Vernonia Schools News

PTA Installs Playground Equipment

PlayStructure-color-webThanks to the Vernonia PTA, kids at the Vernonia Schools have a new play structure to use this school year.  The PTA raised the funds and volunteers, including members of the Vernonia Freewheelers Club installed it.  The PTA plans to continue raising money and will add onto and expand the structure in the future.

 

Superintendent Explains K-2 Blended Classes to Concerned Parents

Over twenty people attended the August 14, 2014 Vernonia School Board meeting, most of them there to express concerns about the District’s plan to group all kindergarten through second grade students together for instruction this coming school year.

After hearing the concerns of one parent, School Board Chair Bill Langmaid asked Superintendent Aaron Miller to explain the rationale for the decision to place students in five K-2 blended classrooms this school year.

Other parents raised questions and expressed their own personal concerns throughout the rest of the discussion, which lasted for over an hour.  The parents were mostly focused on how individual student’s needs would be addressed in a blended classroom setting.

Miller told the audience that the initial impetus for the move was the breakdown of numbers of registered students in each of the three grade levels.  “As we were looking at those numbers and trying to figure out  how to put them into equitable class sizes between the four teachers, there were no good options,” explained Miller.  Miller said that even by adding a fifth teacher there were still big disparities in class sizes and went on to explain that the solution to blend all three grades came from the teachers themselves along with Miller.  Miller noted that by adding a fifth teacher class sizes have been reduced from thirty-one students to twenty-three students.  “That is a significant difference and played heavily into our decision making,” said Miller.  Read More

Superintendent Explains K-2 Blended Classes to Concerned Parents

Over twenty people attended the August 14, 2014 Vernonia School Board meeting, most of them there to express concerns about the District’s plan to group all kindergarten through second grade students together for instruction this coming school year.

After hearing the concerns of one parent, School Board Chair Bill Langmaid asked Superintendent Aaron Miller to explain the rational for the decision to place students in five K-2 blended classrooms this school year.

Other parents raised questions and expressed their own personal concerns throughout the rest of the discussion, which lasted for over an hour.  The parents were mostly focused on how individual student’s needs would be addressed in a blended classroom setting.

Miller told the audience that the initial impetus for the move was the breakdown of numbers of registered students in each of the three grade levels.  “As we were looking at those numbers and trying to figure out  how to put them into equitable class sizes between the four teachers, there were no good options,” explained Miller.  Miller said that even by adding a fifth teacher there were still big disparities in class sizes and went on to explain that the solution to blend all three grades came from the teachers themselves along with Miller.  Miller noted that by adding a fifth teacher class sizes have been reduced from thirty-one students to twenty-three students.  “That is a significant difference and played heavily into our decision making,” said Miller.  Read More

PTA Purchases First Phase of Play Structure

Installation Planned for August 22-23

The Vernonia PTA is pleased to announce that  Phase I of a new playground play structure has been purchased for the school campus.  The PTA plans to install the entire structure in three phases as funds become available.

Plans call for Phase I to be installed and ready for students on the first day of school this year.

The PTA has been hard at work during the last several years raising funds to purchase and install playground equipment.  The purchase of Phase I will cost just over $7,000.

An installation work party has been scheduled for Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24.  Work party leaders and volunteers are needed.

“This is a huge deal!” says PTA President Melissa Zavales.  “Our kids and school have been without a playground!  We are so excited and this should be a huge and exciting event for our community and students!”

A Grand Opening celebration is being planned during the School Open House on October 9th.

State and Camp 18 Forestry Competitions

  Bridger Steward and Winter Snow took first place at the state competition in First Aid

Bridger Steward and Winter Snow took first place at the state competition in First Aid

Members of the Vernonia High School Forestry Class took part in the  State Forestry Competition on May 3 in  Corvallis.  Winter Snow and Bridger Steward took 1st place in  First Aid;  Snow also took 3rd place in Tool Identification and Steward finished 4th in  Choker Setting.  Nicole Glass  and Makayla McCord finished  3rd in First Aid; Glass also finished  6th in the Arbor Climb and Job Interview,  and McCord finished 6th in Cross Cut Saw with Jared Whitton.

The Vernona Loggers also had a chance to compete at the Camp 18 Logging Exhibition on may 10.  VHS Forestry students competed in numerous events at the day long event.

Nicole Glass

Nicole Glass

Makayla McCord

Makayla McCord

Junior Salmon Auction, May 22

On May 22th, at 7:00 PM, Vernonia Hands-On Art Center, the local non-profit arts and heritage support group, presents the fifth annual Jr. Salmon Auction at Vernonia’s new school on Missouri Avenue.

A fundraiser for the Vernonia Schools arts programs, the auction features the amazing salmon creations of Vernonia art students. The students are supplied with blank pressboard salmon on which to craft their own unique visions. In addition to salmon, students have worked their magic on small furniture items that will also be included in the auction.

JuniorSalmonAuctionBeginning at 7:00 PM the salmon will be auctioned off with a minimum starting bid of  $10.00. Profits go to support Vernonia School Arts, Scholarship, and Hands-On Art programs.

Doors open at 6:30. Enjoy live music performed by students under the direction of Andy Morrow, visit the Band Boosters for a bite to eat, and chat up Vernonia’s talented young artists while you browse their creations. Be sure to sign up at the bidder’s table and be ready to go at 7:00!

Watch for previews of artwork and reminders on Facebook. For more information contact Diana Peach at peachlee123@gmail.com.

Morrow Gets Vernonia Bands Ready to Perform

Andy Morrow has a very busy conclusion to his first school year in Vernonia.

Morrow, who took over this year as the Vernonia band instructor, was preparing the Vernonia High School Band for their next Band Festival on April 16 in Clatskanie.  This performance provides the VHS Band with their final opportunity to qualify for the state band competition.  The Vernonia Middle School Band is also practicing for their District Festival on April 22 in Forest Grove.

“Most everything happens at the end of the year, which is both good and bad,” says Morrow.  “As everything else at school, like testing, is coming to an end, we’re just ramping up.”

Morrow also has the upcoming VHS Band Spring Concert, which will be held on Monday, May 5.  This concert will be very special as it features the return of former Vernonia band instructor Rob Izzett  who will be co-directing a joint performance between the VHS Band and his Mazama High School Band from Klamath Falls.

The VHS band will also perform at the graduation ceremony on May 31.

Band2-webMeanwhile, the Vernonia Middle School Band is also preparing for their Spring concert on May 13.

In addition to all the upcoming band performances, Morrow says he has two individual students, senior Sarah Wagner on the tuba and freshman  Kaitlyn Eyrrick on the clarinet, who will play in the “Music in May” concert, a three day event which Morrow describes as an honor band were the students will play in a band, be critiqued on their performing and also receive some private lessons.

In addition, Morrow says senior Jacob Medearis just won the District trombone solo and  will compete at the state solo contest on May 3 at Lewis and Clark college.  “Jacob is doing some really good work,” says Morrow.

First year instructor Morrow has a Bachelors Degree in Music and a Masters in Education from Portland State University. He has had previous teaching experience working with the Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra.  He plays the trombone as his main instrument.

Morrow is hoping the VHS Band can score high enough at their Band Festival to qualify for the state competition on May 16 at Oregon State University.  The VHS Band has qualified for state the last three years in row under Izzett’s direction, winning first place in 2012 and finishing third last year.

For the High School Band Festival, Morrow has his thirty-three band students working on three pieces of music they will perform.  The first is “English Folk Song Suite” by Ralph Vaughn Williams; the band will just play the first movement of this piece.  Next is “On a Hymnsong of Phillip Bliss” by David Holsinger, a slow ballad which Morrow says is difficult to play in competition because it is easy for the judges to hear mistakes in the performance.  “You can hear every single instrument so if there is a wrong note or a wrong rhythm it stands out,” says Morrow.  “It’s really about the phrasing and how the music is moving-if anything is wrong it’s really easy to pick out, so it’s a tough piece.”   The final piece is “The Light Eternal” by James Swearingen.  Morrow says this piece has an interesting background story: The music is about a warship in World War II that was sinking and is a tribute to the three chaplins who stayed on board who went down with the ship after giving solace to the many other ill fated sailors. According to Morrow, Swearingen added parts of old hymns into his musical piece.

As you can see it is a very busy spring schedule for Morrow and all of his Vernonia band students.

Vernonia Elementary Progresses Through ‘Focus Schools’ Program

Vernonia Elementary School has made significant progress over the last year in student academics, according to a new assessment program instituted by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

Two years ago ODE switched to a new system called ‘Next Generation of Accountability.’  Under this new growth model, Vernonia Elementary School (VES) was identified as a ‘Focus School.”  Being classified as a Focus School put VES on a watch list for ODE, but also brought additional dollars and resources to help the school address identified shortcomings.

FocusSchools-web“This can help us address the areas where we’re not performing that well, and help our staff learn how to address those issues with our students,” explained VES Principal Aaron Miller during a recent interview.

VES has used those resources well and seen improved test scores overall as a school, and by individual students.  Miller says some of that success can be attributed to the hard work and extra dedication shown by the teachers at VES.

“Our teachers are  really looking at individual students and trying to determine how to best meet their needs and then putting  those things in place in the classroom,” says Miller about his staff.  “I know it’s been a lot of work for them and it’s been an extremely difficult and time consuming process.  But they’ve seen the benefits and they’ve done an outstanding job of being dedicated to their students and moving forward.”

Under the new state-wide evaluation, ‘Priority’ and ‘Focus’ schools are schools that receive Title I funding who have been identified by the ODE as needing  additional support.  Priority schools ranked in the bottom 5% of Oregon Title I schools; Focus schools ranked in the bottom 15%.  Model schools are Title I schools which are ranked in the top 5% and are showcased as achieving demonstrated student growth through actions they have taken.

Title I is a federally funded program that provides extra money to schools or districts that have higher poverty levels.  The program specifically provides extra funding for students who are identified as disadvantaged as well as students who are not performing well.

Miller says the old evaluation system did not provide a fair assessment.  The new assessment formula is much more nuanced and is based on a combination of factors including student achievement, growth, and subgroup growth.  It focuses more on individual student growth as well as growth among students in historically underserved subgroups, which includes economically disadvantaged students, students in special education programs, and students who don’t speak English as a first language.   “This helps level the playing field and looks at individual student’s growth, which makes sense,” says Miller.

Under the new assessment process VES students in the subgroups have not shown adequate progress.  “In those subgroups our math and reading scores were lower,” explains Miller.  “So we had to figure out a way to address their needs better, as well as address the overall needs of all our students.”

The Focus School identification for Vernonia lasts for four years. This school year, the second   in the program, Vernonia received $34,000 through the program.  Miller says VES is using the funding for professional and skill development for teachers, and for materials to implement new programs.  VES was also eligible to receive an additional $40,000 this year and next year to implement an expanded reading program.  “This was a mandate in which they actually gave us the funding to put it in place,” said Miller.

VES teachers are using these expanded tools and resources to look at how VES assesses their students, how they analyze data, and then provide instruction so students meet their achievement goals.  According to Miller, teachers have used Focus School specific workshops, as well as early dismissal Fridays to come together and share ideas and strategies, receive additional training and develop tasks to create desired progress.

Specifically VES instructors have developed a standards-based report card for students and  developed a master schedule which provides daily time for reading and math interventions.  Teachers have also worked on how to prepare students specifically to perform well on state assessment tests as well as analyzing data about each specific student, including test scores, and attendance and behavior  records, to identify students in need of additional services.  According to Miller these focused steps have helped create a more consistent and cohesive program.

In addition, VES has developed an extensive Parent Volunteer Program, which puts parents in the classroom or working individually outside the classroom with students in need of extra help.  This program supplements the Title I teacher and assistants who are already working to decrease gaps in learning.  The expanding reading program also offers  “Power Hour,” an after school program with six assistants who work with groups of students.  Miller says over sixty students had already signed up for this program.

“One of the  things we’ve found, as we focus in on specific skills is that we also need to provide time for kids to practice and use those skills, by reading to adults and  not just have direct instruction,” says Miller.  “We need to create a chance to work with an adult to provide those developmental assets that are so important for our kids.”

For VES, the results of this additional funding and work by instructors, teaching assistants, volunteers,  and staff  has been significant.  The ODE uses a somewhat complicated matrix to produce a report card for each school, scoring schools in three categories: Academic Achievement, Academic Growth and Subgroup Growth.  In 2011-12 VES scored 30% on this report card, earning them an overall score of Level 2, (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being lowest and 5 highest).  Along with this Level 2 ranking came the Focus School designation.  In 2012-13, after just one year of additional funding, VES showed improvement in all three areas and had raised their score to 65% and an overall score of Level 3.   A closer look at the report card shows that in Academic Achievement VES raised their score from 60% to 70%, in Academic Growth they raised their score from 20% to 70%, and in Subgroup Growth had raised their score from 20% to 50%.

“It very good data and shows that what we’re doing has worked and we’ve made a difference,” says Miller.  “But it’s only one year.  We have to be able to sustain it and maintain that growth.”

Another telling statistic: when compared to all seventy-five Priority and Focus schools in Oregon, VES ranked 5th highest in scoring.

Miller explained that, under the old evaluation process, VES was classified as a ‘Targeted Assisted Program’ which meant the school assessed every single student and then identified and targeted those students with the greatest needs.  Those targeted students were the only ones who could receive assistance from Title I professionals working in the school.

“We went through a process about four years ago to become a school-wide Title I school which allows us to serve all students.  It was a very elaborate process, but now we are able to utilize our Title I dollars to help every single student.”

Miller says that before Oregon switched to the new, growth model evaluation, Vernonia was judged, just like all other schools who receive Title I funding,  by Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP),  under the ‘No Child Left Behind’ program.  According to Miller, under No Child Left Behind, there were targeted percentages of students who had to meet or exceed state test standards. “Every single year we met or exceeded AYP,” says Miller.  “There was never any indication that we weren’t doing that well.”

According to Miller ODE decided this really was not a fair way to assess students and spent several years to develop the new rating formula.  “When they changed the system to look more at growth of individual students,  that was where they saw deficiencies in our test scores and identified us as a Focus School,” said Miller.   “Until they came out with this new system, every single piece of data showed that we were doing what we were supposed to.”

Although access to extra resources has played a big role in the improvements VES has experienced since becoming a Focus School, Miller also gives a lot of credit to the resolve of his teaching staff and their willingness to go the extra mile.  Miller cited an example:  This upcoming summer from June 23-27 every single VES teacher has volunteered to attend a weeklong teacher’s conference in Portland.  “The conference costs are paid for through our Focus School funding, but they are volunteering a week of their time,” says Miller.

The conference will focus on overall general instruction and helping students grow, as well as a focus on reading instruction and using all the elements of teaching to be more effective.

“I really feel like our teachers have put in an incredible amount of work,” says Miller.  “The buy-in from staff has been a critical piece. They’ve really taken this to heart. ”

4th Grader Wins Essay Contest

EssayWinnerElijahBellinger-webElijah Bellinger, a fourth grade student in Linda Hobart’s class  at Vernonia Elementary School, is a winner in the 6th Annual “What You’re Made Of” essay contest.  The contest is  sponsored by the Oregon Ag Fest.

Elijah’s essay was titled, “Blueberries,”  which he  says are one of his favorite foods.  “I like to go pick them myself,” said Elijah.  “We were suppose to do it in our best handwriting, so I did that,” said Elijah about his winning essay.

With his winning submission, Elijah also won a field trip for the entire fourth grade class from Vernonia Elementary to attend the special event at the Oregon Ag Fest on Thursday, April 24. The fourth graders special day will consist of 13 fun and educational stations that will help the students better understand where their food and fiber comes from. They will plant seedlings, pet farm animals and much, much more. Transportation for the field trip will be paid for by McDonald’s of Oregon and SW Washington.

Loggerbots Complete Another Successful Season

Robotics2014-webThe Vernonia Loggerbots completed their 2014 season on April 10-12  at the FIRST Robotics  Regional Competition at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland

The team was in 19th place out of sixty-three teams at the end of regular competition with a 7-5 record.  Unfortunately the Loggerbots were not one of the additional sixteen teams chosen by the top eight finishers to be part of an alliance and continue on into the elimination rounds.  The Loggerbots finished the weekend in 38th place.

The Loggerbots had previously competed in two District Competitions.  At the Oregon City District Event the Loggerbots finished sixteenth out of thirty-five teams.  At the Oregon State University event the Loggerbots finished fifteenth out of thirty teams.

The Loggerbots compete against teams from all size schools in the Pacific Northwest Region.  At the end of the season, with points combined from all three events the Loggerbots participated in, the team was ranked 47th overall out of 153 teams.

This is the third year the Loggerbots have competed in the FIRST Robotics competition.  The team is made up of Vernonia High School and Middle School students under the direction of Eric Urban.  A team of community members and parents act as mentors for the team,  helping the students learn about fabrication, mechanics, computer programing and other skills.