News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Thorsett sworn in to school board at meeting

David Thorsett was officially sworn in to the Sisters School Board in the seat vacated last month by Nikki Gregg as the first order of business at the monthly board meeting held Wednesday, December 11, at the school district office.

Board chair Jay Wilkins explained that Thorsett was selected to the board from among six “incredibly qualified” applicants for the opening. Since Gregg’s resignation, Amanda Clark also stepped down and the board will review applications for her replacement in the weeks to come. The deadline for applying for the opening was December 13.

Prior to the official start of the meeting two athletes, including Thorsett’s freshman daughter Ella, and junior John Peckham, were recognized for winning individual state titles in cross-country. Recognizing state champions at board meetings has become a tradition over the past few years.

After words of praise and thanks from head cross-country coach Josh Nordell and the cutting of a congratulatory cake, the meeting got underway beginning with comment from the public.

Joey Hougham addressed the board with questions about the results of the latest investigation regarding his complaint regarding the school district’s girls basketball program. Superintendent Curt Scholl explained that he had received feedback that he hoped to review and respond to by December 13 at the earliest.

“There is a lot of material to go through,” he said.

Another parent expressed disappointment that her daughter had not received any noticeable support in the aftermath of the complaints to the district regarding the girls basketball program.

Leah Soloff, a teacher at Sisters High School, also addressed the board regarding a potential change in policy regarding pets in the school and was assured that her dragon, Puff, would not fall under the restrictions that the policy may include.

Debbie Newport, a member of the educational committee for Sisters Folk Festival (SFF) and Brad Tisdel, creative director for SFF, gave an in-depth presentation regarding the integration of art and music from kindergarten through 12th grade that is supported by Sisters Folk Festival and a five-year “Studio to School” grant obtained through the Oregon Community Foundation in 2013. Sisters was one of 18 sites in Oregon that received $280,000 total over five years.

According to Tisdel and Newport, Sisters schools now have art and music programs at every grade level, and Sisters Folk Festival is committed to continuing to partner with the school district to sustain what has been implemented. The music and art teachers have been working with members of the SFF educational board to develop a K-12 scope and sequence for art and music.

“We believe that performing and visual arts are integral to the development of the whole child,” said Tisdel.

Martha Hindman, special programs director, reported that currently 11.4 percent of the district’s student population is identified in special education, which is up slightly, but still with the average across Oregon.

Elementary principal Joan Warburg focused her report on English-learners and the Title 1 programs that she oversees. Dawna Spencer is the new English Language Learner/Spanish specialist for the district where growth in the past year has been mostly at the secondary level, whereas typically growth happens in the elementary grades. Additionally, Gabriel Cobos was hired recently as the community liaison for the district, which includes emphasis on the Hispanic families within the district.

Middle school principal Alison Haney gave an update on her work as the coordinator of the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program for the district, which is new for her this year. She has met with the TAG coordinators in each building and has created an updated Personal Education Plan (PEP) form for use this year. She is also developing a survey that will be offered to the students in the district who are identified as TAG in order to get their perspective on how they are being served.

Joe Hosang reported on the ever-evolving Sisters Educational Options (SEO), which has formerly been viewed as pertaining only to the online education program within the district, but in fact encompasses many different options for students, including but not limited to taking courses online. He discussed Heart of Oregon’s program as well as options having to do with high school credit by proficiency, partnerships with Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, GED preparation, and Expanded Options at COCC.

“Our goal is to ensure that we have ways for all students to complete a diploma,” he said. He shared a pair of examples of creative ways the school has worked out to keep students engaged and enrolled in our district even under unusual circumstances such as moving out of state temporarily.

The remainder of the meeting included first readings of a number of policy updates and a second reading, that was approved, regarding criminal record checks and fingerprinting.

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for January 8, 2020 at 5 p.m. at the district office.


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