Editor's Note: Four people are challenging three incumbents on the Forest Grove School Board in the May 16 election. Longtime board member Fred Marble offered these thoughts as Election Day draws closer:
We have worked hard to make changes that impact our graduation rates. We are seeing success as our high school continues to increase the graduation rate. We have more AP classes than any other high school in Oregon. Many of our students have obtained substantial college credits and some have enough to complete their first year in college.
This is a direct result of our efforts to improve collaboration between institutions of higher learning making these possibilities for our students.
We have worked to make sure all students have the necessary educational tools through standardized curriculums and that teachers have the tools they need. The late start on Wednesday allows time for critical professional development and data-team collaboration time as well other building level collaborations. Late-Start Wednesday took a hit this year because of the loss of school days due to weather. It is imperative that it be reinstated this next school year.
We have made Echo Shaw and Cornelius true dual-language schools. They now encompass pre-K through sixth-grade students. This allows non-native speakers for both English and Spanish to develop fluency in both languages. Currently we can only fund pre-K in these two schools. The performance results have been dramatic and this will have a positive impact on future high school graduation rates. It is our goal to have pre-K in all of our elementary schools as soon we can obtain funds. Those funds would need to come from grants or from the state school fund. We continue to seek those funds and you can help by lobbying your legislators.
Tom McCall has been able to accomplish more now that the students come there having achieved in a common curriculum and are now ready to move forward in a manner that was not possible with the varying curriculums of the past.
Neil Armstrong continues to make great gains in student behavior and performance. Having every student possess an electronic device has improved student engagement. Those having a GPA of 3.5 or better GPA has steadily increased from 13 percent in 2013-14 to currently being greater than 30 percent. Our middle school students can now elect to take some classes that meet high school standards and transfer those credits into high school credits. This allows them to take more advanced classes in high school. We have a strategic plan that we follow closely. It was developed in collaboration with the board and [superintendent's] cabinet. We made this plan have deliverables; we review our accomplishments every quarter and have made steady progress to achieve our goals. This plan is a living document and we have increased our goals. We are now in the budget season and this year's budget will be based on the goals set forth in the strategic plan. We invite the community to attend the budget meetings.
While all of our board members take their responsibilities seriously, they also reach out beyond the district in support of schools and community. Director Hayes has two students in our schools. He serves on several city committees and has served on the governor's task force for educational funding. In reviewing special education funding, he found a disparity in how special education funds were calculated that led to a change in the formula. In the first year of the change, Forest Grove realized nearly $1 million more a year for special education. He has been instrumental in developing a yearly Washington County legislative dinner meeting that brings our legislature to us to hear our thanks and our needs. His car almost goes on auto-pilot from the many trips he has made to Salem to testify and meet with legislatures advocating for schools. Director Hayes brings much from his career as an educator, including his last position as a dean at Pacific University.
Director Winkler, who has two students in our schools, has attended specialized school board training with the Oregon School Boards Association and has made many trips to Salem also advocating for schools. He has also participated in equity training along with most of our members. He brings business wisdom from his personal job, where he manages about $30 million in high-tech security equipment. He and his wife have been very active in our schools, where he served as a PTA president.
Director Waterman is a business major and has managed her own business as well as managing and working for others. She has a student in high school and brings a great perspective in lay and profession terms to the education and budgeting decisions she helps us reach. She works during the day but takes part in many committees and meetings at night. At these meetings she listens and learns from the community while communicating and advocating for our students.
All of our board members strive to improve their own development by attending OSBA trainings in the summer and at the annual convention — both are full of training seminars.
The things I have spoken of are not inclusive; there are so many positive things that can be said about our district that it could fill this whole issue of the paper.
We have all worked hard to make Forest Grove an exemplary district. Our superintendent is nationally recognized as well as our district for all of the gains and innovations that have been made. You can be proud of the Forest Grove School District and we will continue to work hard to advocate for more funding from the state legislatures so we can make ever greater gains, restore programs and reduce class size.
I am looking forward to serving with a board that is able to serve our community without hidden agendas, bringing continued positive leadership for the next four years and into the future.
We as a board ask that you join us in advocating for our students and for securing additional funding from the Oregon Legislature. You can go the Oregon Rising website (oregon-rising.org), click "Take Action," and from there you can identify your legislator. Now that you have done that, please send them your message.
Fred Marble is a Forest Grove resident who holds the Position 5 seat on the Forest Grove School Board.