U of O's Dr. Yong Zhao headlines four days of community discussions about the future of local education
by:  Dr. Yong Zhao

What if folks of various perspectives were to kick off 2012 by coming together to openly discuss a vision for educating Forest Grove's youth?

That's a New Year's resolution the six-month-old Forest Grove School Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) aims to keep - and it's doing it by staging a 'Vision in Education Series' on four consecutive evenings next week.

Planned for the series are a keynote address, book discussions, films, musical performances and a panel of people interested in sparking continued conversations about the direction education is heading across the nation, in Oregon and, particularly, in Forest Grove. All the events are free and open to the public.

Headlining the series is Dr. Yong Zhao, presidential chair and associate dean for global education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He's also founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology at Michigan State University and executive director of the U.S.-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence. His address, slated for Tuesday, Jan. 10, is titled 'Defining High Quality Education: The Education we Need for the 21st Century.'

Zhao, the author of more than 20 books, including 'Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization,' will speak at 7 p.m. in Taylor-Meade Auditorium on the Pacific University campus in Forest Grove.

No fewer than eight local factions have collaborated to co-sponsor the visioning series: The CAG, Forest Grove School District, Forest Grove City Library; the Forest Grove High School leadership class; Pacific University's College of Education; Pacific's Berglund Center for Internet Studies; and the school district's teacher and classified unions.

'Proactive opportunity'

Getting those groups on the same page was a coup in itself, say organizers.

'This is the first proactive opportunity this community is taking to come together cooperatively from our various perspectives to discuss education vision and goals,' said Anya Doll, one of the event's main coordinators who's been working for months to pull it off.

'This series is unique not only to this community but is really not often seen in a four-evening format in districts of our size.'

Zhao's offer to speak pro bono in Forest Grove came with only one condition, Doll said: cooperation.

'This could have been a strain considering events of the past year,' including fallout over severe budget cuts, disputes between district officials and some community members over policy choices and a November 2010 recall of two school board members, Doll added. 'However, it is a testament to the value placed on education in our community that it became inspiration.'

Students in the Forest Grove district 'are directly involved and encouraged to participate' in the series, Doll noted, by attending events and participating in the Jan. 11 panel. FGHS senior Peter Orlowsky created the event poster and students will provide musical entertainment and host refreshments. Here's the daily schedule:

• Monday, Jan. 9: A book discussion on Zhao's 'Catching Up or Leading the Way' at 6:30 p.m. at the Forest Grove City Library, 2114 Pacific Ave.

• Tuesday, Jan. 10: Keynote address by Dr. Yong Zhao, 7 p.m., Pacific University's Taylor-Meade Auditorium. A 6:30 p.m. musical performance by Pacific and FGHS strings students will precede his talk.

• Wednesday, Jan. 11: A vision panel forum at 7 p.m., including a question-and-answer period, in the FGHS auditorium, 1401 Nichols Lane. A 6:30 musical performance is scheduled beforehand. Moderator will be Dr. Mark Ankeny, dean of the Pacific University College of Education, who'll set the tone by talking about differences and commonalities in educational philosophy.

• Thursday, Jan. 12: First in a series of five films will be shown at 7 p.m. in Taylor-Meade Auditorium in Marsh Hall at Pacific University. Film title is 'Race to Nowhere.' The series will continue over the following four Thursdays (Jan. 19 and 26 and Feb. 2 and 9) at the same time and place. The second film in the series will be 'American Teacher,' produced by actor Matt Damon, whose mother is an educator.

All events will be video-recorded and a Spanish interpreter will be available at the Jan. 10 and 11 events.

join the effort

What: A four-day 'Vision in Education Series' designed to engender an open discussion about educating Forest Grove's youth

Where: Various locations, including Pacific University, Forest Grove High School and the Forest Grove City Library

When: Tuesday through Friday, Jan. 9-12

Info: Call Anya Doll at 503-314-8135 or e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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