Superintendent outlines approach, plans for school board members

Benny Westcott

At the Sweet Home School District’s Monday, Aug. 8 meeting at the District Office, Interim Supt. Terry Martin, who assumed that role July 1 after former Supt. Lisa Riggs resigned on June 30, told the board about some of his personal beliefs, as well as his vision for the district under his leadership.

Martin, who started working for the district when he became principal of the Junior High in the fall of 2020, has 26 years of educational experience, including 22 years in education administration.

He listed for the board some of his core beliefs.

“I believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect, and honesty and transparency in leadership. I believe that students are our greatest asset; they’re our future,” he said.

“I believe in continuous improvement. I don’t expect us to be perfect today, but we need to be better tomorrow. I believe in teamwork and unity of purpose. I believe students need to be safe so they can learn.

“I believe happiness is a choice,” he continued. “We’re all as happy as we choose to be daily. The education practice of positive belief in a student’s potential can bring that potential to life. I believe in the student’s potential to be the very best they can be.

“My education philosophy is simple: All students can learn,” Martin explained. “Maybe not at the same rate, pace, time, situation, etc., but all of our students can learn.”

Martin told the board that he comes from a blue-collar family. His grandfather was a logger in the Pacific Northwest. His father was a police officer, and his mother worked at a grocery store.

He has been married for 32 years and has five children. His youngest son graduated from Sweet Home High School last year.

Martin noted that “Sweet Home School District has a history of great achievements and strong programs and traditions. SHSD has a committed, caring staff, strong community partnerships, parental support, and… engaged, curious students.”

He said that “As a life-long learner, it is important to me to understand the school and community as deeply as I can. My entry plan will focus on just that: understanding. I will be committed to listening, learning and building relationships with all SHSD stakeholders. I wish to know what we want to keep doing, start doing, and stop doing.”

“I want to know the traditions and accomplishments that stakeholder’s value, and I wish to know the challenges they see,” he added. “I would like to frame my learning with a future-focused intention: Where do we want to be in five years? What will that look like, sound like, and what types of things do we wish for the community to be saying about us and our students?”

He noted that it is vital that he deepen his understanding of SHSD’s policies, practices and performance indicators. He said he will review operational information such as safety/crisis plans, supervision schedules, the master schedule, class loads, budgets and more, as well as all academic and assessment data, attendance rates, and behavior data.

“I will want to understand the stories behind the data,” Martin said. “I want to understand patterns of strength, our promising practices, and our areas of needed growth. To understand the stories, decisions, and practices, I will meet with as many staff one-on-one as I am able to. I also plan to be in buildings frequently and be available to meet in small groups.”

He said that his role will be to support, foster, coach, and/or lead the district towards continuous improvement.

“As with any organization that is as dynamic and ever-changing as education, we will need to forge forward by reflecting, creating and adjusting as needed,” he said.

He touched on the unique challenges the district has faced in recent years.

“COVID’s been very divisive,” he said. “It’s been very damaging in our community, and very polarizing. It was a tough year last year. I kind of liken it to a natural disaster, you know, those feelings. Our roof has been rattled, shingles are missing, walls might be damaged.

“But Sweet Home has a good solid foundation. We’re going to lift where we are. We’re going to build those walls back up and get that roof back on. How we choose to react to things is kind of where we’re going to go.”

He noted the importance of addressing district staff’s needs.

“With everything that we’ve been through, we expect our staff to pour into the children, so we need to be pouring into the staff,” he said.

In other action:

— District Network Analyst Sebastian Allison shared that every student in the district will be receiving new Chromebooks this school year. The new Chromebooks use Chrome OS, which Allison said is emphasized towards learning.

“They’re smaller and thinner models, but they’re more durable than ever,” he said. “They’re functionally doubling performance at a lower cost.”

Additionally, all classrooms across the district are being outfitted with short-throw projectors. They have already been installed at all the classrooms in Foster Elementary and the Junior High, while Holley and Hawthorne are next in line for this school year. Allison said that after that, the district will begin work at Oak Heights and the High School, as soon as equipment is available.

He said that all district teachers either have or are receiving new Microsoft laptops.

— District Business Manager Kevin Strong said that one month into the fiscal year, year-to-date spending has increased by just over $66,000 compared to the same time period last year.

He said that the main reasons for why district spending this year is above where the district was at the same time period last year are higher classified salaries due to negotiated compensation increases for classified employees, a couple extra classified positions, and liability property insurance premium increases.

Board members also:

— Unanimously approved a request for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to update HVAC units and controls district-wide, and to complete design development work at Oak Heights Elementary School.

— Declared as surplus weight room equipment from Sweet Home High School.

— Approved the hire of Lady Carolina Tavarez, Spanish teacher at the High School, for the 2022-23 school year.

— Approved the hire of Joselyn Lawrence, mental health counselor at the High School, for the 2022-23 school year.

— Accepted the resignation from Brandi McMahand, special education teacher at Foster Elementary, effective immediately.

— Approved the hire of Robyn Lindsey, special ed BLS teacher at the High School ,for the 2022-23 school year.

— Approved the temporary hire of Taylour Stanley-Valdez, language arts teacher at the High School, for the 2022-23 school year.

— Approved the temporary hire of Melissa McDonald, PE teacher at Hawthorne Elementary, for the 2022-23 school year.

— Approved the hire of Pamela McCoy, first grade teacher at Oak Heights, for the 2022-23 school year.