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Sherwood School District principals weigh in on state of schools

The Sherwood School Board’s September meeting is traditionally the time when the principals report on the opening days at their schools, and every principal, whether a first-timer or a veteran, had cute anecdotes to relay to the board at its Sept. 12 meeting.

For Jon Wollmuth, principal at Archer Glen Elementary, the learning started even before the first day of school when teachers spent two days focusing on math assessments.

“It was fun to have the teachers back but better to have the students,” he said. “I had butterflies in my stomach the night before like I did when I started school. It was neat to see the shiny new backpacks and shoes and smiles.”

Wollmuth told the story of a second-grader he came across out in a hallway watching fourth-graders go by. “I asked, ‘Shouldn’t you be in class?’ and got the reply, ‘It’s better to watch the older kids go by.’”

A fifth-grade girl told Wollmuth that she got the best fifth-grade teacher, “even better than my fourth-grade teacher last year – and I loved my fourth-grade teacher.”

Wollmuth said that when he passed the praise onto the fourth-grade teacher, she was thrilled.

“We’re off to a great start at Archer Glen. There is a renewed sense of building toward the common core (of state standards).”

Over at Edy Ridge Elementary, which opened up three years ago, Principal Frank Luzaich said the staff worked hard before school started, “but when the kids showed up, it didn’t feel like work anymore.

“There is a more relaxed feel this year. There is a reunion feeling that happens with families. Folks feel like it’s not a new school anymore. This is our fourth year, and there is more efficiency. One benefit of a restricted budget is that there is no new staff to orient.

“Also, in July there was a jungle out in front of the school. Volunteers organized a Weed-a-palooza, with kids, custodians and parents out there weeding to music. They tried to make it fun. We’ve had good collaboration between people, and we’re off to a great start.”

Jeremiah Patterson, who is the new principal at Middleton Elementary, said, “Unlike Edy Ridge, there are some new faces at our school – mine included.”

Describing Middleton, Patterson said, “This is a place where individuals matter, whether they are struggling or have successes. We have a system in place at the macro level to support the kids, and we have a lot of volunteers.

“I heard one teacher compliment another on a student’s progress, and the teacher deflected the compliment to praise the team and personal intervention.”

Tim Smith is the principal at Hopkins Elementary, which along with Middleton, Sherwood High School and Sherwood Charter School, were all rated by the Oregon Department of Education as Level 5, or the top ranking, when its report was released Aug. 3.

In addition, Hopkins was named a Model School by the state for its work with disadvantaged students and traditionally underperforming subgroups, including students, and the staff has been discussing how the news.

Smith said the staff has been discussing how it would handle what are sure to be requests to visit the school and learn why it has been so successful.

“What if a school wants to visit?” Smith asked. “What makes a Model School? We need to be able to answer that question, and we will learn throughout the year. We are looking forward to the journey.”

Marianne Funderhide is back at Sherwood Middle School as principal after working there for many years until she served briefly as Middleton’s principal.

“Moving back to SMS means the kids do not mispronounce my name,” she said. “In fact, the students don’t acknowledge me at all except to say, ‘Hey!’”

The first day of school was only for sixth-graders so they could learn their way around the building, and one girl was confused and asked why the dual schedule system was listed on paper as days one and two while people referred to it as A and B. Funderhide said that was a great question!

She teased Superintendent Heather Cordie by saying that when Cordie tried to help a student find her way to a classroom, they both got lost.

“We had 80 seventh- and eighth-graders helping the sixth-graders on the first day, and there were no tears, which is a good thing,” Funderhide said. “We already have had some teachers present new strategies for teaching – they’ve invited each other to come into their classrooms and team teach.”

Associate Principal Suzanne West, standing in for Principal Steve Emmert at Laurel Ridge Middle School, reported that the week teachers came back “felt like week one.”

She added, “The energy level was high. It was really exciting to see the teachers come back. One of the things that really jazzed them up was the (Aug. 27 all-staff) back to school rally.”

She commended both Emmert and students for stretching the bounds of their technical knowledge to learn more.

Carlos Sequeira, principal at SHS, said, “We had a very exciting first two weeks. It was nice to see our school come alive with the teachers talking about teaching and learning again and hearing the marching band practice.”

The first day of school was for freshmen only, but the staff was there along with 78 LINK crew students to show the newcomers around and answer questions.

“Many students shared that it was the best first day of school,” Sequeira said. “Even one girl who was new to the district said she had made five friends that day.

“Back to school night was Monday the 10th, and parents met their kids’ teachers. There were tables set up with information about clubs and activities. We are off to a great start. It’s a great day to be a Bowman. It will be a great year in Bowmen Country.”

Chief Academic Officer Gary Bennett reported that “enrollment has been growing at a declining rate.”

While the final enrollment numbers won’t be in until October, as of the board meeting, Sherwood had an additional 46 students this year.

“While that is less than 1 percent, most districts around the state would like that number,” Bennett said. “One of the reasons we’re in the financial shape we’re in is because of increasing enrollment.”

The state provides approximately $6,088 per student enrolled, and there is an economy of numbers, Burnett said.

The school district raised its staffing ratios to balance the budget this year and met its targets: The elementary target ratio was 26.50 (students to teachers), with the actual ratio 26.64; for the middle school level, the target was 26.75, with the actual ratio 26.79; and for the high school, the target was 28.50 and the actual ratio was 28.54.

As of Sept. 14, the school district’s website lists the following enrollment numbers: Archer Glen – 510; Edy Ridge – 585; Hopkins – 506; Middleton – 588; SMS – 645; Laurel Ridge – 480; and SHS – 1,406.




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