Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Education secretary Betsy DeVos addresses reporters during her visit to McMinnville High School Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Education secretary Betsy DeVos addresses reporters during her visit to McMinnville High School Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Tommy Douglass, managing editor of the Mac High Bruin newspaper, discusses the U.S. secretary of education s visit to his school. He asked the final question at her brief press conference.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Tommy Douglass, managing editor of the Mac High Bruin newspaper, discusses the U.S. secretary of education's visit to his school. He asked the final question at her brief press conference.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Protestors demonstrate outside McMinnville  High School during education secretary Betsy DeVos  visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Protestors demonstrate outside McMinnville High School during education secretary Betsy DeVos' visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Education secretary Betsy DeVos discusses a poetry passage with students at McMinnville High School during her visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Education secretary Betsy DeVos discusses a poetry passage with students at McMinnville High School during her visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Education secretary Betsy DeVos and McMinnville High School teacher Audrey Wright discuss teaching methodology during DeVos  visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Education secretary Betsy DeVos and McMinnville High School teacher Audrey Wright discuss teaching methodology during DeVos' visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Education secretary Betsy DeVos talks with McMinnville School District Superintendent Maryalice Russell, left, and McMinnville High School Assistant Principal Amy Fast, right, during her visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Education secretary Betsy DeVos talks with McMinnville School District Superintendent Maryalice Russell, left, and McMinnville High School Assistant Principal Amy Fast, right, during her visit to the school Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Education secretary Betsy DeVos addresses reporters during her visit to McMinnville High School Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Education secretary Betsy DeVos addresses reporters during her visit to McMinnville High School Wednesday, Oct. 11.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

DeVos praises Mac, pitches school choice

[Updated 10 p.m. 10/12/17]  While protesters gathered outside Wednesday — most opposing controversial Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, with some supporting — students and teachers inside McMinnville High School took the opportunity to display their programs and achievements.

DeVos, who visited both the school’s main campus and its Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy at the Evergreen Space Museum, said she was inspired by what she witnessed.

“Students were actively engaged learning 21st century skills,” she said. “I was extremely impressed by the way the school has embraced that to achieve excellence. The results show.”

She said she decided to visit after reading an article about the school’s high test scores and graduation rate, which exceed those of most large high schools in Oregon.

Before her trip was even officially announced, a group began organizing a protest against her policies, which they feel favor private schools over public.

Participants stood along Evans Street, on the west side of Mac High. They said her promotion for vouchers would take money from public schools and send it to private school counterparts.

A smaller demonstration, this one welcoming DeVos, unfolded along the same street Wednesday afternoon.

Inside, educators regarded the visit as a chance to draw national attention to their work.

Mac High teachers — and teachers from across the district, for that matter — said they are passionate about helping every student reach his or her potential. They said they work hard to make sure each child feels connected to the school and supported in and out of the classroom.

DeVos dropped in on a staff development session, in which teachers were discussing methods to help students develop 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, judgment and decision making, cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence.

The staff holds such staff training programs every Wednesday through the year, using them to address a range of topics. Half the staff attends one week, the other half the next.

At this one, DeVos shook hands with each teacher, then sat between Principal Tony Vicknair and science teacher Audrey Wright. While media cameras clicked and whirred, the secretary nodded as participants discussed high-level teaching strategies.

“I teach government and politics. Some issues we discuss in my class are a little polarizing,” said social studies teacher Chris Carnahan, drawing laughter from DeVos as well as his colleagues.

The Secretary of Education also visited three classes. One was AVID, a program designed to help students develop skills and confidence to continue their education after high school. The others were advanced placement U.S. history and language arts.

Before she arrived at Matt Brisbin’s Literature and Composition class, a student asked the teacher, “What do you want us to do?”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” Brisbin said. “Act like it’s just someone from the front office.”

On a wall nearby, a poster read, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Another poster listed “12 1/2 Writing Rules,” including “If it’s boring to you, it’s boring to readers,” and “Learn to tell both sides.” The list ended with the half-rule, “Stop looking at this poster and write something!”

As Brisbin had advised, students continued their regular work as their room filled with media personnel and school officials trailing the secretary of education.
DeVos sat with Quinn Van Horn and other students as they analyzed poetry. Slipping on her glasses so she could read along, she listened to them interpret poems such as “The Progressive” and “Beauty.”

While still at the main campus, DeVos took five minutes to answer questions from the media, consisting of reporters and camera crews from Portland television stations, Oregon Public Broadcasting and The Oregonian, in addition to the News-Register, KLYC and The Bruin, Mac High’s student newspaper.

The secretary took several questions, most related to her support of vouchers, which would enable families to use public funding to pay for private schools.

“Vouchers give parents choices to find a school that fits and works for them,” she said. She reiterated several times her view that, “We need to invest more in individual students and less in systems and buildings.”

She said vouchers likely “wouldn’t impact a school like this,” noting that at Mac High, “It’s encouraging and very exciting to see students so engaged with learning.”

DeVos said it’s incorrect to say she doesn’t support public education.

“I do,” she said. “I support great schools and great education.

“I want every student to have a great education, each child to have the opportunity for a great education.”

For that reason, she said, “I want to invest in individual students.”

The final question went to Tommy Douglass, managing editor of The Bruin. He asked DeVos how she would increase minority graduation rates.
“Make sure every student has the opportunity to go to a great school that works for them,” she said, again making her argument for a voucher program.
Douglass, a Mac High junior, said he was excited to have been able to ask a question of the federal Secretary of Education. And he was glad she’d chosen to visit McMinnville.

“It’s pretty cool Mac High gets to show itself on a national stage,” he said, noting, “We really do have great results.”

Not everyone at the 2,200-student school was happy when they found out she was coming, he said. But after the principal and teachers talked about what an opportunity her visit provided, most began to see it in a positive light — for Mac High, at least. 

“It’s very empowering for students to show their academic results and work skills, and what their teachers are doing,” Douglass said.

After answering questions from Douglass and other reporters, DeVos moved on to EASA, where she examined Mac High’s robotics program. She sat in on a staff discussion about topics such as the district’s science experiences for every grade level and professional development that provides consistent instruction across the district.

Later, she had dinner with invited community members, educators and PTA presidents.

Roberto Gonzalez, PTA president at Grandhaven Elementary School, said it was a good opportunity for federal leaders to see education is a team effort.

“Not only schools and teachers, but other players in the community — Linfield, Chemeketa, health services, parents, PTA,” he said. “All come together for the success of kids.”

Gonzalez grew up in a very different kind of school system. While public schools were available, families that could afford it sent their children to private high schools, where they received a much better education.

He said he’s impressed with the U.S. system, where K-12 public schools make sure every student reaches his highest potential. He’s been amazed at the skills, such as critical thinking, his fifth-grade son, Emilio, is already learning and at the added opportunities offered, such as after school coding classes.

“It’s amazing we can have a public system that works for everybody, no matter their background, income or disability,” Gonzalez said.

The dinner with DeVos along with extra activities showcasing McMinnville schools were put together in a few days.

Superintendent Maryalice Russell got a call from the U.S. Department of Education late last week telling her the Secretary wanted to come to McMinnville.
It’s not unusual for the high-ranking district to receive such requests from other districts and educators. But this is the first time a federal official has visited.

“If others can learn from our successes, we’re happy to share our experiences with the secretary and her staff,” Russell said.

“We’re proud of the accomplishments of our students, our staff and our community,” she said. “As educators, we look for teachable moments, and we see this visit as a way to engage in open dialog about good teaching strategies and good instructional practices in public education.”

Comments

Joel2828

I certainly support the right of these people to protest but it's sad to see them so full of anger and spite that even the secretary of education can't come visit without them getting all worked up about it. Sad.

Joel2828

But it's great to see our superintendent and other school leaders and faculty treating her with dignity and respect.

tagup

Why is it sad?....Seems appropriate to generate attention to a flawed voucher plan that is geared toward the wealthy at the expense of public school systems.....I didn’t see the protest...how did they get “worked up”?

Rumpelstilzchen

I wonder whether anyone made a joke about Ms. DeVos’ talk earlier this year advocating teachers carrying guns to shoot Grizzlies .... hehe .... well, probably not ....

Bizzyditchaz

Joel2828, It was a very respectful event all around. Nobody got "worked up".

Jim

Typical McMinnville School District dog and pony show.

Reporter Starla Pointer

The only dog I saw was a beautiful German shepherd -- a working police canine -- who checked out all the reports and camera crews.

Jim

Starla it would be nice to chase this School District around and only see pink pony's and butterfly's but I see a lot of things that happen that don't get answers. I think I asked you on this comment section a couple of months ago what the total number of dollars were spent on the Cook Campus and the Maintenance building on Lafayette Avenue. No answer ever.

sbagwell

As we reported:

Where the money's coming from

Sept. 22, 2017

By STARLA POINTER

------

Most of the projects were completed with funds from the $89.4 million bond measure approved by voters in May 2016. By selling the bonds in a favorable market, the district realized an additional $13 million it could allocate to the work.

Because the bond passed, the district was one of 10 in the state qualifying for an OSCIM grant. Its share ran $7.1 million, which was restricted to use on capital projects.

The district budgeted about $3.9 million of that for the purchase and renovation of a former retail building to serve as a new maintenance and grounds center, and to erect a storage structure out back for grounds equipment.

------

Before getting a chance to buy the former Willamette Graystone warehouse, the district considered building a new structure from the ground up to address an urgent need to replace a mishmash of makeshift buildings. The cost was expected to run $6 million to $7 million, not counting the price of securing interim space to use during the months-long demolition and construction process.

Acquiring the Graystone building ... not only saved the district millions of dollars and a lengthy and disruptive displacement, but also provided a better facility on an easily-accessible site.

Another $2.2 million from the OSCIM grant was budgeted for renovation of the historic Cook School to create a central office with space for a variety of services that had previously been spread among numerous buildings.

In addition to the superintendent’s office, the building now features financial and personnel offices, space for the directors of special programs and other personnel, and a new boardroom better able to accommodate the public.

Most of the 1929 brick building had been sitting empty since the former elementary school was replaced by Sue Buel in 2009. However, several classrooms housed a high school alternative education program; that’s still the case.

Jim

Steve so you are telling me in a big long explanation about how the district is so frugal that the total money to buy and remodel the maintenance building and completely remodel Cook School is 6.1 million dollars. That's the total expenditure for both projects?

Reporter Starla Pointer

What I'm telling you, Jim, is that I was talking about an actual dog.

Jim

It's a sad day for our town when we have to have Police presence and trained dogs to show a visiting dignitary our High School. Really shows our children what this country has become. High School is for education,proms,sports and other fun things you don't get to do later on in life.

sbagwell

I think it's a sad day for our town when we have to endure an incessant barrage of criticism from someone so consumed with bitterness.
There is nothing the local schools could ever do that would meet with favor from you. You have made that patently obvious.
Give it a rest. It gets old.
Steve

Jim

Steve I'm not consumed with bitterness. Quite the opposite. I have different views from you and other people. I'm advocating for change in the way our schools are run. I just haven't drank the Cool-Aid. It's funny how parents and kids seem to like the fact that I am about getting things changed and don't roll over and play dead. Sorry but that's who I am. We have a lot of wonderful teachers,coaches,and administrators in this district we just aren't at 100% yet.

Joel2828

"They said her promotion for vouchers would take money from public schools and send it to private school counterparts."

Well they are right...but the good news is it will send the poorer students to the private schools too. And they will do a lot better there! Who could be against that?

Mike

I like it. The vouchers will subsidize for-profit and religious based instruction. Children will be considered from a profit and/or a religious instructional perspective. Outrageous religious groups from the The Satan Church Gospel to 1st Church of Elvis who set up a school can compete for those tax dollars. If they do a better sales recruiting job than the Public Schools, the Catholics, or the Jehovah's Witness Schools, they will get the kids and the vouchers. Public Schools as part of the education process exposing children to the variety and complexity of our society is way old fashioned. Segmenting our children into ever smaller intellectual and cultural environments is clearly a best approach to help make America a united country.

tagup

And the vouchers won’t cover all the costs so those “poor kids” will need to come up with some cash or be stuck in an underfunded public school system attended only by those that can’t afford to move......

Mike

Reflecting on the words we use. Both sides of the divide (and a divide we have) describe those who hold policies they disagree with emotionally charged words like 'full of anger','spite', and they are 'puppets' of someone else. Protests have never been popular. I went through the South in 1964 when I was in the Army. The protests then were beaten down with dogs and clubs. I seem to be in the same America. Only now we are just setting around in our private bubbles. Sad.

Denise

Jim

I’m not even sure what you’re talking about, but it seems clear you have an axe to grind with the McMinnville school system. Why, is beyond me. It is one the most successful systems in the state, yet you apparently feel the need to constantly berate it.

Please explain.

tagup

Jim---Your "typical McMinnville School District dog and pony show" comment seems to make Steve's point.....or are you advocating that the district should have turned down the Sec of Education's request to visit.....

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