Student Success Committee tour adds school safety and student health roundtables
Joint Interim Committee on Student Success members listen to the education needs and concerns of business leaders Thursday morning in Redmond. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
The Joint Interim Committee on Student Success is sharpening its fact-finding mission, adding school safety and student health roundtables.
On Wednesday, committee members embarked on a three-day tour through Bend, Redmond and Hood River, and legislators asked questions about local control, spending and school services.
Committee Co-Chair Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said that legislators recognize that an Oregon education reform plan will require adding money to schools but that there also will likely need to be cost-containment and accountability elements. The committee continues to look for the most effective uses of school funds and the best means of measuring success.
The committee added the safety and health roundtables to its usual program of facility tours, student listening sessions, education and community leader roundtables, and public hearings.
School shootings have amplified safety concerns since the committee began its work in January. The school safety roundtable included representatives from local public safety agencies and health services. The discussion focused heavily on students’ social and emotional health, particularly concerns about youth suicide.
Sen. Lew Frederick, D-Portland, said he was struck by how the school safety approach is preventative rather than reactive. He said he appreciated that school leaders were emphasizing mental health and not just hardening schools.
Committee Co-Vice Chair Sen. Tim Knopp’s work group included school safety among its policy goals. Knopp, R-Bend, said it was important for the state safety efforts to find commonality and coordination so that all agencies are speaking the same language.
The committee has split its research among three work groups. Their policy recommendations are due Nov. 8 and will be the basis of the committee’s report in late December.
The work groups met Wednesday night in Bend and heard presentations on topics ranging from equity initiatives to career-connected learning and school health clinics.
The committee has been learning about the central role schools play in public health. It has also been exploring where the line should be between services provided by schools and those provided by other state and local agencies. During the education stakeholders meeting, legislators asked pointed questions about the intersection of schools and health care, and the committee is scheduled to meet with school health officials Friday in Hood River.
The central Oregon tour brought up many of the same themes as other stops – health and pension benefit expenses, career and technical education, wraparound services, early learning, community collaborations – but it also again highlighted districts’ adaptive responses to local conditions.
Cheri Helt, a Bend-La Pine School Board and OSBA Legislative Policy Committee member, reminded legislators during the business leaders roundtable Thursday morning that effective programs also come with costs.
“When you see these great programs, what are the trade-offs?” she said. “What are the pressures on the system?”
She said her district’s staffing of valuable and student-engaging career and technical education classes has also led to larger class sizes in core classes, such as math.
Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, (front left) and Rep. Julie Fahey, D-Eugene, (right) admire student art during a tour Thursday of Tumalo Community School. (Photo by Jake Arnold, OSBA)
The education stakeholders meeting Thursday afternoon returned to this: Legislators are seeing some of the best the districts have to offer, but school successes come at incredible effort and sacrifice.
“Our educators are doing a great job with what they have,” said Doug Nelson, a High Desert Education Service District Board member and former OSBA president. “We need more.”
During the stakeholders meeting, administrators, teachers and education advocates returned to the need for increased school staffing, from teachers to counselors and bus drivers.
“We need more adults making connections with students helping them to navigate life along with math and reading,” said Peggy Kinkade, a Bend-La Pine School Board member.
The committee’s next public hearing is Sept. 27 in Portland.
- Jake Arnold, OSBA