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September 2020 Education Update

Oregon Achieves... Together!

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

ODE Director Colt Gill 

ODE Director Colt Gill wrote the following op-ed published in the Oregonian on September 6.

Dear Oregon students,

We are starting a new school year, and it is likely to be more challenging than any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. We’d like to have you back in the classroom and so would your educators. The reality is that most of you will be starting the year in an unfamiliar way: talking to teachers and classmates through a computer screen or over the phone and doing your school work at home.

I want you to know what you can expect from your schools and how this fall will be different from last spring.

Even if working from a distance, schools must create a live connection with you every school day. We have asked them to provide designated educator “office hours” to ensure consistency and access to all students and families. There must be regular opportunities for students to interact with their teachers and peers. School meals must still be provided. All of this is designed to provide you with the help you need to succeed.

Leaders at your school have spent a lot of time over the last few months working to make sure they are ready for this school year. Teachers are taking extra time to ensure they have plans in place to support each of you. The usual routine of school may be disrupted, but learning will not.

We do want you back in school whenever and however we can do that safely. We issued and updated our “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance throughout the summer to provide the best possible education for you in the upcoming school year while protecting your health and everyone in your school community. We follow the impacts of COVID-19 closely alongside the Oregon Health Authority, which provides advice and expertise on when and how it is safe to be in-person in schools. We have set conditions for when we can return to in-person instruction and we can reach these conditions with a concerted community wide effort. Together, we can all play a role in reducing spread of COVID-19 and getting our schools open to in-person instruction by practicing the three W’s: Wear a face covering, watch your distance, and wash, wash, wash your hands.

We also know that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Latinx and Pacific Islander communities; students experiencing disabilities; and students and families navigating poverty, houselessness and foster care. At the center of our guidance is the requirement that equity live at the heart of every decision and action in service of all learners. Oregon’s educators will specifically look to build on your strength and resiliency and meet your needs throughout this school year.

We know you want to feel safe and secure, and be emotionally and mentally ready to learn as well. We have provided districts with guidance that specifically addresses physical health and social, emotional, and mental wellness.

At ODE we are doing everything we can to support your schools and educators. We have obtained five million face coverings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that have been given to districts. We are quickly distributing federal funding directly to school districts to ensure you have a connection to the internet, a device for school work, and that the teachers have safe and secure ways to interact with you. We’ve also provided for some limited in-person instruction to address internet connectivity issues; provide academic support; administer tests, provide social, emotional, or mental health support; ensure culturally relevant and sustaining instruction and more. We are seeking every available federal waiver to create flexibility for your school to deliver meals and use their funding in creative ways to meet your needs.

We need your help and the help of all your peers to make this school year the best it can be. If something isn’t working right with the learning experience, please let your teachers and principals know – and do this with grace and patience as none of us have operated school in these circumstances. Stay engaged with your school and your classmates so that everyone feels welcomed and a part of the school community. Help each other out and take advantage of the services your school offers if you need help. We know this isn’t going to be easy, but your teachers and counselors are there to support you.

Give your family and other adults seeking to support you grace and patience as well. We will all need to lean on each other in these times.

Finally, I want to say thank you. We know that starting the school year learning from home is not what any of us wanted, but until conditions improve, it’s what we have to do to ensure the health and safety of you, your families, and the educators and administrators at your schools.

This year will teach us a lot about the importance of working together for a common goal.

Wildfire Information Available Online

Wildfire InformationWildfires are again impacting schools in Oregon. We know this is a very challenging time and we hope you are staying safe and healthy. Much of the state is impacted, either directly from the fires or from the smoke from fires in Oregon and other western states. We have added the above banner on the front page of our website linking to wildfire information from multiple state agencies. In addition, the Oregon Smoke Information page is a collaboration of local, state, tribal and federal organizations to coordinate and share information about wildfire smoke affecting Oregon communities.

ODE In the News

Welcome Shadiin Garcia to New ODE Position

Shadiin GarciaWe are excited to announce that former Educator Advancement Council (EAC) Executive Director Dr. Shadiin Garcia is joining ODE’s Executive Leadership Team as the first Senior Strategy and Operations Officer (SSOO). This role was designed to create the conditions to execute and sustain ODE’s strategic equity and anti-racist vision in coordination across our offices and in partnership with community. Shadiin will work to leverage ODE’s capacity for internal change, innovation, and collaboration while aligning multiple approaches into collective strategies that dismantle old systems that no longer achieve the aims of the agency. She has proven success at coordinating across resources within the agency, across agencies, and beyond the agency to community partners, school districts, and ESDs.

In this role, Shadiin will employ an equity, racial equity, and anti-racism approach to align the strategic plan across policy development, program implementation and work at the direction of and represent the Director, Deputy Director, and Chief of Staff and agency aims across a variety of settings. She will also bring her deep expertise to access and cultivate the development of strong teams and healthy organizational culture so together, we can live out core equity values and vision. The purpose of this position is rooted in the wisdom and strengths of staff within the department and with the people and communities we serve. In this role Shadiin will also continue to coordinate across offices and agencies in the context of our global pandemic, organizing our collective COVID-19 response efforts.

With Shadiin’s transition to ODE, Dr. Daniel Ramirez, the EAC’s Director of Equity, Policy, and Strategic Initiatives will be Interim Executive Director of the EAC. Shadiin’s move will also further strengthen and deepen the EAC’s role as strategies become more interwoven. Shadiin will devote a percentage of her time to the EAC through a transition period in order to inform and support its ongoing vision, mission, and strategic approach of the EAC. This is a plan that Shadiin previewed with EAC Directors individually over the last several weeks. This plan allows all of the EAC’s initiatives to progress without delay and leverages its work within and across the state’s emerging education strategic endeavors. There will be a permanent replacement for Executive Director for the EAC in 2021.

Daniel will continue to lead Oregon's 10 regional educator networks and drive forward strategic policy initiatives focused on teacher efficacy, diversity, and retention. Previously, Daniel served as Professional Development Specialist for the Northwest Regional Education Service District where he designed, created, and implemented professional learning for twenty school districts in the northwest region of Oregon and co-lead 31 schools in a network for school improvement framed by culturally sustaining pedagogies and deeper learning. He also served as Deeper Learning and Equity Fellow Mentor at Big Picture Learning and Instructional Coach and Mathematics Teacher at Portland Public Schools.

As an agency, ODE has existed for nearly 100 years with implicit bias structured deeply into our systems, and people see ODE changing. Our community partners and other organizations in the state are noticing ODE coming to the table with a commitment to racial equity. However, parts of our work were built to uphold racist practices and policies, and those parts need to change. Now is an important time to have a person dedicated to aligning all of our work more effectively so we can respond to emergent needs while staying true to the goals we’re trying to achieve as a state department in the coming years.

The creation of the SSOO position shows our sincere investment in equity and anti-racism as a strategy for both pressing immediate needs and the longer term. We look forward to Shadiin bringing her skills to this highly visible position that can help the whole system have an anti-racist approach so that we’re delivering programs, projects and partnerships side-by-side with communities.

Key Reminders

  • For the most current version of the COVID-19 Metrics Dashboard, always check the Ready Schools, Safe Learners page on the ODE website (Dashboard is in the first column) or the Willamette ESD website. Do not bookmark the URL as it is possible it will change and you won’t see the most up-to-date data. To ensure you are seeing the right version, check for the posted date at the top.
  • The Oregon Department of Education partnered with Verizon Wireless to provide discounted telecommunication products and services to support Oregon’s Distance Learning Initiative.

Student Spotlight

Be College Ready Materials Coming Later than Usual

Be College Ready logoThe start of this upcoming school year will be a new experience for everyone, so the State Treasurer’s Office has decided that it will hold off mailing out the free Be College Ready materials until later this fall. Traditionally, these materials were delivered before the start of the school year in mid-August. However, this year it makes more sense to deliver these materials after Thanksgiving. During the first week of December every public elementary school will receive free Be College Ready kits for their kindergarten students that will include:

  • Homework folders, an informational brochure, a bookmark, a Kinder Grad flier explaining the matching program for kindergartner parents and a flier letting families know about our $100 sweepstakes for the 2020-2021 school year. Pencils will also be sent for each kindergartener and they can be given to them when distributing the folders.
  • Spanish versions of the Be College Ready kits will be included based on the number of Spanish kindergarteners enrolled at your school during the 2019-2020 school year.

By delaying the delivery of these materials, schools will have more time to adjust to the “new normal” of the 2020-2021 school year. That being said, if there are schools/school districts that would like to receive these materials before the start of the school year and/or before Thanksgiving you can still visit the Be College Ready website to order materials.

The Be College Ready program and its website are already open. Not only will schools be able to order materials, but parents will be able to enter the Cash for College Sweepstakes for the chance to win $100 for an Oregon College Savings Plan account. It is important to keep in mind that elementary schools will be able to order Be College Ready kits for the entire school population and that every elementary parent will once again have the chance to win $100.

Additionally, Oregon College Savings Plan outreach staff will be available to share information about the Plan at a PTA/PTO meeting, virtually or in person, and/or other school events to answer questions family members may have about the Plan throughout the school year. The first monthly public webinars about the Plan will take place on Tuesday, September 22nd at noon and at 6:00 p.m. Here is the login information for each of those webinars:

The public webinars will be taking place at noon and 6:00 p.m. the fourth Tuesday every month during the school year, but John Valley is available to schedule individual school presentations based on the calendar needs of each school/school district. Please email John if you would like to schedule a presentation. If you have any additional questions, email the Be College Ready program or call 503-373-1903.

ODE and OHA are excited to announce the 2020 Student Health Survey (SHS)

Oregon health Authority logoODE is partnering with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to integrate the Oregon Healthy Teens (OHT) and Student Wellness Survey (SWS) into one state youth survey. The Student Health Survey (SHS) will now be the state’s primary source of reliable population-based data on 6th, 8th and 11th graders. Following it’s launch this year, it will be conducted every other school year.

Recruiting is underway for districts and schools to administer the SHS October through December, and we encourage you to sign up.

Data as a tool for equity and social justice

The SHS will provide you with valuable data about the physical, mental and social well-being of students across Oregon. The broad scope of questions allows for a deeper dive to identify disparities and measure progress towards closing the gap among SSA priority populations and other vulnerable groups, including:

  • Students of color
  • Those with disabilities
  • Emerging bilinguals
  • Students who identify as LGBTQ2SIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, 2 Spirited, Intersex, Asexual, Plus other non-heterosexual orientations or non-binary genders)
  • Those navigating houselessness, poverty, hunger, foster care or adverse childhood experiences (ACES)

Participating districts and schools will receive:

  • Preliminary summary results of key questions two to three weeks after data collection is complete for their school or district;
  • Data tables for each question in the survey and key calculated indicators (such as Positive Youth Development, Substance Use, Bullying, etc.) after all data collection is completed (anticipated release in late spring); and
  • An SHS Data Dashboard so districts and schools can securely access their own data and conduct more in-depth analysis (anticipated release in late spring/early summer of 2021)

These results can help districts plan and use Student Success Act (SSA) funds and may also help guide re-entry plans. They can also help schools coordinate with local public health agencies or Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) to provide services for the coming year.

How has COVID-19 affected students?

ODE partnered with OHA to incorporate questions in the SHS to identify how COVID-19 has affected students and their household and see whether the pandemic has exacerbated stressors among students and families. This information is vital to determining how we can best support our students as they transition back into schools or continue with distance learning.

Topics included in the SHS are comprehensive to assess student’s health and safety and include:

  • Social determinants of health • Positive Youth Development (PYD)
  • • Mental health and suicide • School climate and culture • Sexual health • Substance use • Healthy body

SHS administration procedures adapted for all learning environments

We recognize the challenges being faced by all Oregonians in response to COVID-19 and appreciate all of the hard work your team has put into adapting to a new learning environment that keeps everyone safe. OHA has been working closely with their contractor, Bach-Harrison (BH) to modify survey procedures so that the survey can be administered to students in the classroom or via distance learning, with student safety and confidentiality remaining a priority.

How do I get started?

All districts with 6th, 8th or 11th grade enrollment are welcome to participate in the SHS. As soon as you contact BH with your approval to participate, BH can begin contacting your district coordinator to begin the survey administration process. Please complete the District Agreement Form online

If you have questions, please email Mary Johnstun at Bach-Harrison or call 801-842-2682.

For more information on the 2020 SHS, visit the websitesend an email or call Renee Boyd at 971-673-1145.

ODE and OHA strongly recommend and encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to use the SHS and will work closely with participating school districts. We sincerely hope your district will agree to participate in this important survey.

We Are Here With You

screenshot of ODE public service announcementPublic service announcements (PSA) welcoming students back to school and reminding students and families of the network of educators in place to support them are now airing.

The pair of 30 second PSAs let students know that even if they are starting the school year with distance learning, their school support systems are still accessible to them.

“Schools are an important resource for families and we want to make sure our students and families know that although the school year may be starting with distance learning, their school’s resources are still available to them,” said ODE Deputy Director Carmen Xiomara Urbina. “Whether it’s school meals, or physical or mental health services, their schools will still be there for them. The learning conditions may be different, but the commitment to meeting the needs of our students hasn’t changed.”

Urbina and Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill are featured in the PSAs that can be found on the ODE website. One announcement focuses on supporting students as they rise to the challenge of learning during this time and the other announcement touches on the network of education professionals devoted to serving Oregon’s students. Both are broadcast in English and Spanish with Gill featured in the English versions and Urbina featured in the Spanish versions.

The announcements were produced with KATU in Portland and will air on KATU and NATU (MeTV) in English and Univision Portland in Spanish, starting in early September and running through late October. The announcements will also reach students and families statewide through online promotion.

ODE, OHA and Lines for Life Launch Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program for School Districts

Lines forLife logoThe Oregon Department of Education (ODE), Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Lines for Life launched the Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program for school districts earlier this month.

This program, part of the new statewide School Safety and Prevention System, is designed to support school districts in implementing and sustaining solid, evidence-based and racial equity centered suicide prevention policies and plans.

In 2019 the Oregon Legislature passed Adi’s Act (Senate Bill 52) and the Student Success Act (Section 36). They required each school district in Oregon to have a suicide prevention, intervention and postvention response policy and plan, and established a statewide School Safety and Prevention System.

Adi’s Act was named after Adi Staub, a young transgender woman in Oregon who died by suicide in 2017. Basic Rights Oregon, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, worked with Adi’s family to develop and introduce Adi’s Act in the Legislature, and, after it passed, were also engaged in planning.

"This program is being designed and implemented by a very special group of leaders, staff, and volunteers across many organizations," said Lon Staub, Adi’s father. "Their collective passion, commitment and expertise gives me confidence that we can provide hope, health and healing to at-risk youth and their families."

"It’s so powerful to see this legislation become a reality for kids throughout the state," said Nancy Haque, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "The purpose of Adi’s Act is to ensure that, no matter who students love or how they identify, they are protected, supported, and see a future for themselves in Oregon."

Oregon Department of Education is responsible for coordinating implementation of the legislation, and OHA and Lines for Life work to support this critical piece of the statewide School Safety and Prevention System.

The Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program for school districts established by Adi’s Act includes the following projects:

  • Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program positions.
  • Mini grants and additional training opportunities.

"All of our students deserve to feel safe, welcome and secure," said ODE Director Colt Gill. "Through the Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program, we’re one step closer to making schools the welcoming safe haven our students need and deserve."

"While we know that suicide is a preventable cause of death, we also know that we must continue to do as much as we can to create and maintain safety nets for all of our students, not just some," said OHA Director Pat Allen.

Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program positions

As part of the Adi’s Act implementation, Lines for Life will hire four regional school suicide prevention and wellness coordinators across the state who will be supported by the School Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program manager at Lines for Life.

In spring 2020, prior to the creation of the School Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program, OHA began funding one position at Lines for Life dedicated to supporting school districts with Adi’s Act implementation and some mini-grant funding for school districts.

The four new positions will collaborate with local suicide prevention coordinators, school districts, educational service districts (ESDs) and other local organizations to help connect the dots in suicide prevention policy to best serve students and their families. Each coordinator will be cross-trained in behavioral safety assessments, suicide prevention, equity and racial diversity, and social emotional learning. Each coordinator will be assigned to and located in one region: the Willamette Valley, Central Oregon, Southwest Oregon and Eastern Oregon.

"This is going to save lives," said Dwight Holton, executive director of Lines for Life. "It’s bringing together schools, public health, and, most importantly, community to do the work Adi’s Act envisioned – connecting young people to help, equipping folks to respond to crisis, empowering young people to help each other. This work is going to build hope every day."

These positions are currently posted and will begin work in the 2020-2021 school year. Position descriptions are available online.

Mini grants and additional training

In partnership with OHA, Lines for Life is offering district-level grants of up to $1,500. Approved grants can be applied to costs of staff and student training and curriculum, as well as other costs associated with implementation of school suicide prevention plans. School districts can apply online.

In addition, funding from OHA is available for school districts or local suicide prevention leaders to offer various trainings to students, staff, school counselors, parents and other adults. The Big Six suicide prevention training initiative includes Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), safeTALK, Question Persuade Refer (QPR), Sources of Strength, and Connect: Postvention. These trainings are offered at low to no cost. OHA has more information on its website.

School districts can learn more about the grants and training opportunities online.

For more information:

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please know that help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline run by Lines For Life at 800-273-8255 or text '273TALK' to 839863. En español: 888-628-9454. TTY: 800-799-4TTY (4889).Youthline is a teen-to-teen crisis and help line. Teens are available to help daily, 4 to 10 p.m. Pacific Time (off-hour calls answered by Lines for Life). Call 877-968-8491 or text teen2teen to 839863 or chat online.
  • See Crisis Services by Oregon County and a list of crisis lines on OHA’s website.

2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year Mercedes Muñoz Reflects on the Past Year

2020 Oregon Teacher of the Year Mercedes MunozI have always thought teaching to be one of the most important and sacred actions in a society. Beyond the technical aspects of teaching; teachers are entrusted with the responsibility to encourage, challenge, uplift, and listen to students from all walks of life, with various ethnic, racial, religious, and even political backgrounds. I still believe in the magic of this exchange.

2020 has only heightened my learning and awareness. When I accepted the 2020 Teacher of the Year Award, I never thought we would collectively be faced with a Global Pandemic, social and racial unrest, and Comprehensive Distance Learning.

As a person who thrived working consistently and fervently in the background, it was unnerving to suddenly be placed in the forefront of local educational issues. Over and over again, I was reassured by my students, families, and colleagues that I had earned their trust and that they were counting on my elevated voice to share the things they have taught me.

I came into the year on the heels of Oregon's Red for Ed movement. Teachers who work tirelessly and with excellence, were advocating for their students and classrooms with robust energy--they too believe in the magic and sacredness of teaching. As teachers we know the complexities of this job and what we need to do it well. It was in seeing and hearing this power, that I felt led to champion their efforts. Behind the scenes, I worked to elevate teacher voice and collaboration, particularly during the pandemic. Teachers needed a seat at the table.

During this year, I have met teachers from each of the 56 U.S. States and territories. We gathered together in San Francisco and experienced professional development in a room with so many like minds and hearts. To say this was a powerful experience is an understatement. I can say that standing with teachers who show such unwavering support and commitment to students and families every day, is the true prize.

Not only am I humbled by the work of my colleagues throughout the state of Oregon, I am also truly honored to be a part of this profession. Teachers are creative, passionate, innovative, vibrant, and critical thinkers. Together, we both reflect and mirror the same qualities, which are found in our students.

I am looking forward to learning more about technology this year. I am committed to teaching for change and social justice. I am keenly aware that 2020 is a year that can change us for better or for worse. In this year, I see opportunities to continue growing and to listen to the voices of our historically resilient people groups. My pre-service experience taught me to listen, learn, and serve. It is part of my life´s work to continue walking along these pathways of learning, serving, and listening. It is my belief that these are time-honored skills passed on by my ancestors and it is with pride that I recognize so many shoulders upon which I stand.

This year has provided opportunities to listen to the voices from communities all over this state that I would not have had the opportunity to hear from otherwise. I have had the chance to speak and share parts of my experience as a teacher, mother, learner, and as a State Teacher of the Year.

Over the next year, I look forward to bringing my memoir into production and publication. I will be taking on a new role at Franklin High School, where I am so glad to be. Additionally, I look forward to volunteering and providing resources to families in support of Distance Learning, connection, and community; and advocating for Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. To ensure equitable outcomes for all students we need more representation of Teachers of Color in our workforce. It is an area of passion to support the work of matching the diversity of our students. This makes us stronger together.

It is both an incredible honor and humbling to be recognized as the 2020 Oregon State Teacher of the Year. My sincere appreciation goes to the Oregon Department of Education, Council of Chief School State Officers, Oregon Lottery and former Oregon Teachers of the Year who support, sponsor, and create this almost unbelievable opportunity for growth in leadership, advocacy, and service. I can still remember filling out my application and daring to dream, ¨You can do this.¨ It is my hope that other teacher-leaders will dare to dream and model for their students and communities that anything is possible with time, care, and attention. As my year comes to a close, I am looking forward to new beginnings. I will continue to champion the work of educators, who deserve the right tools and time, to answer the calling of this profession. It is a call that requires us to be prepared to serve at all times. I hope we will each continue to be dreams still dreaming, exploring the unfolding possibilities with love and grace.

Thank you again and again. It is and has been my pleasure to uplift our work in this great state!

Governor Kate Brown Names Brian Detman as Youth Development Director

Youth Development Division logoOn August 13, Governor Kate Brown announced that she has named Brian Detman as Youth Development Director for the Youth Development Council. The council helps Oregon youth overcome barriers to education and workforce success, with a focus on youth ages 16 to 24 who are either not enrolled in school or employed, or who are at risk for leaving school or being unable to transition to the workforce.

“With his years of experience in juvenile justice and youth development program leadership, public policy, and community engagement, Brian Detman will further the work of the Youth Development Council to help Oregon high school students stay on track to graduate with a plan for their future,” said Governor Brown. “Too often, the students in our school system who face the highest barriers to success are disproportionately from communities of color––and, during a pandemic, those students can face even more challenges. The work of the Youth Development Council is critical to centering equity and inclusion in helping Oregon’s most vulnerable youth.”

Most recently, Detman was the Executive Director of Caldera, a non-profit organization that provides year-round arts and environmental programming to youth from underserved schools in Central Oregon and the Portland Metro area. Prior to that, he worked in various leadership roles within the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice and it’s Juvenile Services Division, and was a senior policy advisor in the Multnomah County Chair's Office.

Throughout his career, Detman has served in governance, advisory, and support capacities for a number of community-based initiatives and non-profit organizations focused on equity and social justice, including the Portland Black Male Achievement Initiative, Black Resilience Fund, The Emerson School, Sightline Institute, and the Metropolitan Portland Leadership Council of the Oregon Community Foundation.

His professional background includes work with national, statewide, and local businesses and organizations––Executive Vice President at Metropolitan Group, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Enhabit (formerly Clean Energy Works), and Program Director for Greater Than (formerly the I Have a Dream Foundation). He is a graduate of Whitman College.

Detman started in his new role as Youth Development Director on Tuesday, August 11. Outgoing Youth Development Director Serena Stoudamire Wesley has taken a new position as the state’s Chief Cultural Change Officer at the Department of Administrative Services.