With the visioning process underway, officials want to talk to 1,000 patrons for ideas on facing the future

TIGARD - More than 200 people crowded into the Tigard High School cafeteria on the evening of Feb. 20 to share their ideas on education for the kick-off of the Tigard-Tualatin School District's 'Vision Tigard-Tualatin' process.

In fact, the event was so successful that organizers ran out of information packets, according to district spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon.

'We planned for 200,' she said. 'We should have made more.'

That was a good problem to have because more people means more input, and school district officials left the event with hundreds of ideas that their patrons would like to see implemented.

'Our goal is to stay one step ahead of our children,' said School Board Chairwoman Caroline Neunzert.

Superintendent Rob Saxton added, 'This is a unique opportunity. We want to hear from our community. Our mission statement is to educate every child, and our target is growth.'

According to Saxton, the target date is 2020, when this year's kindergartners will graduate from high school.

'How much has our world changed since our current 12th-graders were in kindergarten in 1995?' Saxton asked.

Just to refresh everyone's memory, Saxton noted that was the year eBay and Yahoo were founded, the DVD was announced, 286-megahertz computers were considered state of the art, there was no Internet, and OJ Simpson was acquitted by a jury following his trial for the murder of his wife and her friend.

An aggressive schedule has been set for the visioning process, with focus groups from every school and across the community meeting into April, when a steering committee will identify common themes and have the finished project completed by May.

In June, the vision themes will be presented to the community and School Board, and the report will be published.

But rather than have it gather dust on a shelf, district officials plan to begin implementing the results next summer.

Kate Dixon, a consultant who has worked on the Chalkboard Project, led the participants, who were seated at round tables along with district principals and teachers, through a couple of exercises.

The first question to be answered was: What are your deepest core values for the education of our children? After each group made a list, individuals put colored dots by the two values they considered most important.

The second question was: Given these core values, what is the most exciting opportunity Tigard-Tualatin schools could undertake?

Again, after groups had an opportunity to write down a list of their ideas, they placed colored dots by the two they were most in favor of having implemented.

When the work was done, all the large sheets were taped to windows and a wall in the cafeteria, which created a sort of wallpaper vision for the future.

'We want to talk to 1,000 people in the community after tonight,' Saxton said before posing some questions to the group. 'What do you value about the current education program in Tigard-Tualatin schools? What skills and knowledge will be required for success in the future? How should schools and the district change to address these needs?

'We will know our school district is successful when… Name one thing we could do that would make schools a better place for student learning.'

Among the many ideas generated at the visioning event were more bilingual staff at schools, more magnet and art schools, hiring the best and brightest teachers and administrators, enhanced opportunities for middle and average students, career exposure, instilling confidence in students and a lifelong love of learning, and connecting to the real world.

Also on the lists were valuing individuality and the ability to think independently, learning critical thinking in addition to the three R's, interacting respectfully with others, discerning right from wrong, developing a greater appreciation with a global context, and preparing for jobs not yet created.

Still more ideas were enhancing the ability to deal with change, developing critical-thinking skills, helping to educate parents to better assist their children, and having high behavior and scholastic expectations and smaller classes.

A few comments, while funny, also brought home key points. Someone wrote, 'School starting later - we are tired!' Also, someone else wrote, 'Teach the kids - forget the crap.'

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