LO school district preparing for 'dynamic year'
This story has been updated from its original version.
The Lake Oswego School District held a district-wide School Accountability Committee (SAC) meeting at Lake Oswego High School Sept. 23, with the theme of celebrating what's right in the district and looking toward what's possible.
Each school in the district has a SAC that provides an important communication link between the school board, the school and the community. SAC members work to facilitate citizen involvement in the decision-making process of the school. SAC members from each school and their principals, the school board and district staff all came together at the district-wide meeting.
"This is going to be an exceedingly dynamic year. We're in a year of planning for the future," said school board chair Rob Wagner. The district's five-year strategic plan ends this year, so the administration and school board will be focusing on gathering input from the community to develop the new strategic plan. "It's incredibly important to get your thoughts on what we want the school district to look like in the next five years," Wagner said.
Superintendent Lora de la Cruz spent the beginning of the meeting telling the parent community about her background and how that shaped her as an educator and a leader. Her parents met on the border of Texas and Mexico — her father an American and her mother Mexican — and she sees the border as a recurring symbol in her life. "Most of my life has been spent navigating two cultures and navigating a border that separates those two countries," said de la Cruz. "Instead of a border, I see it and think of it as a bridge. It has served as a symbol my whole life, and driven me to be the person I am today."
De la Cruz also said that she values hearing multiple perspectives. "I purposely chose to work across the socioeconomic spectrum (throughout my career). I value having experience with families, like yourselves, that represent a multitude of beliefs, backgrounds and experiences," she said. "Borders divide, and bridges connect, and I seek connection."
The superintendent said that what is best for students is at the center of everything she does. De la Cruz told parents she wants to focus on "what is working, what we can do better together, and how we can evolve."
She pointed to the district's steadily increasing graduation rates as something that is working. "It means that we are supporting students with more intentionality each year," she said.
De la Cruz said areas of improvement she has identified so far are inclusiveness (students feeling like they belong in the district), diversity of learners and race/ethnicity, equitable support for all students, social-emotional wellbeing and mental health, and providing innovative and engaging teaching.
She also issued a charge to district and school staff. "I would like for every student to be known by their name, their strengths, their needs and interests by an adult in the school district," de la Cruz said. "I have asked our staff to think about students that might be less visible. I would like every student to know that they are known and they are cared about."
The SAC meeting also provided parents one of the first chances to provide the district with feedback related to Student Success Act funds.
Lawmakers voted in May to raise new tax dollars to boost the amount of money flowing toward Oregon's public schools by $1 billion every year. It's a major effort to increase academic achievement, improve students' mental health, boost high school graduation rates and improve Oregon kids' long-term prospects.
As part of the Student Success Act, the Student Investment Account was created to provide close to $500 million in non-competitive grant money for all Oregon school districts. Funds are allocated by district size, and the LOSD will be eligible for about $5.2 million dollars available to be used in the 2020-21 school year.
Many parents pointed to class sizes, physical space in schools and more supports for students who are struggling as areas for improvement.
From Sept. 24 to Oct. 25 there will be a slew of PTO meetings, back to school nights, a Student Services Parent Advisory Committee meeting and more, at which the district will solicit community input. District administrators and board members will also be making calls and home visits to ensure that every voice in the district is heard. There is also an online survey available online now at https://tinyurl.com/yxw23wma/.
The month of November will involve taking all of the input and creating a first draft of a Continuous Improvement Plan, a required document under the Student Success Act. That plan will be disseminated into the community, and a second round of meetings and online surveys will be held to get feedback.
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