Berger named principal at Astoria Middle School

<p>Next year, Linda Berger becomes head principal of Astoria Middle School, where she went to school and her 11-year-old son Mikey is currently a sixth grader.</p>

Life’s coming full circle for Linda Berger, the director of special programs and vice principal at Astoria Middle School.

An alumnus of Astoria School District from kindergarten through graduation, Berger takes over as head principal of AMS next year for Ron Alley.

Alley took the same position at Scappoose Middle School to be closer to his own home in Banks.

Born in Mountain Home, Idaho, Berger moved to Astoria at age 3. Her parents still live here, and she has three children in the district:

• 18-year-old Matt is a senior this year at Astoria High School.

• 15-year-old Ally is a freshman.

• 11-year-old Mikey, a sixth-grader next year at AMS, will have plenty of time to spend near his mother.

“I was a little apprehensive,” said Berger about telling her son Wednesday that his mom would be his principal for the next three years. “I didn’t know what kind of reaction I was going to get. He knew I was already here. He said ‘that’s cool.’”

Berger sees AMS as a transition from elementary to secondary education for students, who transition at the same time from childhood to adolescence. Preparing them for high school, she added, becomes about making sure they’re academically and emotionally ready.

Berger was instrumental in one of the district’s most fundamental efforts to keep kids caught up: Response to Intervention. AMS provides an additional remedial/enrichment period, during which students can work on academic weak spots or enrich their learning beyond a regular class.

Teachers at AMS, she said, have made great use of Professional Learning Communities. Teachers of similar subjects and/or grades meet in PLCs weekly to coordinate their curricula.

Some of the biggest transitions at the start of her principalship next year, said Berger, would be from local to more national standards. The state switches next year from its in-house Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) tests to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, developed by a consortium of states.

“There are a lot of questions, but not necessarily a lot of answers, about the Smarter Balanced test,” said Berger.

The push toward nationalized education standards continues through the Common Core State Standards. The national initiative defines what students should know in language arts and math at the end of each grade.

Berger preaches patience during the roll-out of such far-reaching initiatives.

Alley goes home

“She has absolute buy-in from the staff,” said Alley, who starts July 1 as principal in Scappoose, a 30-minute drive from his home in Banks. “You won’t find anybody in this district that has more credibility than Linda.”

For eight years, Alley has lived during the week in Astoria and commuted home on weekends to Banks, where he, his wife and children call home.

“At the time, my son was just starting into high school, and I really didn’t want to uproot him,” said Alley about why his family didn’t move to the coast.

On April 14, the Scappoose School Board approved hiring Alley to replace the retiring Pam Reynolds as principal at its middle school. Alley grew up in Banks, where he taught and coached wrestling for 16 years before starting at AMS.

After a decade-long hiatus, Alley returned this year to coach the Astoria High School team after former coach Jeff Mabry resigned. The team excelled, and Alley earned Cowapa Coach of the Year, an award he won seven times in Banks.

Alley said he plans to take some of his tools learned at AMS, such as Response to Intervention, back to Scappoose.

“I could never tell the parents, students and staff of Astoria School District all that they mean to me.”

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