Gladstone community weighs in on added school funds
$1 million to boost student achievement, wellness
In September and October 2019, Gladstone Schools completed an unprecedented public involvement effort to gather community input on education needs. The district goal is setting priorities for the added $1 million coming to the district each year through Oregon’s new Student Success Act.
“We received over 3,300 total comments from parents, students, and staff,” said Superintendent Bob Stewart. “For a school community of 1,260 families, that’s huge.”
The effort involved more than 100 parents in 7 discussion groups, including families from each school as well as low-income, Latino, and Black/African American families, families of students with disabilities, foster families, and homeless families. A district survey offered every parent the opportunity to answer the same questions.
The effort began with a live poll and discussion at an all-staff meeting in August. This was followed by surveys and staff discussions in each school.
“One measure that we took to include all voices was a student survey that sought out students needs, priorities, and opinions,” said Gladstone High Principal Kevin Taylor. “This was followed up with in classroom discussion and listening sessions for further clarity. Students said they need mental health and social-emotional resources, along with more homework time, course options, and personal connections.”
The district invited business leaders to evaluate high school programs and to prioritize future vocational and technology courses. Employers said their number one priority is building soft skills such as communication, dependability, punctuality, and willingness to learn.
Youth Truth surveys will provide added data from all three groups, with participation from 683 parents, 130 staff, and 1,283 students in grades 3 to 12.
“As we analyze community input, we were a bit surprised to see how often Gladstone students, parents, and staff prioritized the same student needs,” said Stewart. “I suppose it’s because in our close-knit community, staff and parents really get to know the kids, so they understand what students are going through.”
Needs mentioned most often included mental health support, academic support, after school programs, and hands-on, project-based, and vocational learning.
“We’re still waiting for the Youth Truth survey results and input from our Nutrition, Technology, and Equity committees,” said Stewart. “However, clear priorities are beginning to emerge. It’s obvious already that we need more counselors and wellness support because student stress, anxiety, and depression are higher than we’ve ever seen.“
The Gladstone team will continue data analysis, including academic achievement, attendance, and behavior trends from the past year, taking a close look at specific needs for each school. At each step along the way, the district will provide updates on the process to invest in students. The final plan will be submitted to the state in March 2020.