COOS BAY – School districts from across the Southern Oregon coast have called for a meeting.
The Oregon Department of Education worked in collaboration with Coos Bay School Superintendent Bryan Trendell, Reedsport School Superintendent Dan Forbess, and Chad Putman, director of teaching and learning from Coos Bay Public Schools, to set up the symposium.
“This was to start a conversation about programs different districts are using to deal with problems they are all having, which involves attendance and math,” said ODE representative Brian Putnam.
The multidistrict summit was held on Friday at the Marshfield High School auditorium. In attendance were district representatives from as far as Klamath Falls, Tillmook, Rogue River, Grant County, as well as superintendents from Port Orford, Reedsport, Myrtle Point, and Coos Bay.
“The important part about this is some of these districts are part of a voluntary partnership with ODE to work on these two problems,” Putnam said. “They asked to get together to share ideas.”
Chad Putman explained that these districts, which include Coos Bay schools, receive a grant through its partnership with ODE. That grant is to last for three years, having begun in 2016. Last year, the district used it to spend over $100,000 in technology and also for professional development.
“This meeting today is everyone sharing their best practices about how they deal with their own attendance and math problems,” Putman said. “This is about us learning from each other. Opposed to us teaching, this is everyone sharing what they are doing and how they got started doing it and asking if other districts want to partner with them. It’s designed to network.”
As previously reported by The World, Oregon is No. 1 in the nation for chronic absenteeism.
“Attendance is not suddenly so bad, but what's happening is research says what the impact means,” said Lisa DeSalvio in an interview last year. “When you talk about kids chronically absent, these are the kids that miss 10 percent of the school year. That's 90 percent attendance.”
DeSalvio explained that there is a culture in today's society where no one thinks missing one day of school is important.
“Parents think their child needs to see this person or do something else,” DeSalvio said, “but every time a student misses a day, especially the little guys, they miss the lesson and are constantly behind. We have kiddos that don't start off regularly the first day or week of school, and then miss what the routines are and don't understand what's going on in the class. Anything we can do to make students more successful, we should be doing.”
Putman acknowledged that though attendance and math is a statewide problem for schools, they also vary by district, which means one district’s solution might not be a solution for another.
“It depends on the location, because every region is unique so you can’t do a cookie cutter solution,” Putnam said. “Everyone is working on something, but everyone is focused on the same thing which is targeted instruction and people observing and supporting the schools.”
Putman pointed to the Coos Bay School District's graduation rate, which hasn’t been great over the years but is steadily improving.
“Attendance varies by school but is low enough where it impacts the student performance, especially that group that is chronically absent,” he said. “We want to get those students activated again.”
Right now, Putman is most concerned about students in the district’s alternative education programs who generally struggle the most with attendance. The Coos Bay School District’s new graduation coach Gypsy Warrick spoke at the Friday meeting about the AVID program, which targets students with the capability to attend trade schools or a four-year university after high school but just aren’t making the efforts to get there.
“Both Gypsy and our other graduation coach, Missy Cooper, teach students how to do school, how to navigate the system, because some of these students, for whatever reason in their life don’t have someone to do that, no one in their family who went on to say this is how they did it 10 or 20 years ago,” Putman said. “So they are making connections for those students, to give them a path.”
The new graduation coach positions at the district are there to help the students that struggle most in just attending school by keeping the door open for them.
“It’s super-intensive counseling, while our other counselors are meeting the needs of all the students in their buildings, but the coaches meet the needs of kids that need to be reconnected,” he said.
This is just one of the many programs discussed during the all-day meeting, one where Putman hopes that districts see the programs available to support attendance, graduation, math curriculum, and behavior needs of students and duplicate what works for their area.
“Hopefully they take away networking from this,” ODE representative Putnam said. “Coos and Curry counties also share a lot of kids, ones that move around districts through the course of one year. Hopefully these districts take away something they might want to add to their own programs.”
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