Tag Archives: Dr. Ken Cox

Open House for Cox

The Vernonia School district will hold a  Farewell Open House for District Superintendent Dr. Ken Cox on Wednesday, June 4th from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  The public is invited to stop by the District Office at 1201 Texas Avenue during this time to say farewell to Dr. Cox prior to his departure to Idaho. 


Cox Accepts New Position in Idaho

CoxRetire-webThe Vernonia School District would like to announce that current Superintendent Dr. Ken Cox has accepted a position as Superintendent of the Minidoka County Joint School District #331, located in Rupert, Idaho. The Minidoka district serves 4000 students in four elementary schools, two middle schools, and a high school, as well as alternative middle and high schools.

“I am grateful for the time I have spent in Vernonia and feel that, though we have faced many challenges together, we have accomplished much, particularly in the past six years. Carol and I are proud to be able to say that we were part of Vernonia’s recovery following the flood of 2007,” said Dr. Cox.

Cox and his wife Carol, have three children and seven grandchildren. One advantage of this move is that it will put them much closer to their family.

Vernonia Schools Announce Interim Superintendent

Superintendent-AaronMiller-webThe Vernonia School Board has unanimously approved the appointment of Aaron Miller as the part-time interim superintendent for the Vernonia School District.  Mr. Miller will begin his one year appointment on July 1. The board made the approval during their March 13 meeting to help the schools transition smoothly from the leadership of departing superintendent Dr. Kenneth Cox.

“We’re excited to build upon what Dr. Cox and the community have created. Our school board sought an interim superintendent who could lead our efforts to address the achievement of all students and to analyze our gap issues,” said School Board Chair Bill Langmaid. “Mr. Miller showed professionalism and leadership in various educational experiences that we believe will serve Vernonia very well during the coming year. He impressed us during a conversation on the importance of sound leadership during this interim phase when he said, ‘The students are our most important concern. Every action we take must benefit them.’”

Mr. Miller received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR, and earned a master’s degree in teaching, specializing in elementary education, from Oregon State University in Corvallis. His coursework for the initial and continuing Administrator license was performed at Portland State University.

“I have spent the last 24 years dedicated to children in several different communities, and I’m honored to be chosen by the board,” Mr. Miller said. “I feel it is essential for an interim superintendent to engage in a collaborative fashion with the school board, community, administrators and the staff to ensure a productive and successful school year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to extend my role in the leadership team this year.”

Mr. Miller currently serves as the full time principal at Vernonia Elementary School. He began his teaching career at Lebanon Elementary, moving to Scio after two years. There, he taught second and third grades for 13 years. His move to Vernonia came in 2005, when he stepped into the role of principal. His appointment as part-time superintendent will not eliminate his position as building principal, and the district expects to see some shifts in administrative duties to accommodate his new position.

Mr. Miller will replace Dr. Kenneth Cox, who joined the District in 2006. Dr. Cox was tasked with serving as both project manager and superintendent during his tenure, as a major flood in 2007 necessitated relocating the entire campus out of the flood plain. After opening the new school in 2012, Dr. Cox has stayed on for two years to ensure a smooth transition into the new environment. Dr. Cox will be leaving the district at the end of his current contract on June 30.

Schools Update: Town Hall Meeting

The Vernonia School District will be holding a Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday February 25th. We will be meeting in the Commons of the new schools at 7:00 PM. The topics for the meeting are the district’s shop program, our future sports fields, Qualities and Qualifications of a new Superintendent and  the benefits of a four day school week.  A general question and answer session for public input will also be included. 

Hopefully you are aware that the district recently received nearly $250,000 in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Revitalization grant. This grant will enable us to expand our career course options, add a shop building, and complete the greenhouse.

We will  discuss the status of our planning for future sports fields since the Vernonia Sports Initiative, a group working under the Vernonia Education Foundation, has raised a significant amount of money toward this goal.

We will discuss establishing a task force to examine the benefits of a four day school week and the feasibility of implementing it next year. Read More

Schools Update: Snow Days – Bane of a Superintendent’s Many Duties

At a recent superintendents meeting the subject of snow days came up and from the comments and stories, it was obvious that the responsibility to make the decision about whether or not to hold school because of weather is among the least enjoyed duties of a superintendent. Stories were told of driving in the early hours of the morning and of the percentage of the district that is in the hills and mountains. And invariably, no matter what the decision, whether to delay, close, or stay with a regular schedule, someone is going to be unhappy.

I feel very lucky however to be in Vernonia and to have Curl’s School Bus Services taking care of this portion of our business. When there is potential for a closure I get a call from Rob Curl, who personally comes out from Hillsboro about 4 AM to begin driving our worst routes. Shelley Hennessy also is out early in the morning checking other routes so by the time I get a call at 5:30 AM, they have a fairly clear picture of what the roads in our district look like. Rob also uses a network of truck drivers working in the area to gather information where possible as well. There have been times when I have gone out myself to check things out, but I have learned to trust Rob and his crew to have the best information.

I will also check various weather sites to determine how quick it will warm up, or begin to freeze or when the rain will arrive. This provides me with additional information when Rob and I discuss the road conditions when he calls. Based on the information I have at the time and Rob’s recommendations we move forward and I notify the news media and make the call.

NOTE: If you would be interested in getting a text at the same time the news media does you can sign up with the FlashAlert service that the district uses. Information on how to sign up is located on our website. Just click on the ‘Parent Resources’ tab, and then click on ‘Transportation – Weather/Snow Routes’ menu item.

We will be working with Curl’s to determine some alternative Snow Routes. Once they have been determined we will be notifying parents and they will be posted on our website as mentioned above.

Finally, I want to point out that it is always your choice as parents whether you feel it is safe to send your children to school or not. Their safety and that of staff members is our primary concern when making these decisions. They are not made lightly and are never made just to meet some attendance criteria. Our number of student contact days are limited this year and we want to do everything we can to keep them where they are, but that does not enter into my making these decisions.

Finally, just to keep everyone in the loop, I made a recommendation to the School Board at our January 9th meeting about when we will make-up the days that we have missed due to snow.   The School Board approved adding back in February 14 and March 14 as make -up days.  As always – the public is always welcome at School Board meetings.


School District Receives State Grant for Career and Technical Education

The Oregon Department of Education and Bureau of Labor and Industries jointly announced this week that the Vernonia School District has been awarded a $250,000 grant for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Revitalization. Funds from this highly competitive grant will be used to enlarge and finalize the school’s current shop facilities, providing space for construction and metals classes, as well as expand the school’s current CTE course offerings.

“The district is both very pleased and highly honored to have been awarded this grant by the Department of Education,” said district superintendent Dr. Kenneth Cox. “It is our firm belief that our students have to graduate high school prepared for their next step in life, and this expansion of our program will better enable those wishing to embark on a wider array of career options.”

Funds from the Department of Education will also provide planning time for staff to expand existing CTE programs in both Construction and Digital Arts, and enable the district to add new programs in both Engineering and Forestry/Natural Resources. The grant will also enhance the current natural resource curriculum and provide at least six summer internships for Vernonia High School students, both on site and in association with local agency partnerships.  Read More

Schools Update: Communication

We are now well into the second month of the school year. In this column you have read about our new emphasis on attendance and the importance of making sure your children are at school as much as possible. You have also learned about the work that the elementary school has done and the significant improvements in student achievement that are happening there.

There are a lot of moving parts to run a school district. I personally only supervise seven people. Many of them in turn supervise others in what is traditionally known as the chain of command. I try to keep informed about what is happening in each of our buildings and among our staff and students. As I visit the school to meet with various staff members I have been impressed with the way things are coming together in the new building. We didn’t have the funds to get new furniture when we moved in but we have made the best of what we have. After all it is not furniture that helps students learn nearly as much as it is the people. And we have good people! Read More

Vernonia School Board Report

At the September 12, 2013 School Board Meeting

Fundraising Training-Prior to the start of the regular School Board meeting, the board was invited to join members of  the Vernonia Education Foundation and  participate in a Fundraising Training presented by Metropolitan Group.  The training covered the history of fundraising for the Vernonia Schools Project.  Part two of the training will be presented prior to the October School Board meeting and will provide fundraising strategies.

Public Comment-Amy Cieloha asked about concerns that have been raised about the quality of the new sports fields that are being constructed at the old school site.  Dr. Ken Cox said he would address this issue during the Superintendent Report, which he did.

New Staff Introduced-High School principal Nate Underwood introduced two new staff members to the board: Andrew Morrow is the new music instructor and Suzanne Myers is the middle school special education case manager and is also teaching seventh grade language arts.

Student Report-Alexis Baska, a junior and member of the Leadership Class gave a high school report.  Baska reported that some students really like the new modified block schedule, others do not like it very much.  Fall sports have started.  Seniors are starting to raise money for a grade school student, Jesse White,  who has cancer in his neck.  The forestry team is recruiting new members.  The high school has nineteen foreign exchange students this year.  The school newspaper, which was restarted last year, will continue this year. The robotics club had their first meeting and will be run by students, parents and teacher Eric Urban.

Transportation Report-Shelley Cota presented a transportation report.  Cota reported that there are seven total bus routes this year.  Cota reported that the bus service had a little bit of a rough start during the first couple of days mostly due to parents who don’t sign their students up prior to the practice runs that the drivers make, and so the drivers don’t know where the students live.  Cota said they would work with the Kindergarten Round-Up to better inform parents.

Finance Report-Dawn Plews presented the financial report and told the board that she would be better able to project revenue after enrollment figures are finalized.  Plews noted that she is concerned about the enrollment numbers and that the budget projected too high of a number.  She also noted that the budget includes $100,000 more projected in the Vernonia Education Foundation revenue than last year.  Plews said the District will need to keep a close eye on those two items and may need to make adjustments.  It was also stated that the Governor is expected to reconvene the State Legislature and make changes to PERS which could give the School District added revenue.

Surplus Items-The Board approved a request to declare a list of outdated and non-working items, as well as the mound of excess soil that has been used as topsoil for the new sports fields at the old school site,  as surplus.  Dr. Cox stated that the soil was not worth spreading on new fields the school would build on their campus, even if it was screened to make it usable.

Kintz Nominated for OSBA Board-The Board voted to nominate Greg Kintz for the Oregon School Boards Association for position #14, North Coast Region.  Kintz currently holds this position.

Board Hears Report on Summer Meals Program-The Board heard a report from Nicholas Welch representing the Summer Meals Program.  The School District was a sponsor for the program this year.  Welch reported that 2,691 meals were served to children, 249 meals to adults and 150 meals to volunteers this year.  There were also 232 snacks served at the Library.  Welch also reported that the program recorded 235.5 adult volunteer hours and 84.75 youth volunteer hours; 68.5 of the youth hours  were counted as VHS Community Service hours.  Welch also took time to thank the School District for their help and mentioned Marie Knight for fiscal administration assistance and Barb Carr for help with background checks and general help.

Board Hears Report on Teacher Evaluations-Instructor Juliette Safier gave the Board a report on the new Teacher Evaluations that take effect this year.  The new evaluation format was made possible through a Collaboration Grant.  Safier shared a draft of the evaluation form teachers will use to establish, implement and track  Student Learning Goals they will create.

Superintendent Report-Superintendent Dr. Ken Cox told the Board that he testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Energy Efficiency and Sustainability.  Cox was invited to speak about the Vernonia Schools Project in Portland by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley who chaired the committee. Cox was one of seven speakers who gave testimony on various projects in the Portland area.

Cox handed out a press release from the Oregon Department of Education concerning statewide testing results.  Cox also distributed Vernonia test scores.  Statewide scored dropped in almost every area. Vernonia scores also dropped.

Cox addressed the construction of sports fields at the old school site.  Cox reported to the Board that the School District has been working with the City of Vernonia to address concerns about the quality of the soil that is being used to construct the new sports fields.  Cox said the concerns raised about the soil quality was justified.  Cox said that he had  met with a third-party consultant from Pacific Sports Turf who told  the District that the soil was not quality and that they would have a problem getting anything to grow and be maintained.  Cox reported that the consultant suggested that four inches of new topsoil be added to the site.  Cox also said that the District and the contractor are addressing concerns raised by the City about rocks and sticks that are in the imported topsoil.

Schools Update: Making It Better, Together

I don’t do Facebook much, but once in a while I check out what is being said on the Vernonia Community Page and to see what others are saying in ‘cyberspace.’ On occasion I see a posting expressing concern over our lack of playground equipment, the condition of the fields, or similar issues. I was encouraged during the last week of school when I visited a meeting where a community member  took action about their concern about playground equipment. She actually came in and met with an administrator and a board member to discuss what could be done. It is refreshing to know that there are so many community members who are committed to finding ways to improve our new schools. Read More

Schools Update: More About Superintendent Retirement

I recently noticed on Facebook that my retirement has raised some questions in the community so I thought I would clarify what’s happening and some background.

In the last couple of years, as we neared the completion of the school, I have chosen to be optimistic about the new school and the number of students that would come to Vernonia as a result. Unfortunately, the numbers haven’t materialized yet and as our enrollment numbers have dropped so has our operating funding from the state, resulting in the need to make some rather drastic changes.

Our district, with only about 550 students enrolled, can no longer support a full-time superintendent. Because of this, and in order to help balance the budget, I have chosen to retire and only work half time. This will not only save the district half of my salary but the district will not have to pay anything to PERS on my salary as well.  Read More