The half-time position of a "graduation counselor" for Madras High School was added at Monday night's School District 509-J Board of Director's meeting.
Superintendent Ken Parshall said the counselor would work with students who had left school, or who were falling behind, with the goal of increasing graduation rates and decreasing dropout rates.
"The counselor locates them, and tries to re-engage them by reconnecting them to Madras High School, Bridges, Heart of Oregon, or the Roots program. (The counselor) would also give them support after they come back to school," Parshall said.
At present, MHS has 700 students and two counselors. "This is in addition to that, and acknowledges that more than 30 percent of our students don't earn a diploma and we want to improve that," Parshall said.
The board approved the hiring of Gary Whitley as a graduation counselor. Parshall said Whitley works with youths in Bend and was recognized as Citizen of the Year one year for his efforts. "This is work he's done his whole career," he said.
In other personnel business, Al Hulbert was hired as an instructional coach, and Silvia Navarro Bonilla Moran as a Spanish teacher, both at MHS. The resignation of Spanish teacher Eric Carman was accepted.
In a recap of camps and events the 509-J District hosted during the solar eclipse, Parshall said he was impressed with the community, school staff, and particularly proud of the students who were involved.
Human Relations Director Randy Bryant noted, "With the work of our support staff, Shannan Ahern as our logistics coordinator, the middle school administrative staff, overall it was a huge success. When I came back Tuesday I couldn't tell anyone was here."
Board Chairman Laurie Danzuka commented on the excitement generated at Warm Springs K-8 over the student's high-altitude balloon launches to photograph the eclipse. She said many community members took advantage of the eclipse-related educational opportunities hosted at the school.
Teaching staff is getting ready for the start of classes, with an in-service training by Janel Keating, a national expert on professional learning communities.
"Teachers will learn from and with each other all year long," Parshall said, adding, "We will use the teacher team planning on Monday mornings throughout the year." Teaching teams will also be collaborating with other schools, for a smooth student transition to upper grades.
He said two retired principals were also coming to work with support staff on how to interact with children over the year, because their actions also help create a positive school atmosphere.
The board approved a grant of $6,000 for Warm Springs K-8 Academy to use for science, technology, engineering and math studies.
New meeting format
With a new superintendent, and recent board training by a representative from the Oregon School Boards Association, school board meetings now have a new format.
Several topics that used to be discussed individually in open session, are now put in a "consent agenda," which is passed with a single vote, and without discussion. The topics usually include approval of the last meeting minutes, personnel hirings and resignations, and the acceptance of grants. If a board member wants to ask questions, that topic can be pulled out of the consent agenda and discussed at the meeting.
This has resulted in reducing the length of board meetings from several hours, down to one hour or less. However, Parshall said board members will now spend more time in "work sessions," where they will review school policies and other topics. The next work session is from 4:45-6:45 p.m., Sept. 11, followed by the board meeting at 7 p.m.