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December 2021 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

A Message from the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, Colt Gill

ODE Director Colt GillThis month, I’m turning my column over to ODE Senior Mental Health Officer Dr. B Grace Bullock.

Preparing for Breaks and Transitions With Care and Connection

Breaks and transitions in the academic year can be very challenging for Oregon students and school staff. Many families face loss, uncertainty, and turmoil. Making time and space for care, connection, grace and patience are vitally important to nurturing health and well-being now, and throughout the school year.

Children, adolescents and adults often find comfort in predictable routines. So interruptions to regular activities during holidays and breaks can be anxiety-provoking. Reactions to these types of stressors can take many forms such as frustration, anger, irritability, sadness, and withdrawal. These typical human stress responses may be particularly evident before, during and after time away from school.

This means that students and staff may need greater emotional support during transitional times. That is why we are continuing to encourage schools and districts to prioritize care, connection and community, and dedicate time and space in the school day for students and staff to make meaning of their experience through structured and unstructured tasks. This may include individual or group expressive activities like writing, art, music, movement, experiential learning opportunities, silence, and time for individuals to connect with their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

We have some resources that can help linked in this document.

The most important thing that we can do to support each other is to be mindful that breaks and holidays can be difficult, and hold space for all experiences and reactions.

Questions About the New COVID-19 Variant?

It’s likely you are fielding questions from families and staff about the omicron variant of COVID-19 that was recently discovered and what impact that might have on schools.

ODE is in constant conversation with the Oregon Health Authority on the practices and protocols needed in order to keep kids in school safely. The emerging information about the omicron variant indicates that the measures named in the health advisory issued on November 1 are still the best course of action to protect students, educators and staff.

Layered mitigation measures reduce the chances of spreading any variant of COVID-19, including vaccinations and boosters for everyone over the age of five.

If you have any questions, please contact the ODE COVID-19 inbox at Thank you!

Oregon Students Selected For USSYP Scholarship

The United States Senate Youth Program, established in 1962 by U.S. Senate Resolution, is a unique educational experience for outstanding high school students interested in pursuing careers in public service. Two student leaders from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity will participate in a remote learning experience about the work of their national government.

Oregon's Delegates:

  • Caroline Gao, West Albany High School
  • Alejandra Lopez Nestor, Warrenton High School


  • Jenny Duan, Jesuit High School
  • Trace Terrell, La Pine High School

Congratulations to these students and all of the wonderful student applicants!

Student delegates will hear major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials from the Departments of State and Defense and directors of other federal agencies, and they will hear from the president of the United States and a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, the delegates are awarded a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate studies, with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science. For more information, visit the U.S. Senate Youth Program website.

Preschool Promise Provider Interest Survey

Share your interest in the Preschool Promise program by taking a survey. In the 2022-2023 program year, the Early Learning Division (ELD) will expand the Preschool Promise (PSP) program. To help determine the level of expansion, ELD invites you to complete the survey about your program’s capacity and interest in PSP. The survey deadline is Monday, January 10, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. (PST).

For more information and to take this survey, visit the ELD website.

Nominate an Oregon Financial Education Leader Today!

Oregon Treasury’s Financial Empowerment Awards recognize standout educators and community champions for their efforts to help more people be prepared to navigate our complex financial system. The awards will be given for the first time in 2022.

The awards are made possible through a collaboration with the Oregon College Savings Plan, which helps Oregon families save for higher education and job training.

Financial Educator: This award recognizes educators and/or administrators who have gone above and beyond to make financial literacy education more widely available, more relevant, and/or more exciting to help students make smarter money decisions, now and in the future. Candidates must be a classroom teacher, educational assistant, librarian, or administrator at an accredited K-12 Oregon public, private, or charter school; school district; or Education Service District in the 2021-22 school year.

The honoree will receive $1,500 and another $500 to their school. In addition, students at the school – chosen at random – will share $500 in scholarships from the Oregon College Savings Plan.

Financial Empowerment Community Champion: An organization, association, business, or education enterprise that is making a positive difference when it comes to improving financial wellness and empowerment for Oregonians. The organization should be based in Oregon or have a significant presence here.

The champion organization will receive $2,000, plus will be able to “Pay It Forward” and select another financial empowerment-focused organization or effort to receive $500.

The winning educator and community champion organization must agree to be recognized publicly.

Nominations are due by March 1, 2022, and winners will be announced in spring 2022.

Please note that 1-2 letters of recommendation on behalf of the nominee must be submitted to Treasury by the nominator; they can be attached when filling out the nomination form. Letters should identify how the nominee meets the criteria for the award. Paper nomination forms are also available.

Questions? Please email us

Celebrating Winter Holidays

Every November and December, public school students, parents, teachers and administrators face the difficult task of acknowledging the various religious and cultural holiday traditions celebrated during that time of year. While there are appropriate educational benefits to teaching about the diverse religious traditions and cultures of our country, school officials must be thoughtful about being inclusive and ensure they do not give students the impression that one set of holidays or beliefs is more important or more acceptable than others.

Be accurate and sensitive

Religious and cultural holidays offer excellent opportunities to teach about culture, religion and their historical importance. During the winter season and especially in December, we celebrate:

  • Diwali (depending on the Hindu Lunar calendar)
  • Hanukkah (depending on the Hebrew calendar)
  • Winter Solstice (December 21)
  • Christmas (December 25)
  • Kwanzaa (December 26)
  • Three Kings Day (January 6)
  • Ramadan (depends on Islamic calendar and periodically aligns with winter holidays—next time is 2030).

Be aware that some religions teach that celebrating holidays and birthdays is unacceptable

Public school activities and celebrations should be inclusive for each and every student. Public schools have many inclusive ways to create community and lasting memories. Public schools should avoid activities that exclude some children because they are not permitted not to participate. Alternative activities are not inclusive, they separate students and can make them feel like they are not part of the school community. Consider activities and celebrations that are not tied to specific religions and cultures and can then include all children.

Do not make assumptions

Children in our public schools represent a myriad of religions, cultures and traditions. Within those groups, not all members of the same cultural or religious group necessarily observe the same holidays or celebrate them in the same way. Many children, being multi-denominational and/or multiracial, commemorate more than one holiday.

Be inclusive

In-person or online school activities such as assemblies, choral presentations and plays should also be inclusive.

Head Start Program Performance Standards for masking and COVID-19 vaccination requirements

On November 29, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced new Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS).

According to the new HSPPS, all federally-funded Head Start programs, including Oregon Pre-Kindergarten (OPK) programs, must comply with the following requirements:

  • Universal masking for all individuals two years of age and older, with some noted exceptions; and
  • Full COVID-19 vaccination by January 31, 2022 for all Head Start staff, contractors whose activities involve contact with or providing direct services to children and families, and volunteers working in classrooms or directly with children.

"The new HSPPS are essential for protecting the living environments of our Head Start families. Many children and staff return home to family members who may have underlying medical conditions, which put them at greater risk for COVID-19-related illness or even death," said Dr. Bernadine Futrell, director of the Office of Head Start. "It is also important to recognize that families who are Black, Indigenous, or Hispanic and earning below the federal poverty line have been more severely impacted by COVID-19 than the general population."

These new standards were effective November 29, 2021. For more information download the fact sheet and read the blog post.

Educator Advancement Council Update

Here’s the latest from the Educator Advancement Council:

Closing the Year Strong: As a team we are working to identify strategies for the deep alignment of EAC work across our initiatives and educator continuum. It is my hope and belief that as we begin to provide deeper and better integrated professional learning supports, Oregon will see historical patterns of disparity, disproportionality and predictability disappear; creating a racially, culturally and linguistically affirming system of education. Read more about these strategies.

Oregon Teacher Scholars Program taking applications for $10,000 per school year scholarships. Learn more about the Oregon Teacher Scholars Program.

Central Oregon Regional Educator Network hosts “AMPLIFY,” a program providing safe spaces for educators of color to gather, find connection and improve equity in schools. Read more about this program.

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