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About Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 1, 2007)
Where Are We? A good place . . .
and getting better!
By Dr. Kenneth Cox, Vernonia School District Superintendent
“Where are we as a school district?” I’ve been asked that question a lot recently
– and I’m happy to answer it.
“We are in a good place and getting better!” is my answer. Why am I so opti-
mistic? Because of the people I work with and the differences they make in the
lives of our children.
The Vernonia School Board is focused on learning. They concentrate on ac-
tions that really make a difference, like establishing a culture of communication,
effective relationships, and recognizing staff for their countless hours for kids.
None of our board members have a “personal agenda.” They are committed to
working together to establish a better future for the community.
We have excellent staff at every level. They not only interact with your chil-
dren and grandchildren every day as teachers, aides and secretaries, but many
spend their evenings and early mornings making sure we have clean and safe
buildings. We have three ladies in our kitchen who provide two meals a day for
any student who wants it. Many a time I’ve seen teachers heading home from
school an hour or two after “quitting time,” having spent their own time away
from their families preparing for the next day.
We have a strong staff development program directed by Mr. McClain, the Ver-
nonia Middle School (VMS) principal and Curriculum Director. He and members
of the District Curriculum Committee have crafted a solid plan of professional
development, providing the tools and skills our teachers need to help students
succeed. Last year we spent time examining the more than 2,500 Oregon State
Standards in Mathematics, English, Language Arts, Science, Foreign Language,
Health, and PE to determine which are most important for Vernonia students to
be successful. This core set of standards are called the Power Standards; our
staff are using them to focus their teaching to better help students.
Our district Website is becoming more interactive. All our teachers have their
own web pages. Some of you may have already accessed some of these stu-
dent assignments and class schedules. We plan to have student progress re-
ports and grades available to parents online (through a secure access code) if
not by the end of this year, then early next year.
Our high school students have been given access to their own email accounts
which they can access from home to submit homework and communicate with
their teachers and fellow students. This option will also be available to middle
school teachers, after some initial training, if they have specific projects for
The Vernonia District has led the way in adopting two new technologies with
the help of the NW Regional ESD. We encouraged them to obtain a new, auto-
mated, online library system that we piloted for them last year and is currently
being used by many surrounding districts. You can even check out what books
we have in our libraries from home! We also installed a new Linux based, thin
client computer lab at Washington Grade School this year. We are piloting this
system with guidance from the ESD in using software that helps students learn
how use the mouse, to type and to navigate through different software choices
and the Internet (under teacher supervision). Our success in this area is largely
due to the efforts of staff. In this case, our District Technology Coordinator,
Glenda DeLemos, has spent many hours getting the WGS lab ready for stu-
dents to use and collaborating with teachers to prepare computer activities for
students each week.
We recently had a grant renewed for our district-wide after school program that
has been so successful it is being used as a model for other districts. This
program is coordinated by Mr. Miller, Washington Grade School (WGS) principal
who also introduced the Positive Behavior System (PBS) to WGS last year. The
PBS program has dramatically reduced student discipline problems. Its suc-
cess is spreading to VMS where staff members are being trained to continue
the program there.
Vernonia High School (VHS) is also making a difference. Under the leadership of
Principal Underwood, staff is improving student-staff relationships and estab-
lishing a safer learning environment. Mr. Underwood and his staff are vigilant in
addressing any and all student concerns for safety. He recently organized two
visits from canine police officers who checked school lockers for illegal drugs.
Students are also getting involved in making our schools safer and drug-free.
A number of middle and high school leadership students have participated in
the last two Vernonia Community Anti-Drug Coalition meetings as they have be-
gun to prepare for a community presentation on Nov. 15th at the Scout Cabin.
These activities emphasize the district’s continued efforts to help students ‘Say
No’ to drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Where are we as a district? We are in a good place that is getting better --
thanks to you and to your children; thanks to the many businesses, agencies
and community groups that provide volunteer and financial support our schools;
and thanks to the faculty and staff of the Vernonia School District.
• No School on Friday, November 2nd for teacher work day.
• Monday, November 5, 2007 there will be a Title I parent
meeting held at the WGS Library from 6:30 to 7:30 pm.
This is an informational and parent input meeting about
the Title I reading program for all parents of students
currently enrolled in the program. Attendance is greatly
• Parent /Teacher Conferences at MGS and WGS on
November 7th and 8th from 3-8 pm.
• November 5th through the 12th is WGS Book Fair at the
• No School on Friday, November 9 and Monday,
November 12 for Veteran’s Day.
• P.T.A. Fall Fundraiser begins November 19, 2007.
• No School November 22 -23 for Thanksgiving break.
School Board Meeting Notes
The 47J District School Board Meeting held on October 11, 2007 unanimously ap-
proved the use of Capital Reserve Funds to pay for the WGS sprinkler system upgrade
in the amount of $13,500. The upgrade will allow the district to remove any Fire Mar-
shal restrictions for the use of the basement, but will also improve the fire safety for the
entire building. Board members reviewed and unanimously approved budget adjust-
ment resolution #07-07 which resulted in a $87 difference in the actual budget amount.
The board also unanimously approved the Superintendent Evaluation Goals for the
2007-08 school year. The evaluation covers performance reviews in communication,
leadership, personnel management, board relations, and asset management.
Cathy Ward presented the board with cost estimates for a senior trip to Knottsberry
Farm, accommodations at Best Western and food at Medieval Times Restaurant. The
seniors and their chaperones can include either Grad Night at Disneyland for an addi-
tional $55, or Blastoff for an additional $88. Cathy recommended that information be
sent out to seniors and their parents for a meeting to discuss the trip and fund raising
options. The board unanimously approved the senior trip plans as long as they are in
compliance with District Policy for out-of-state travel which includes overnight stays.
Dr. Cox will be reviewing the policy and report back to the board members.
Students from VMS reported to the board that there will be a Fall Festival Masquerade
Dance on October 26, 2007 from 4- 6:30 pm. The cost to students is $4 per ticket. The
VMS volleyball team is doing well, winning all but one of their games this season and
the football team is also doing well with a 2-2 win/loss record. Next month the students
will be involved in a canned food drive. VHS Student Body President reported that
next week is Homecoming and everyone has been busy planning those activities. He
also reported the week after Homecoming is Red Ribbon week for Drug free pledges.
Information was provided about a new service called List Serve. List Serve is an email
service available to all patrons of the district. List Serve will be used in conjunction
with the district website to promote traffic to the website in order to notify community
members and parents of meetings and events. Special interest groups will be able to
use the service to exchange ideas and discuss issues. Any documents that can be pro-
duced electronically can be sent to the List Serve and then be automatically sent to
subscribers in the form of an email. The district will also use List Serve to report any
last minute school closures and announcements. Subscribers can receive these email
notifications at home or work. The district and each school will have their own lists.
It will be possible to subscribe to one or more lists. Students can also subscribe using
their personal email address.
Dr. Cox reported that he will be requesting a refund of the Conditional Use Permit
Fee that was paid to the city for the proposed wrestling building. The StEP commit-
tee’s community survey is now ready and will be distributed by members as well as
some random mailings. The committee hopes to have all surveys in by the end of the
The Columbia County Health Department will also be conducting a Pandemic Flu
Exercise at the Vernonia Middle School on November 13, 2007. The exercise will pro-
vide 400 doses of flu vaccination to be given away free between 3:30 and 7:30 pm.
The next School Board Meeting is scheduled for November 08, 2007 at 6:00 pm at the