Parents conveyed a strong message to the Estacada School District principals Wednesday, Sept. 11, while advocating for clear goals to guide administrators in their decision making.

The conversation unfolded during the September “Time for Parents” meeting held in the Estacada High School library.

“A lot of why we have these (‘Time for Parents’) conversations is because we want to know before May,” said Clackamas River Elementary Principal Seth Johnson. He pointed out that the amount of money awarded to the district won’t be determined for quite some time, though.

Eagle Creek Elementary Principal Dan Draper reminded the parents that a survey designed to identify the community’s goals for the school district is in development.

Draper said that he hopes leadership from the parents who attend the “Time for Parents” meetings will shape the survey.

He hopes to be able to disseminate the survey by winter break.

“That’s why I want the survey to go out as soon as possible because I want to know what you guys are thinking,” Draper said.

Estacada Junior High School Principal Tina Rhue said that past district administrators have “come up with tons of options without knowing the top two priorities.”

Rhue indicated that it’s important to “know what you want first” before setting policy.

“What are our community’s values? What do they really, really, really want above all else?” Rhue asked.

She said that once the values for the district have been determined, district leaders may apply themselves to finding the best model to achieve them.

Rhue offered an example: “If the pulse of the community is that above all else each grade level needs its own teacher, then we need to do it.”

Rhue said the community had effectively exercised its voice at the close of the 2012-13 school year by roundly rejecting the proposed elimination of music and P.E. teaching positions in the elementary schools.

“The community spoke. They said, ‘We want music and P.E. at the elementaries,’” she said.

She said she doubted that the school board would consider cutting those positions next year.

Lack of variety at junior high

Rhue told the group that a parent who was unable to attend the meeting had asked her to discuss a matter with the group.

The parent was concerned the junior high school does not have as many “different class offerings” as the high school.

For example, everyone from the struggling student to the super-achiever has the same social studies class.

Rhue said the junior high’s small student body supported only a small number of teachers.

“The number of students really limits the choices you have,” she said.

Rhue said she’s not sure what the solution to this problem is.

Blends at Eagle Creek Elementary

Draper said every grade but kindergarten is blended at Eagle Creek Elementary.

“I can’t say I’m embracing blends, but I’m accepting them,” one parent commented.

Kindergarten flood

Johnson told the group that the principals “traditionally count on the kindergarten roundup number doubling,” but this year, Clackamas River Elementary got many more new kindergarten students than expected.

He said later that Clackamas River staff had been expecting about 60 kindergartners but 74 were enrolled the day before school started.

Another half-time kindergarten class was added in order to avoid class sizes of 37 or so students. The kindergarten classes now have about 26 students.

The teacher brought on for the new kindergarten class had been a part-time English Language Learners (ELL) teacher for the district.

She will continue to teach ELL part-time in addition to teaching a kindergarten class; this makes her a full-time employee of the district.

Parents at the meeting asked why there had been so many more kindergartners than anticipated. Johnson said the district traditionally advertises the kindergarten round-up with mailers and fliers and notices in Estacada News. But due to staffing changes, the district had missed the deadline to publish a notice in this paper.

Rhue mentioned that administrators were considering having “a key communicator in each church in the community” to help inform first-time parents of the requirements of starting their children at school.

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