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First school board chat draws six


Topics at dialoguing session run from parent involvement to scheduling

A half-dozen citizens showed up at the first "dialoguing" session with members of the Forest Grove School Board Monday, with topics ranging from grade level configurations to the district's late-start policy.

The board plans to continue the informal chats each month unless interest wanes.

"I want to know why there aren't more parents" at back-to-school nights and other events, said parent Quentin Crain. Board vice-chairman John Hayes, who engineered the monthly chats, responded that district-created Parent Academy workshops are helping to underscore the importance of parental involvement.

Meanwhile, board members are upping the ante on their own communication efforts, Hayes added.

"We're taking the conversation to the people," he told the small group, which gathered in a circle prior to the regular board meeting at the district office. "We need to do a better job reaching out to people."

Board meeting stalwarts Sharon Boge and Joyce Sauber of Gales Creek were there. Quentin Crain's wife Elizabeth also attended the 45-minute chat session, concerned with Forest Grove's unusual grade 5 and 6 setup at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School. Most other Oregon districts operate K-5 elementary schools, grade 6 to 8 middle schools and grade 9-12 high schools.

Getting several children off to different school buildings on weekdays is a challenge, Elizabeth Crain noted. "I think it's hard on families to split the schools the way we do," she said.

Superintendent Yvonne Curtis said the grade configuration issue "comes up every year" but "so far it hasn't become a driving conversation with everything else we have to do."

When Tom McCall first began operating as a bridge between district elementary schools and Neil Armstrong Middle School in WHEN, "it was a good idea," Curtis said. But over time, "as resources have dwindled, there's been very little investment in that model," she added.

Board member Kate Grandusky defended the district's Wednesday morning late-start program, which gives teachers an opportunity to collaborate on lesson plans.

"Professional development is so important," Grandusky said. "With all the mandates, the teachers really need to talk and work together in their own buildings."