By editorial board • 

DeVos visit seen as honor for deserving district and school

Neither protests nor counter-protests nor gloom of day nor Oregon drizzle stayed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos from swift completion of her appointed rounds on a wet McMinnville Wednesday.

We consider it an honor for local educators and administrators to earn a congratulatory visit from someone in her high position. Regardless of one’s thoughts on DeVos’ political and policy choices, an opportunity for staff and students to engage face-to-face with her was worth seizing. And it was.

The visit was prompted by an Oregonian story lauding Mac High’s exceptional test scores, which are particularly eye-catching for students from low-income households or taking up English as a second language. It served to deliver yet another round of praise for a district that’s earned many faculty and administrator awards in recent years.

The recipe for success is fairly simple, according to Superintendent Maryalice Russell. It features research-based lesson planning fine-tuned to reflect student feedback and objective results data. It requires total commitment from quality educators at every level of the district, and leadership able to address needs and wants in the classroom. 

Russell accepted DeVos’ invitation to give the school the opportunity to tell its story. In a note to staff, posted on the school Facebook page, Russell wrote:

“Whether you agree or disagree with the direction education policy is heading, it doesn’t change the fact that we believe our students should be able to do the following when they walk across the stage: Engage in a civil discussion (with) those whom they may not agree; be willing to honor and evaluate multiple perspectives; propose an idea with tact and defend it with evidence and logic; put themselves in challenging and uncomfortable situations to grow as young adults; and find opportunities to champion a cause that’s greater than themselves.”

DeVos’ lifelong embrace of private education has made her a lightning rod. But trying to shame the district for welcoming her serves to increase the level of partisan bickering and decrease the level of discourse and compromise. That serves to fuel a continuing trend in the wrong direction. 

We certainly don’t begrudge those who felt the need to protest, or to counter with support for the Secretary. As long as those actions occur with at least a modicum of understanding for the other side of the street, such civic engagements can foster progress.

That certainly seemed to be happening within the school walls, if not without.

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