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Dan Goldman accepts the School Board’s parting gift, at his final District board meeting, June 12. His last day will be June 30.

At graduation, our seniors and their families rode a rollercoaster of emotions as they celebrated achievements and bid farewell to the school system that helped educate them for more than a decade. We should feel lucky to have such a strong class of role models and go-getters stepping into the world:
 
  • 27 students graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA
  • 58 students were the first in their family to graduate from high school, setting a precedent for generations to come
  • 56 students graduated with a seal of biliteracy
  • 82 percent of this year’s seniors are continuing their studies at post-secondary schools across the country and internationally
 
Their accomplishments — supported by our truly exceptional pre-K through 12 staff — have helped catapult us into the top eight high schools and top 10 school districts in Oregon.

Achievement gains

We are closing in on the final year of our six-year strategic plan to deliver on our mission of “Excellence. Every student. Every day.” It’s an exciting opportunity to reflect on our collective accomplishments toward the lofty goals we focused on for the past five years.

We got a wake-up call in 2013 when our schools were highlighted in a series of articles in the Oregonian for having some of the lowest attendance rates in Oregon. We answered by systematically intervening early with students at-risk for chronic absenteeism, by building relationships with students, and by partnering with other community organizations. Together, our educators have made significant progress in ensuring students have the tools and the desire to attend school regularly.
 
After adopting new curriculum in 2014 and working hard in rigorous implementation, our incredible elementary educators radically improved third grade reading results — one of the most important predictors of future academic and social success.
 
We also saw impressive gains in graduation rates and participation in college-level coursework in high school. Our educators, families and students keep raising the bar!
 
And importantly, we are quickly closing gaps in opportunities and outcomes between our white and Hispanic students. We can never be truly “excellent” until we deliver for all students, regardless of their race, class or native language.
 
An engaged community
 
Hood River County schools have boasted a proud legacy of community involvement from the time our school system was founded over 150 years ago by farmer and fruit grower Nathaniel Coe. This culture is contagious and continues to grow as we deliver for students every year.
 
In 2012-13, we had 982 volunteers in our district. This year, we had over 1,700. Just this month, we hosted our first-ever, Spanish-language “Parent Summit” with 100 parents in attendance. At the summit, parents learned tips to successfully engage with their child’s school, connected with community organizations, and heard from state education leaders for the keynote presentation.
 
State education funding falls short of what we need to provide a world-class education system, but our diverse community always unites behind us to provide additional resources! We’ve recently passed capital bond and operating levies at historically high levels, so we can keep schools safe and modernized; we’ve attracted the state’s best educators; and we continue delivering high-quality, well-rounded curricula to our diverse student body. In fact, we were just named the 11th best school district to work for out of Oregon’s 198 school districts.
 
Safe, welcoming schools
 
Academic success and community engagement is not possible without a safe and welcoming school culture. Our schools have done an incredible job of remaining responsive to family and student needs. Here are some examples:
 
  • Six of our schools and the district office have bilingual staff in their front offices to welcome our linguistically diverse families. In fact, we’ve increased our bilingual staff by 52 percent since 2014.
  • Our voter-supported capital bond has enabled us to remodel school entrances so they are safe and modern. We’ve been able to bring our bond projects in under budget, so we will be improving security at Hood River Middle School and adding career-tech learning spaces at the high school next summer.
  • Our staff are trained in the latest, research-driven practices to support healthy social-emotional growth to contribute to a positive school culture (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Playworks).
  • The school-based health center at our high school now serves all of our students, making it easier to access much needed health care, such as mental health services.

Financial stewardship

Thanks to our unwavering commitment to responsible budgeting and strategic investment, our administrators, budget committee, school board and fiscal office put together a positive, student-centered budget for the upcoming year. In summary, this budget:
 
  • Adds 18.4 employees to lower class sizes, add electives, expand preschool and increase counseling, mental health and behavioral support.
  • Fulfills a promise to only ask for money from our community when needed by lowering next year’s tax rate on the Local Option Levy for all households by 4 percent.
  • Maintains a 13 percent reserve, providing stability and protection against recession and other potential funding shortfalls.
 
In addition, the district has several significant financial achievements to look back on:
  • Two consecutive Certificates of Excellence in fiscal transparency and accuracy.
  • Newly increased bond ratings from S&P Global Ratings on its general obligation bonds
  • Five consecutive years of clean financial audits.
 
 
Dan Goldman leaves the district June 30 to become superintendent of Northeast Oregon Education Service District. His successor is Dr. Sara Hahn-Huston.

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