Director of special programs leaving Newberg School District after five years of work

With staffing already significantly reduced due to budget cuts and various departures, the Newberg School District office remains in a state of flux with the recent announcement that director of special programs Candace Pelt has accepted a position with the Oregon Department of Education. Pelt

Pelt, who came to Newberg from the Sheridan School District in 2013, is leaving at the end of the month to become assistant superintendent for student services.

"Dr. Pelt's dedication to the students, staff and the community of Newberg cannot be understated," interim superintendent Joe Morelock said. "Her tireless work for the past five years here have developed programs for students of all abilities, lifted up the challenging work of our educators in both equity and inclusion, and built strong teams of professionals focused on the right work for schools. While we are saddened she is leaving us, we know that she will champion efforts, which will benefit all students in Oregon. We wish her the very best in her future endeavors."

During her tenure in Newberg, Pelt completed her doctorate in educational leadership at George Fox University and played a major role in several district-wide initiatives while overseeing the English Language Learning (ELL), migrant services, alternative education, special education and federal title programs, among others. She also helped implement the district's popular dual-language program at Edwards Elementary.

Pelt said she was especially proud to be involved in crafting the district's policy on educational equity, which was adopted by the school board in June 2017.

"It's a really clear statement of value from our community and our school board about what we believe the student learning experience should be," Pelt said. "That took a lot of time and energy and then we were able to use that when things were hard and we had budget reductions. We were able to say this is our policy and this is what we value, so we're not going to make decisions that are going harm students that are marginalized the most. It became a really nice guide during that difficult time."

Although often misunderstood and conflated with some of the behavioral and staffing issues that came to a head in the district in the 2017-2018 school year, a corollary of the equity policy was the district's move to an inclusionary approach to special education. That meant the district would strive to serve all students in their neighborhood schools as much as possible, which also meant moving away from, but not totally eliminating, specialized classrooms and programs for special education students.

"I'm proud of the work of inclusion that teachers and teams that have come together and done complex, amazing work to make sure every student feels included in their neighborhood school," Pelt said. "I'm proud of our leaders for taking up that belief. One of the most exciting things is that I'm leaving this district, but inclusion is not. Inclusion is a thing here and it lives beyond whoever started it."

In her position at ODE, Pelt will oversee many of the same student support services that she did in Newberg, including food service, transportation and special education. She said she was invited by ODE to apply for the position in July and found it difficult to leave Newberg when she was offered the position. Before she leaves Newberg, though, Pelt will oversee teacher and staff training in several areas in preparation for the beginning of classes Sept. 5.

"Newberg has some of the best teachers I've ever worked with and some of the most amazing teams and leaders, so it's definitely the people that I will miss," Pelt said.

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