This fall, Gladstone schools launched an unprecedented community involvement effort to gather input on education needs. The goal is setting priorities for the added $1 million coming to the district each year through Oregon’s new Student Success Act.
The district had more than 3,300 individual contacts with parents, students, and staff. Outreach activities included seven Soup with the Superintendent parent focus group events, Youth Truth and district surveys, student focus groups, and staff discussions.
The district had survey or focus group participation from a spectrum of racial and ethnic groups, as well as families of low-income, homeless, and English learner students, students with disabilities, homeless families, and foster families. Certified and classified staff from each school had multiple input opportunities, sharing needs and priorities through surveys and discussions.
Community Concerns and Priorities
Gladstone schools serve 1,937 K-12 students [about 1,200 families] in a small, well-connected community. Eight themes emerged as strong priorities shared by parents, staff, and students.
More counseling, social-emotional, and mental health supports
There is universal understanding of the need for more counselors, programs and training to help students with social-emotional needs, at an all-time high for youths nationally. Student stress, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide interfere with attendance and learning.
More hands-on learning, vocational pathways, electives, and elementary specials
Gladstone parents, students, and staff see a lot of value in hands-on learning to boost school achievement and attendance. In elementary school, this looks like new specials and clubs. In middle school and high school, this means more vocational pathways and elective options.
More staff supporting students
Large class sizes can mean students have a harder time getting individual help with learning. The community is in agreement that adding teachers, instructional assistants, tutors, or specialists would help students boost math performance and stay on track for graduation.
More representation of student races and cultures in curriculum and staffing
Students of color learn better when they see their cultural perspectives and history in school curriculum. They build stronger bonds with staff or mentors in the building who look like them. From library books and clubs to school celebrations and career-day presenters, parents and students want to see their culture in their school.
More free or affordable after school activities and sports
Sports and after school activities give students a way to connect with mentors, peers, and interests, but for too many, these experiences are unaffordable. They need more free or affordable extra-curricular options, especially for middle school students.
More academic supports
All groups saw a need for homework support programs at all levels, which could mean after school homework clubs, tutor programs, study groups, or study halls. They also advocated for more academic supports and placement options during the school day.
More nursing/health supports
With the recent measles outbreak and the rise of health conditions like diabetes, asthma, and concussions, parents and staff agree that more nursing/health services are needed in the district. More accessible health care would increase student attendance.
More bridges to college or vocational training
Parents and students agree they want more support in planning for vocational training or college education. They need information and help with applications, financial aid and scholarships as well as researching vocational training, career options, and colleges.