As chairperson for the Astoria School District Board of Directors, I am honored and proud to serve on the board for one of the oldest school districts in Oregon, and to be a part of the rich history that has been built here for almost 165 years.
One of my favorite events each year is our Astoria High School graduation ceremony. It has been my privilege for the last several years to witness firsthand the gratification of accomplishment shared between students, parents, staff members and the community as a whole.
Each year, as I listen to the amazing speeches given by our young leaders, I reflect back on how hard they have all worked to stand on that stage. I know our administrators, teachers, employees, coaches, families, as well as our board members, look forward to watching these students continue on their journey to college, military service or directly into a career path.
The school board has spent more than a year working with a citizen-based committee, engaged in deep dialogue regarding renewal of our bond for physical improvements to our schools. I would like to share some of our findings with you and to request your feedback and ideas.
The district last approved a bond for capital improvements in 2000. Since that time, we have realized the need to continue our investments in buildings that support career and vocational education as well as classrooms that have modern technology.
Our polling and research has demonstrated that safety and security are urgent priorities — including installation and implementation of cameras and door-lock systems to help keep students and staff safe while in school. It has also confirmed our knowledge that district buildings have aged, and the electrical and heating systems are inefficient. In one case, we have a boiler that is more than 100 years old — installed back when Model Ts were replacing the horse and buggy.
The bond that passed in 2000 is soon-to-be expiring, and we know we need to continue to provide the best possible learning environment for our students in the future. It is very important that, as elected Astoria School Board members, we hear from our community members about priorities our schools should be undertaking, both in terms of facility projects, as well as ideas on how we can continue to make Astoria the best place for our students to gain an outstanding education.
Over the next few months, school board members will be out in the community asking you what your thoughts are on our district. Please let me know if we can come meet with your group. I invite you all to visit our website to share your thoughts at astoriaschoolbond.org.
I want to say thank you to the citizens of Astoria for helping our students on their journey. Whether you are a district employee, volunteer, community supporter, a prior student of our district, or have kids, grandkids or other family members attending our schools, you have made significant investments in our region’s future by investing in the education of our children.
These young adults are future farmers, health care workers, firefighters, law enforcement, teachers, technology specialists, small-business owners and more, both here in Clatsop County and beyond. As a community, we should be very proud of the students who are graduating and know that the district is working very hard to meet the needs of all students who walk through our doors.
We are unique in Astoria in that every student who attends school — beginning in prekindergarten — will touch each of our schools, so every one of our buildings and our staff members in those buildings, as well as our staff who transport our students between those buildings, is critical to the success of all students attending our district.
The Astoria School District has given me many reasons to be proud as a board and community member.
The district’s teachers are leading the way. They have more than 1,723 combined years of teaching experience, with 78 percent having earned advanced degrees and certifications. With national teacher turnover rates at an all-time high, we are recognized across Oregon for recruiting and retaining quality teachers who proudly serve our students and community.
Preparing for college and the workforce, Astoria High School students complete college credit-bearing coursework and vocational training concurrently with high school courses. Over the last three years, students have earned more than 4,200 college credits through our partnership with Clatsop Community College, saving students and their families thousands of dollars in tuition and fees.
Our amazing teachers and support staff, as well as valuable community partnerships, continue to be an investment into the future of our district.
On behalf of the school board, thank you again for your continued support of our students.
Jeanette Sampson is an Astoria resident, parent, active community member and chairperson of the Astoria School District Board of Directors.