District teachers seeing silver linings during ‘tough’ year

Benny Westcott

By Benny Westcott

Of The New Era

Sweet Home teachers have demonstrated resilience during a difficult school year, School Board members heard from certified representative Steve Thorpe Monday evening, April 11.

“I tell my wrestlers that how you respond to adversity marks your character. And I think that we’ve been doing that often,” said Thorpe, who is also the Sweet Home High School boys wrestling head coach.

“Things have been tough. But one of the things that I like about our teachers and our administration is that we are serving. When you get a servant’s heart and get the right people doing great things, you can do things that they say can’t be done. And we have persevered and gone through a lot this year, and are still showing up.

“I have a piece of paper in my wrestling room that says ‘Tough is the ability to show up,’” Thorpe continued. “We’ve got a lot of tough people in our district right now.”

In preparation for the board meeting, Thorpe said, he sent out an email to his fellow district certified staff and school administrators asking them to share what has been going on at their respective schools. He read some of the responses aloud to the board.

Hawthorne Elementary kindergarten teacher Amber Rosa wrote that “In kindergarten we have had huge growth in the areas of speech and letter sound formation since we removed the masks. Masks or no masks, now is the time of the year where our readers really start to take off. Kids are blending words using silent ‘e,’ reading large words, and writing full sentences on their own.”

Foster Elementary Principal Luke Augsburger noted “new bus lanes and staff parking to promote safe routes for school.” He also wrote that “staff have been working to implement new student government to help provide student voice. We work to brainstorm solutions with student representatives for each class.”

Thorpe responded by saying “I think that’s absolutely incredible, because you are finding your early leaders when you do that.”

Junior High Principal Terry Martin wrote “I’m incredibly proud of my teachers for pulling together, covering each other’s classes, and taking care of our student’s needs, while dealing with the pandemic and at the expense of their own families and personal lives. We had no time lost due to quarantines with staff out.”

High school guidance councilor Julia Weist wrote “I am very thankful that the high school administration heard our needs for credit recovery options for students. This year we have seniors who will graduate because of our credit recover program in the main building. We have students who are going to graduate because of our alternative education program who otherwise would not have. I am excited to see how we continue to fine tune the alt-ed program so we can help provide resources and education for students who need a different set of support.”

High school special education teacher Ramona Perez wrote: “Thank you to the staff who have been pitching in and covering for each other all year long.

“The teachers and staff have shown unprecedented perseverance in stepping up and being flexible this year.

“We would teach in a boat with a goat. We don’t care, we just want to teach our kids.”

She went on to write “This has been an awful year, but I still love my job. I love my team, and I love the spirit and guts of Sweet Home High School.”

In other meeting action:

— Board member Janice Albert, Position #2 Liberty, resigned from the school board, and the board unanimously approved her resignation.

“It is with sadness that I need to resign my position on the school board,” Albert wrote in an email. “My health kept me from participating.”

Board Chair Jason Redick stated: ”I would like to say how much I appreciate Janice Albert and her dedication through everything that she’s been through.

“Being at meetings and everything was hard on her. I know that. Her dedication to this board is appreciated, and she’s going to be sorely missed.”

n Superintendent Lisa Riggs noted in her superintendent’s report that Certified Staff Appreciation Week is May 2-6. Additionally, she mentioned that April is School Library Month.

Riggs read a proclamation stating that the role of the school library “is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information…lifelong learning begins and is systematically developed through the curriculum support of the school library of the elementary and secondary schools…

“The school library contributes to the individual growth and development of all students, while fostering both excellence and equity in education… the school library staff of Sweet Home School District have dedicated themselves to work for quality school libraries for all students.”

— District Business Manager Kevin Strong reported that nine months into the fiscal year, year-to-date spending for the district is up just over $966,000 compared to the same time period last year.

Strong said that the two main reasons for the increase in spending are that salary and benefit costs have increased by over $800,000, and supply and material costs have increased by almost $175,000.

— Unanimously approved the hire of Samantha McMahand, elementary teacher at Foster Elementary, for the 2022-23 school year.

— Uanamously accepted the resignation of Christie Chapman, special ed (BLS) at the Sweet Home High School, effective June 16, 2022.

n Unanimously approved the hire of Miranda Lind, elementary teacher at Oak Heights Elementary School, for the 2022-23 school year.