Tag Archives: Schools Update

Schools Update: Sustainable Building Design

The Vernonia Schools building has earned national recognition for its sustainable, green-building design and technology. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program rated the building LEED Platinum, their highest rating, and the first in the nation awarded to an integrated K-12 school building.

The Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes Certification also awarded the new building high marks, rating it 3 Green Globes, their second highest rating. Green Globes Certification is an emerging alternative to LEED that is favored by many of our timber and forestry partners, and has recently been approved by the U.S. General Services Administration for federal ratings. Our school is one of the few projects to attain dual certification.

Designing the new building to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly was a major goal of the district, and these certification levels are a reward for those design efforts.

Points were earned through these rating systems for utilizing renewable energy resources, re-using and recycling of building materials, improving the efficiency and performance of the building to reduce environmental impact, improving sustainable practices within the building after construction is complete and many other efforts. Read More

Schools Update: Two Upcoming Events

On Tuesday, April 21st, two exciting events are happening at Vernonia Schools.  First, Operation Safe Students on the Move (OSSOM) in conjunction with the Vernonia Prevention Coalition will be hosting a health fair.

OSSOM is a student led leadership program that focuses on the health and well-being of students.  OSSOM Vernonia students have hosted a health fair at Vernonia High School since 2010.  Topics have been chosen to address current issues that teens face.

This year’s topics include:

•  Impact of drugs on brain development

•  Stress/depression

•  Underage drinking

•  Suicide/self-harm

•  Healthy eating

•  Bullying and Cyber bullying

•  Stereotyping

Each booth will be interactive and participants will walk away with the most up to date knowledge of what kids are dealing with on a daily basis.  This event will be held in the Large Gym at the Vernonia Schools building from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM. Read More

Schools Update: State Standards

Each year school districts are required to report to their communities on whether or not their academic programs are meeting state law. Division 22 standards are a part of Oregon Administrative Rules (Chapter 581, Division 22) that dictate areas of compliance with a wide variety of these state standards. A report on the Vernonia School District’s compliance with these standards was shared at its last Board Meeting on Thursday, January 8.

These standards include such areas as providing Career Education, assuring that all coaches have concussion training, having district curriculum that is aligned with Common Core State Standards, reporting on the size of our physical education facilities, and assuring that Equal Educational Opportunities are available for all students.

The Vernonia School District is currently meeting 54 of the 55 required Division 22 Standards. The one standard not being met is the requirement for providing 990 hours of Instructional Time for students in grades 9-12. Vernonia High School students are just shy of that amount at 976 hours of instruction. This deficiency will be reported to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) in February, along with a plan to eliminate this deficiency. Three extra days of school were added to this year’s instructional calendar to increase instructional time at all schools, and 2-3 more instructional days will be added to next year’s calendar to ensure the district meets this standard. Read More

Schools Update: Making Progress


Classrooms and hallways are once again filled with the sweet sounds of working and learning. Preparations will soon be made for Homecoming Week (October 13-17). Preliminary enrollment numbers show an 8.9% increase in enrollment with 48 more students attending Vernonia Schools compared to June of last year. Overall it has been a great start for our new school year.

While students are busy making academic progress, the Vernonia School District and its partners are making progress toward long-term financial and facilities’ goals.

• The Vernonia City Council recently approved the waiver of all remaining System Development Charges for the school district. This generous decision will provide the schools with over $111,000 worth of debt relief over the next three years. Thank you very much to our partners at the City!

• Vernonia Champions,  State Representative Brad Witt and State Senator Betsy Johnson combined their legislative efforts to provide another $212,500 for the District to support our continuing fundraising efforts. A unanimous vote by the Legislative Emergency Board freed up this funding from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management’s Local Disaster Assistance Loan and Grant Program. Thank you Representative Witt and Senator Johnson for your continuing efforts on behalf of our schools and our entire community! Read More

Schools Update: Partnerships

Partnerships are incredibly important in any business, but they are essential in the business of education. The Vernonia School District has a variety of partners who have helped with building and funding our new campus, developing curriculum, providing our students with work experience opportunities, and many other valuable tasks. Even with all this support, the most important partnerships we have are with our parents and community.

Our parents in the Vernonia Community Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the NW Bicycle Safety Council (NWBSC) will be helping kids by putting on a Bike-a-thon and Free Bike Helmet fitting on Saturday, September 20 at Vernonia Lake from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM. Children can get a fitted helmet free from the NWBSC and then participate in a fundraising bike-a-thon, sponsored by the PTA. We hope you can join us!

Parents are pivotal in developing a student’s readiness to attend school, and once students walk through those doors in Kindergarten parents are still an integral part of their child’s academic development. Besides volunteering at school there are many opportunities for parents to be a part of their child’s school experience. Just as with their students, the more involved parents are at school, the more they will get out of the experience, and in turn the more their children will gain from their schooling. Read More

Schools Update: Volunteers

The beginning of the school year has arrived, and the results of the preparations made by several groups of people in our community are being seen. Teachers have collaborated and planned lessons for their students. Students have put together their school supplies and now know who will be their teacher. Parents have put the finishing touches on summer, and are preparing for a quieter household during the day. We are all ready for the start of school.

Another group of people anticipating the start of the school year are Volunteers. Here in Vernonia we are blessed with a strong group of volunteers who are always looking for ways they can help students and teachers to be more successful. Volunteers in Vernonia Schools dedicate hundreds of hours each year, working and reading with students in the classroom, helping teachers prepare for lessons, helping with facility maintenance, or coaching any number of our sports programs. Their time is greatly appreciated, and an invaluable resource for our staff, students and schools.

If you are interested in being a volunteer, we would love to have you join our team! Amanda Wolf will once again be our District’s Volunteer Coordinator. She will be working with staff to determine their needs for help, and then coordinating those needs with the skills and preferred task requests from those people generously donating their time to our students.

Some of those volunteer opportunities include helping students in the classroom, preparing materials for teachers, weeding and mowing on campus and at the wetlands, helping with picture day and other school events, or chaperoning a field trip or school activity. The possibilities are endless, and if you have ideas of your own how you can help, please let us know. A quick application and clear background check are all that is needed to start helping soon.

The time spent working with and for children can be very rewarding, for both volunteers and students. If you are interested, please contact Amanda Wolf at the Vernonia Schools building at 503-429-1333. Together we can truly make a difference.


Schools Update: Blended Classes

Vernonia School District students will see some new and returning faces in the classroom this fall, as summer hiring welcomes three teachers into the district. Laura Blacker, a recent school volunteer and student teacher, will teach fourth grade, filling in for Robyn Richmond who is taking a year’s leave of absence. Margie Fry, a fifth year teacher returning to Oregon from North Dakota, will be joining the kindergarten through second grade teaching team and Steve Whiteman will rejoin the high school staff teaching physics and an upper level math course.

The addition of Mr. Whiteman will add a much needed section of math for high school students, while the hiring of Ms. Fry will enable our primary students in grades K-2 to have much smaller class sizes with five teachers rather than four. Class sizes in K-2 classrooms are presently projected at 23 or 24 students, whereas they would have been 29-30 without this new position.

The decision to move to a K-2 blended model was made after much deliberation by the entire teaching team, who has already spent several days of their summer developing plans to address the unique needs of this blend.

While smaller class sizes for these critical primary years were a very strong consideration, they were by no means the sole reason for this decision. Please find bulleted below several other reasons and considerations that went into this choice.

• Other grade configurations (with either 4 or 5 teachers) left large disparities in class sizes, and/or had unacceptable class sizes.

• These blends allow for more effective differentiation of instruction to meet individual student learning needs. Read More

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: 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

Schools Update ~ VES is a Focus School – But What Does That Mean?

As you may be aware, Oregon has been granted flexibility from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) regarding several aspects of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)through a flexibility waiver. The waiver changes Oregon’s response to certain ESEA requirements so that educators can put into practice bold education reforms for students that include:

Designing locally-tailored solutions to help students achieve to their potential in place of uniformly prescribed interventions for all schools, and

Emphasizing student growth and progress rather than measuring students against a fixed, inflexible standard.

Under the old system of assessing school effectiveness, Washington Grade School (WGS, now Vernonia Elementary School, VES) met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) every year. Meeting AYP was based solely on Student Achievement. Student Achievement is measured by the percentage of students meeting or exceeding benchmark scores on state tests. WGS state test scores were at, and VES’s continue to be, above the minimum levels set by the federal government for Student Achievement. Read More