West Linn-Wilsonville School Board discusses student investment, equity
The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board met Monday, Oct. 4, to recognize a former district mentor, discuss inclusion and review actions taken to dedicate resources to students' mental well-being and academic success.
Beginning Teacher Mentor Program
The school board recognized Katy Mayer, a former principal in the district, for her work in the Beginning Teacher Mentor Program. Mayer emerged as a leading mentor when the program was just starting up, and bounced from various mentoring positions until her retirement in 2019.
The program was established in the early 2000s, and is designed to pair newcomer teachers with veteran staff. The pair meets weekly to co-teach, observe lessons, examine student curriculum and review achievement data. The program has been linked to improved teacher retention and enhanced student learning.
Assistant Superintendent of Primary Schools Dr. David Pryor said Mayer was being recognized for her continuous hard work and how she genuinely cares for others, emphasizing this point by saying Mayer believed in him when he was switching from being a teacher to administrator.
"She has a heart the size of Oregon," he said.
Other members of the board shared their gratitude for what Mayer contributed to the district.
"As you know, when one of your leadership qualities is to grow leaders around you, your legacy lasts for a very long time," said Superintendent Kathy Ludwig.
Areas for attention this year
Dr. Barb Soisson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, delivered the Division 22 Standards Assurance report, which specifies how the district complied with the Oregon Administrative Rules in 2020. The rules are mandated guidance from the Oregon Department of Education that cover an array of topics such as complying with diploma requirements and emphasizing prevention measures for substance-free schools.
Soissan spoke of the district's dedication to the equitable outcomes of the TAG (talented and gifted) identification process and taking into consideration how well a student performs dependent on barriers.
"Students of color, students who are emerging bilinguals and students who learn differently or have learning disabilities have often been very underrepresented," she said, adding that by taking barriers into account and broadening measures to recognize every student, the district can hopefully allow more students to be submitted into the TAG program.
Another key point was weaving in physical activity during the school day that goes beyond physical education classes. Some ideas being discussed on a state level are designated times for students to take a walk during school hours or exercises taught by teachers.
Soisson also emphasized continuing sexual health education in schools. She said before the end of the academic year there will be a comprehensive sexuality education plan proposed to the school board for approval.
Student Investment Act update
After efforts made by Oregon Education Association members in May 2019, the Student Success Act was signed into law, granting $1 billion in additional funding per year for Oregon schools and their students. The purpose was to meet students' behavioral health needs and increase academic achievement by limiting disparities for all students.
The West Linn-Wilsonville School District was originally promised over $7.5 million, but because of the pandemic, its budget was slashed to $2.4 million. Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools Jennifer Spencer-Iiams delivered the official annual report on how the district spent the 2020 grant funding during the board meeting.
A large focus of the grant was on hiring new staff for inclusion and mental health needs of students, such as social workers, psychologists and specialists for the Bilingual Family Support program. The district also launched the WLWV Family Empowerment Center and implemented a Panorama Survey, which provided insight into the social-emotional needs of students.
The district is anticipating receiving $6.1 million for the new academic year.
Board member Kristen Wyatt made a statement about the Newberg School Board's controversial decision to remove the "Every Student Belongs" policy and urged her fellow board members to show support toward the district's students.
"I don't want our kids to feel scared and alone, like we've heard so many students in Newberg feel," Wyatt said.
She asked the other board members for their participation in drafting a collective statement to show their commitment toward their students.
"As a school board, I think that we should reaffirm our focus to our students … I would love for us to reaffirm our focus on the 'every student belongs' policy, so our students know that we are taking this seriously … and that we are focused on keeping students safe, promoting their success and fundamentally disrupting systems of racism," she said.
The next school board meeting is a work session at 5 p.m. on Oct. 18.
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