Back to school: District fine tunes for first classes Tuesday

The school year got off to an upbeat start — literally — for the staff of Hood River County School District.

Music teacher Larry Wyatt and his student ukelele group Ukestra performed at the Aug. 28 all-staff meeting at Hood River Valley High School. “They really got people going,” said Supt. Dan Goldman. More music came from the HRVHS Aurora and Borealis group, directed by Mark Steighner.

With teachers back at work, the assembly helped set the stage for the 2013-14 school year, which starts Tuesday for most students in the Hood River County School District, and for all students at Horizon Christian School. Horizon has a new secondary principal, Faith Kempf (details on page B2) and will see an 8 percent enrollment increase, with 215 students.

All elementary students and middle school students start Tuesday, after Labor Day holiday. HRVHS holds ninth-grade orientation on Tuesday, and the upperclassmen are phased in through Thursday.

Goldman and board chair Liz Whitmore both spoke at last week’s staff assembly, and the rest of the school board was present. Teaching association leader Kelvin Caulkins and classified association president Steve Malone spoke, apparently the first time that union leaders have addressed teachers at the event.

The district has numerous new faces as the new school year begins, starting with Goldman, who succeeded Charlie Beck. Saundra Buchanan is the new director of curriculum and Erin Lolich will serve as interim finance director this year.

Goldman and school board chair Liz Whitmore both addressed the staff during the assembly at HRMS, and the rest of the school board also attended.

Goldman said he spoke about “encouraging relationships, and how it relates to what we do in the classroom, and about trust, and how we demonstrate how we care about each other, and I spoke about our commitment to excellence.”

Goldman, whose daughter Lily will be a second-grader at May Street, said, “I think people are real excited about the new year. I have noticed there is a real sense of optimism in our teaching corps and in our staff that feels really good. I think there’s a lot of optimism and I think people are focused on the right things here, which is not always the case. They are focused on students and learning. There’s not a lot of conversation here about how the buses run, or those type of operational things. People are really focused on getting their kids from point A to point B and across the stage. It’s a really good culture here.”

As part of the teachers’ welcome last week, Goldman chose three essays written by students last spring about teachers who had positively influenced them. Students Lily Tomlinson of Westside, Marteka Lane of HRMS and Rosa Serrano of Wy’east read their essays and presented them to the teachers.

Tomlinson wrote of teacher Kathyn Ritter: “(She) never let a problem try to slip past; she’d snatch it up on the spot. Sometimes things don’t turn out like you want them to. That was a lesson she taught me.”

The essays will be published in the Hood River News in the Sept 5 edition.

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