Now that he has had a chance to “immerse himself in Hood River,” new School District Superintendent Charlie Beck is even more impressed with the area and the school district.
“I had some idea that it was a pretty quality-filled organization,” Beck said. “Pat Echanis, former principal here, is a good friend of mine, and I know some of the folks who have worked here.
“I think the quality of the professionals who work here — from bus drivers, custodians and secretaries to teachers and administrators — are of a higher caliber than I was ready to expect. He also had praise for the work of the administration and school board. “I think they have done some really important things; I think (the district)’s fiscally sound; I think they’ve done a really nice job of taking care of their local option levy and their capital improvement bond.
“I think one of the most obvious reflections is that we still have an intact school year,” he added, “where other districts in the state of Oregon have cut from five to as much as 18 school days for this year.”
Beck and his wife, Kristine, moved here from Bend, where Beck served seven years as assistant superintendent. One of his responsibilities there was calling snow days for Sunriver and La Pine. And like Hood River County, the Bend area can have vast differences in road conditions from one part of the school district to the other.
“It’s a difficult situation,” he said. “When I got to Bend, we decided we would call the district differently. And so seven years ago we started with our different microclimate in the south county, which is about 1,000 feet higher than Bend, and we would call school there and not in Bend.
“It hadn’t been done before and it was terribly difficult because we do share some high school kids. But it just ended up working better once the public got used to it; once they understood that it could be dry pavement in Bend and 2 feet of snow in La Pine.”
He’s not suggesting that we implement such a plan here — yet.
“We’ll go through a winter and see,” he said. “There are other ways to look at things; we’ll just wait and see.”Beck is also well-equipped to tackle the Cascade Locks Charter School situation, having been in charge of the charter and contract schools in Bend.
“I have been in communication with (the charter school committee) regularly and would like to cooperatively work with them to see if there’s an opportunity there for something that’s mutually agreeable,” he said. “So far the relationship’s been great.”
Charlie and Kristine Beck have been enjoying living here so far, and trying to take full advantage of everything the area offers.“We’ve kayaked the Klickitat River twice; we’ve done some hiking in the areas around here, mainly up and down the waterfall area of the Gorge.
“We both ride Harley Davidson motorcycles and so we have ridden to Trout Lake and up to the town of Klickitat, on the back roads between here and The Dalles and up around the mountain; so we’ve enjoyed that,” he said. “It’s beautiful riding country.”
The couple has five children between them “Hers, mine and ours”: Kate, a student in Corvallis, Sara, a police dispatcher in Eugene, Sarah, a student in Klamath Falls, Matt, who teaches high school music in Klamath Falls, and Jean, a student in Eugene. The Becks try to make trips to both areas — Eugene and Klamath Falls — at least once a month, not only to visit their son and daughters but also their 10 grandchildren.
Kristine accepted a position in Portland about a month ago, so she has been commuting to the Multnomah Educational Service District where she works as a special education administrator.
Though he speaks glowingly about the district he now oversees, Beck knows there are challenges ahead.
“I’d probably list the biggest challenge as the upcoming financial situation, and just making sure that we take as good of care of the kids as we can,” he said. “Cascade Locks is certainly going to be a challenge, to make sure that goes well.
“We have a wonderful school board, and that is part of what brought me here,” he said.