By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

School Board renews superintendent contract

“We’re very pleased with Maryalice,” noted Chairman Tim Roberts. Turning to Russell, he said, “Thank you for your leadership and guidance ...  All of these successes are a direct result.”

Characteristically, Russell deflected the compliment, crediting instead “the leadership and work of terrific employees ... and some pretty top-notch students.”

The board then voted unanimously to extend her contract through June 30, 2017.

Russell joined McMinnville School District 40 in 2002. She was named Oregon’s Superintendent of the Year for 2013, and was one of three finalists for the national title.

The district has had numerous successes during her tenure, including having more schools designated at “model schools” than any other district two years in a row; achieving high test scores and top rankings for improvement and growth; and developing a high school program whose students earn thousands of college credits prior to graduating, more than at any other high school in the state.

She has led the district in focusing on small learning centers and career pathway programs; creating science, technology, engineering and math opportunities for students at all grade levels and additional STEM opportunities such as a summer camps for middle school girls and after school robotics teams; and partnering with area businesses, such as Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, where Mac High’s Engineering & Aerospace Science Academy is located.

The district’s facilities also have expanded since Russell became its leader. Voters approved a construction bond in 2007 that funded improvements to all buildings; expansion of Newby and Wascher elementary schools and McMinnville High School; and construction of Sue Buel Elementary School.

“The role you play in improving opportunities for students cannot be discounted,” Roberts wrote in Russell’s recent written evaluation. He continued, “Although we recognize that to have a successful school district it must be a team effort, it must begin at the top.

“We acknowledge that our district’s success is a reflection of your focused efforts to always strive for excellence ... your belief that we have the best educators in Oregon and that when given the resources to help our students succeed, they will produce graduates ready to pursue their college/post-secondary and career aspirations.”

In other business Monday, the board:

n Approved annual contract extensions for teachers.

n Heard from finance director Susan Escure that the state Legislature’s new weighted school funding formula, which uses more current data to define poverty, will benefit McMinnville. She said she expects the district to receive about $2 million more next year, which will help fund additional teachers, summer school and items such as textbooks and technology.

The superintendent said the district plans to offer summer school classes for about 350 primary-level students this year. It also hopes to expand its number of summer feeding sites, as well, to make meals accessible to more youngsters.

n Heard a report about robotics experiences all third-graders receive, with a demonstration from Columbus Elementary School students. Columbus teacher Paige Lomas said her students built and programmed Lego robots, then put them through their paces in a competition at the space museum.

Third-graders at Columbus and other schools are assisted in the robotics project by eighth-graders from Duniway and Patton middle schools. This mentorship arrangement is supported by a grant from the McMinnville Education Foundation.

Lomas and Dave Larsen from the middle schools said having third- and eighth-graders work together strengthens both age groups’ understanding of science and technology. They said it also gives the older students leadership experience and builds the younger ones’ skills so they will have a stronger understanding of science concepts when they reach middle school.

n Learned that McMinnville and other Yamhill County School Districts and agencies that work with children, who participate in the countywide Early Learning Hub, are applying for about $1 million in grants for staff development, expansion of the Jump Start to Kindergarten program and other activities that will benefit children from birth through elementary school age.

n Learned that the district spelling bee winners were Scott Winkenweder of Columbus, first; Ella King of Memorial, second; and Daphnnie Riddle of Grandhaven, third.

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