DALLAS — The Dallas School District heard from more than 1,200 residents offering feedback on how the district can better serve students and the community.
The outreach effort is part of compiling the district’s Continuous Improvement Plan, a requirement to receive money from the state through the Student Success Act. The legislation was passed in Oregon’s last legislative session and will distribute $2 billion to schools over two years.
“While we aren’t certain what our portion of those investment dollars will be specific to Dallas School District at this time, we estimate it to $650 per student,” said Andy Bellando, Dallas’ interim superintendent, during a joint meeting with the Dallas City Council on Jan. 6. “We will be able to invest for things that we have not been able to acquire and do in the past.”
He said the law requires money be spent in two areas.
“Those are specific to meeting students’ mental and behavioral health needs … and increasing academic achievement and decreasing academic disparities, especially for historically underserved groups of students, whether they be students of color, students in poverty, or students within a community that may not have been served equally,” he said.
Part of the law is submitting a Continuous Improvement Plan for each district as part of an application for funding, which will be given to districts through grants. The plan requires districts to receive feedback from the people they serve on how to improve in the two areas the act addresses.
“I think the beauty of the law was that it put us as a school district in a position of asking our community what should those priorities be?” Bellando said. “Our priorities are going to be different than Portland Public or Salem-Keizer or Silver Falls or any other school district in the state of Oregon.”
Through surveys and focus groups, the district was able to identify the top five areas community members thought the schools could improve: expanded learning options; social-emotional learning and behavior supports; curriculum and instruction; staff-to-student ratio; and school safety and security.
Those priorities will become part of the district’s Continuous Improvement Plan, as will three goals:
“All students graduate with academic skills necessary to succeed in life.”
“All students graduate with the social-emotional skills necessary to succeed in life.”
“All students graduate with functional, professional, and technical skills necessary to succeed in life.”
Bellando said the last goal included teaching students the necessity of skills such as communication, collaboration, management, leadership and flexibility. He said educators got the strong message that students need to learn those skills before reaching the workforce.
“Many of you, I’m certain, are business owners or managers or have worked throughout your life and understand the value of what each one of those character traits are and how important they are,” Bellando said. “Many times in any industry that each of us go in to, we can teach the skill, but oftentimes we can’t teach that character trait. It has to be learned along the way.”