboro school districts, which prompted discussion on how to get current teachers involved in these conversations. McLain said she will try to hold meetings at times more convenient for current teachers, and she said she is hopeful there will be another meeting in September where she can share progress regarding the aforementioned issues.

McLain is seeking re-election this fall. A Democrat, she is favored to hold her seat against Republican nominee David Molina, a businessman, U.S. Army veteran and political newcomer.

McLain discussed the three committees she is currently serving on working on education reform: the Joint Committee on Student Success, the Educator Advancement Council, and the Advisory Committee on Safe and Effective Schools for ALL Students.

And while there are many issues surrounding education across the country, McLain said, there are also many positive aspects.

"I think it's extremely important that we understand there are some blessings in Oregon," she said. "There are some benefits in Oregon. ... We can say, 'We have a place to start, and we have some effective things to talk about.'"

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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