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“Every kid should be able to choose a future,” said Bill Jennings of his passion for working and volunteering for education. “If you are educating children, you are giving them an opportunity to do that and expanding the options they can choose.”

People who have gone “above and beyond” for Klamath’s city schools will be celebrated at the district’s fifth annual awards event Feb. 12 at 7:45 a.m. Nominated by their peers October to December, 16 individuals and eight units will be honored as Everyday Heroes or Key Innovators. Klamath Basin Behavioral Health will be named the district’s Community Partner of the Year and, new this year, a Community Person of the Year Award will be presented to longtime city school board member Bill Jennings. All are welcome to join Superintendent Dr. Paul Hillyer in recognizing outstanding work on behalf of city school students.

Community Person of the year, Bill Jennings

As a strong advocate for education in Klamath Falls, Bill Jennings continues the work of his grandfather Paul Angstead, who served as dean of students, vice principal and coach at Klamath Union High School from the early 1940s to 1966.

Jennings is a proud KU graduate who earned one of his two degrees at Oregon Institute of Technology. He sent his two children through the city district schools and has worked at Klamath Community College for the past 15 years, first as a professor of math and currently as Institutional Researcher. He served on the city’s school board from 2009 to 2019, including several years as board chair.

“Every kid should be able to choose a future,” said Jennings of his passion for working and volunteering for education. “If you are educating children, you are giving them an opportunity to do that and expanding the options they can choose.”

School board member Mike Moore points to Jennings’s leadership during his decade-long tenure, particularly during the bond campaign for a KU renovation, which passed with 60 percent of the vote in 2014. He credits Jennings with creating the campaign tag line “Keep the Tradition, Improve the Condition” and bringing “a steady hand and a thoughtful way” to all school board issues.

Moore also praises Jennings as a mentor who taught him the “ins and outs” when he joined the board in 2012. “He is a straight shooter,” said Moore. “And he cares deeply for the students and staff of our school district.”

Superintendent Hillyer, who nominated Jennings for the district award, appreciates Jennings’s skill at building community support for district improvements and his “countless hours” on committees and negotiation teams.

Like Moore, Hillyer considers Jennings a thoughtful and supportive partner in district leadership. “He was an important listening ear to me, always providing balanced viewpoints and insights that proved invaluable in making decisions,” Hillyer said.

“He is not only a model board member, but also a model community leader. I will forever be grateful for all he has done for me and our school system.”

Jennings is humble about his award, saying that every school board project was accomplished by “group effort” with his fellow board members.

He also credits the entire community, remembering a Saturday when he needed 200 people for a door-hanger effort for the KU bond campaign. “They all showed up,” he said with a smile.

“Our community shares the common vision that our children need modern, safe buildings to learn in, and that we need an educated workforce to draw new industry and keep people here.”

Although Jennings stepped down from the school board due to a move out of the city district, he continues to serve with the Pelican Education Foundation, which provides scholarships and teacher grants to city schools, and he remains devoted to supporting education in Klamath.

“Our work is not done here,” he said, noting the district’s aging school buildings. “Fortunately, our community shares a good common vision for supporting our children.”

Community partner of the year, Klamath Basin Behavioral Health

Would-be educators could feel overwhelmed, even deterred, by the statistics from the National Education Association that 20 percent of U.S. children need mental health treatment and that 70 percent of them do not receive adequate care.

Considering the negative impact that untreated illness has on learning, everyone who wants a healthy, educated community should be upset by those numbers.

The Klamath City Schools District is fortunate to have a strong partnership with southern Oregon’s largest behavioral health provider. KBBH provides day treatment and school-based services for all district schools, including assistance and education for teachers and administrators in the areas of difficult behaviors, character education, early identification of behavioral health challenges and referrals to additional services.

Studies show that such intervention with students leads to improvements in time management, goal setting, problem solving, attendance and other behaviors related to academic achievement.

Long term, such intervention yields a significant economic impact, according to research by The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Studies have found that every $1 invested in prevention and early intervention yields $2 to $10 in savings in health costs, criminal and juvenile justice costs and low productivity.

“The cost is well worth the long-term savings,” said Superintendent Hillyer of the district covering 75 percent of KBBH costs, about half of that through federal grants. Oregon Public Health covers the other 25 percent.

“The support KBBH offers our community, families, and students is invaluable,” said Pelican Elementary Principal Michelle McCabe.

“At Pelican, our skills provider supports students in mindfulness, friendship groups, social skills, self-regulation and anger management to name a few. KBBH is an amazing resource for our schools and our community.”

Key Innovators 2019-2020 KEY INNOVATORS

Therapeutic Learning Classroom at Ponderosa Middle School

New this year through the district’s partnership with Klamath Basin Behavioral Health is Ponderosa’s Therapeutic Learning Classroom (TLC), a short-term classroom for up to 12 students struggling to manage behaviors that could lead to suspension, expulsion or alternative placement. Designed as a six-to-12-week opportunity, its aim is to support students in developing skills they need to succeed in mainstream classrooms.

Classroom director Michael Luce provides computer-based and direct instruction in core subjects as well as customized interventions for building skills in time management, participation, relationship building and coping.

In addition to teaching students how to succeed in mainstream classrooms, Principal Brett Lemieux says the TLC benefits all Ponderosa classrooms.

“Having Mr. Luce in direct contact with teachers to offer strategies that work is also a benefit,” he said. “This creates an environment that allows all students to be in a positive learning environment.”

Ninth Grade On Track Program

When we think of graduation, we often think about a high school’s senior class, but research shows that we should be thinking about its freshmen.

A University of Chicago study found that failures during the very first year of high school, particularly during the first semester, make a student much less likely to graduate. Researchers even call ninth grade the “make-or-break year.”

New this year at KU is the Ninth Grade On Track (9OT) program, a freshman success program modeled on the “on track” movement that grew out of the University of Chicago’s findings. Focusing on freshmen showing early signs of academic struggle, it provides team-based interventions to support them in successfully completing one quarter of the credits needed to graduate.

Led by Crystal Muno, KU’s 9OT team is made up of ninth-grade core teachers Marvin Dykstra, Matt Hill, John Huntsman and Sasheena Kurfman, school counselor Rebecca Pierce, special education teacher Nikkaya Delgado and vice principal Jacque Brandow. Advising the team is a group of students called the Pel Squad that provides a student perspective on the ninth-grade experience.

“Occasionally, we find that our adult-centered ideas may not be so helpful,” said Brandow of the Pel Squad. “This team provides critical feedback and keeps us on our toes. This is essential so that the work we are doing is with our students and not to them.”

The district aims to graduate 100 percent of its students, and the 9OT team is a big step toward that goal.

21st Century Community Learning Centers Tutor Program

It’s not surprising that students in small classes fare better than those in large classes due to the individualized instruction teachers can provide. City district students are fortunate to have class sizes smaller than the Oregon state average of 25, and for those needing more individualized instruction, the district this year is offering free, grant-funded tutoring to middle and high school students.

At Klamath Union, about 10 to 40 students show up daily in room 114 for peer tutoring in English, math or science. While they work from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m., they eat snacks and drink jasmine tea set out by coordinator Lisa Vaughn, who calls herself the “flight attendant” and gives all credit to the program’s dedicated tutors.

“They are just awesome, dependable kids, and so professional,” said Vaughn of KU’s nine peer tutors, who work under the supervision of math teacher Karley Marshall or Casey Kleiwer: Maia Norton, Ruth Peterson, Toviyah Blauser, Jeffrey Dupuis, Alex Prosnik, Kira Ritter, Kaden Coulter, Connor Cherpeski and Naomi Nash.

“When you walk into that room it’s just such a collegiate feel,” Vaughn said, describing tutors working with groups or one-on-one, as well as students working independently on homework.

“The dedication of our staff to stay another hour or more after work is very impressive,” said Vaughn. “They deserve kudos for what they’re doing.”

Vaughn also coordinates the tutoring at Ponderosa Middle School, which is offered in the cafeteria 3:15 – 4:30 p.m. with six teachers from the school: Brent Glidden, Shari Glidden, Francisco Rico, Matt Buchan, Betsy Neuman and Bree Ruiz.

Registered by invitation and with approval of parents, Ponderosa students begin with supper, then break into groups for English language arts or math tutoring. To date, 121 students are registered for tutoring help, and during the first two months of 2020, more than 75 percent have attended – about 35 on any given day.

Already teachers are seeing an impact in the classroom. “Tutoring has been a great success in the sixth grade for my students,” said teacher Bree Ruiz.

“I have seen students being able to work hard on catching up and raising grades one or two letter grades from the face-to-face time they are getting in tutoring.”

Childcare & Preschool Program for District Employees

A recent poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that high cost is the most common challenge to parents in need of childcare.

Thanks to the district’s long-established Pelican Babies daycare for children six weeks to three years old and its newly established Klamath Early Childhood Education Center (KECEC) for preschoolers, district employees can have quality childcare and pursue the jobs they love.

“The preschool schedule is perfect for my teaching schedule and beyond affordable,” said Haley Butler, a fourth-grade teacher at Mills Elementary whose four-year-old daughter is enrolled.

“It allows me to work full time without the stress of wondering how I can pay for childcare or preschool. It brings such a peace of mind to know that my child is in a safe and caring environment throughout the day. She is cared for and she learns so much from her amazing teachers. I couldn't be more thankful.”

Like Pelican Babies, KECEC is located in a secure wing of the district’s main office on Avalon Street, making the transition at three years old easy for children and their parents. Both are open to community members but offer deep discounts to district employees.

Distinctive about KECEC is that it unites typically developing children with children requiring special education through the district’s Early Childhood Intervention program, a relationship that educators say is beneficial to both. Its curriculum, taught by two master’s-level teachers, aligns with district curriculum, ensuring that children are well prepared for city school kindergarten classrooms.

“We feel extraordinarily lucky to have our children in both programs and plan to keep them there as long as they are of age,” said Chelsea Woods, a first-grade teacher at Mills Elementary School, who has a three-year-old son in KECEK and an eight-month-old daughter in Pelican Babies.

“Finding high quality childcare in Klamath Falls is challenging and we feel both the preschool and daycare are second to none in the Basin.”

Summer Internships for Students Team

As Transition Specialist for the district, Lisa Carter helps students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), 504 plans or medical barriers to employment develop the skills they need to transition from student life to independent, adult life.

Last year, Carter created a partnership with two nonprofits also working with vulnerable populations in Klamath Falls: Youth Rising, which provides support for teens, and Klamath Works, which supports adults and students in achieving self-sufficiency.

The three submitted and won a grant funded by Oregon’s Department of Human Services and Department of Education for a summer work experience program that supported 40 students in paid summer internships throughout the community, from Sellars Construction, to Turn Thom Point Tire and Automotive, to West Ridge Animal Hospital.

The interns gained job skills, work experience, confidence and spending money.

“I’m on my feet, I’m making money, and I’m having fun,” said Aaron Hard, 16, during her internship at the Children’s Museum of Klamath. “It’s giving me a lot of experience and more communication skills.”

“It definitely showed me how to work with a team better,” said Austin Erickson, 18, who interned at Moore Park.

The employers likewise benefited, gaining extra hands for daily operations or special projects.

“As a new nonprofit we were thrilled for the opportunity, and it’s been incredible,” said Shelley Trumbly, executive director and founder of Solid Ground Equine, which provides therapeutic horse riding and activities for all ages. “The student we have [Alejandro Chavolla] is amazing.”

Blue Zones PR & Marketing Manager Kendra Santiago noted how helpful it was that student Juan de Dios acquired his food handler’s permit while interning.

“He’s been able to fill that gap for us when we’re at different events throughout the community,” she said. “And he helps keep us organized and our office looking great. . . . I hope one of the things he gets to take away from this is not only just the value of our work but that work can be fun, too.”

Everyday heroes

Kyle Baird, Custodian, Klamath Union High School, 6.5 with KFCS

In her nomination, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Rhiannon Kerr noted that Baird not only helped assemble her three new garden towers this year but also researched how to help the tower plants thrive when they started dying. “Because of Kyle’s commitment the towers are thriving, and produce is growing quickly for students to cook with and eat,” wrote Kerr. She also praised Baird’s outreach to students, such as buying a beanie to replace one destroyed in an altercation. “Kyle has a commitment to students and every day works to connect with those who are often overlooked.”

Caroline Nichols, Paraprofessional, Klamath Union High School, 4 years with KFCS

“Caroline has become the ‘bridge’ between students with disabilities and my class instruction,” wrote Media Design teacher Dan Stearns. “She has made the difference in my success teaching all students.”

Rhiannon Kerr, Family & Consumer Sciences Teacher, Klamath Union High School, 1.5 years with KFCS

“Rhiannon has made a major difference in our CTE group,” wrote Media Design teacher Dan Stearns, referring to his and Kerr’s status as Career & Technical Education teachers. “Rhiannon’s expertise in teaching has made our team shine.”

Kassidy Rubio, Secretary, Klamath Learning Center, 1 year with KFCS

Klamath Learning Center Director Toby Flakus said that in addition to managing staff calendars, budgets and supplies with excellent organizational and multitasking skills, Rubio has increased the positive communication in and out of the district’s alternative high school. “She reinforces our attendance goals, has built relationships with students and always has words of wisdom

and treats for them. She is the smiling face that students see as they walk in the door each day.”

Matthew Hill, English Language Arts Teacher, Klamath Union High School, 1.5 years with KFCS

“Media Design and the Associated Student Body have formed a great partnership,” wrote Media Design teacher Dan Stearns, referring to a Halloween dance co-hosted by Stearn’s media design students and the ASB students Hill advises.

Naomi McCleve, Paraprofessional, Klamath Union High School, 2.5 years with KFCS

“Naomi has, by example, shown me how to work with Bridges students in my class,” wrote Media Design teacher Dan Stearns, referring to McCleve’s expertise with students with disabilities. “She is an invaluable help.”

Erin Dodson, Elementary Day Treatment Teacher, KBBH, 6 years with KFCS

“Erin continually takes on different tasks at KBBH in order to grow and learn as a professional,” wrote Director of Special Services Dena Haudenshild. “Erin does not back down from work but rather seeks to help the team by asking what she can do. She has a love to learn and grow that is truly appreciated!”

Bonnie Mancebo, Paraprofessional, Mills Elementary School, 13 years with KFCS

“Mrs. Mancebo shows a level of kindness that goes beyond the school day, getting to know the children’s interests, activities and family dynamics,” wrote Mills Elementary School teacher Liz Campbell. “For several children, she is a grandma-figure, providing support and heart.”

Lucia Alfaro, Paraprofessional, Early Childhood Intervention, 26.5 years with KFCS

“Lucia is able to identify where needs are within our program and is willing, often volunteering, to go where the need leads,” wrote Director of Special Services Dena Haudenshild. “Lucia is extremely talented, patient and kind. Trilingual in English, Spanish and American Sign Language, she is truly an amazing asset to our children who speak Spanish, as well as our children who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Katherine Hatcher, Paraprofessional, Early Childhood Intervention, 24 years with KFCS

Director of Special Services Dena Haudenshild nominated Hatcher for her ability to maintain class procedures and instruction even in the absence of the lead teacher. “Katherine works with children who are highly impacted by autism,” wrote Haudenshild. “The children require consistent routine with instruction tailored to their individual needs. Katherine makes sure that happens!” Debbie Hill, Secretary, Klamath Union High School, 32 years at retirement with KFCS (+3 and counting as a sub) “Debbie filled in countless times as secretary for the Transportation Department,” said bus driver Debra Pouliot. “She made it possible for us to function as we are meant to.”

Rebecca Morehouse, 4th-Grade Teacher, Roosevelt Elementary School, 9.5 years with KFCS

“She has made herself available to support students with behavioral, educational and developmental needs,” wrote Roosevelt teacher Sara Lautenschlager. “And she has been involved in many initiatives at Roosevelt surrounding CHAMPS [behavior management structure] and Response to Intervention [teaching process].”

Rebecca Pierce, Counselor, Klamath Union High School, 8.5 years with KFCS

Vice Principal Jacque Brandow praised Pierce for “tireless efforts” to create a more effective counseling department. “She is someone students, parents and teachers can count on,” wrote Brandow, noting her ability to “disarm emotional situations,” lead “solution-focused conversations,” and develop caring relationships that enable students and teachers to focus on learning and teaching. Kyle Malone, Head Custodian, Mills Elementary School, 2 years with KFCS

“Kyle goes above and beyond to assist staff,” wrote Mills teacher Maureen Lundy and Principal Fred Bartels. “Kyle was a huge asset to the Mills Hundred-Year Anniversary celebration. He came up with ideas and assisted to make sure the event was successful. Lastly, he makes superior connections with students and is always available to mentor children and pitch in to guarantee their safety.”

Sara Robertson, Administrative Assistant, Human Resources, 2.5 years with KFCS

“Sara is a priceless resource who goes above and beyond in assuring that employees get answers promptly and helping them navigate what is frequently a complicated process,” said Teri Leeper Taylor, administrative assistant for the district office. “Her approach to exemplary work is unbeatable. Her work ethic is admirable, and her positive attitude is infectious. Without a doubt, much of the success in the district office is due to her skill and hard work. Working alongside her each day is a joy.”

Trudy Willhite, Program Coordinator/Director, Pelican Babies, 19 years with KFCS

“What hasn’t she done?” wrote nominator Stephanie Mattingly, paraprofessional in the Pelican Babies program. “Trudy is always a positive figure in the lives of the daycare children, the teen parents, community member parents, staff and aides. She always works hard so that our children have compassion, caring and love, as well as academic readiness for their next education steps.”

Pelican Babies Child Development Center

Trudy Willhite, Program Coordinator/Director, 19 years with KFCS Becky Briones, Case Manager, 12.5 years with KFCS Kyla Pace, Paraprofessional, 16.5 year with KFCS Stephanie Mattingly, Paraprofessional, 5 years with KFCS Amanda Fanning, Paraprofessional, 2 years with KFCS Naomi Gomez, Paraprofessional, .5 years with KFCS

“This extraordinary childcare is educating our future,” wrote nominator Kyla Pace of the Pelican Babies Center, which cares for district children ages six weeks to three years old.

“The staff is caring, attentive and highly qualified,” wrote Mills Elementary teacher Chelsea Woods, whose eight-month-old is enrolled at Pelican Babies daycare and whose three-year-old attends the district preschool in the same building. “There are such amazing people who work at both locations. . . . Finding high-quality childcare in Klamath Falls is challenging and we feel both the preschool and daycare are second to none in the Basin.”

Conger Elementary School Bridges Room Team

Cindy Quick, Teacher, 16.5 years with KFCS Nicole Abbott, Paraprofessional, 1.5 years with KFCS Sierra Baird, Paraprofessional, 3.5 years with KFCS Wendi Cox, Paraprofessional, 14.5 years with KFCS Shawn Fleming, Paraprofessional, 1.5 years with KFCS Jill Harpham, Paraprofessional, 16.5 years with KFCS Melody Morello, Paraprofessional, 5 years with KFCS Shawna Behm, Speech Language Pathologist, 6 years with KFCS

“This team of dedicated educators has demonstrated a willingness to do whatever it takes to allow students to grow to their full potential,” wrote Principal Julie Bainbridge, who nominated the staff of Conger’s special education classroom.

“Cindy has greatly increased the academic rigor in this classroom, preparing her students for mainstreaming in all general education classes as much as possible. The paraprofessionals have had much to do with making students in the Bridge Room an important and integral part of Conger’s school culture. For example, Shawna Behm planned and implemented a popcorn cart run by students from the Bridge Room. All students love it when the popcorn cart comes into their classroom, and Bridge Room students have multiple language opportunities a strong sense of purpose!”

Transportation Department Mechanics

Jacob Marshall, Mechanic, 6.5 years with KFCS Mark McGahan, Mechanic, 25.5 years with KFCS Wesley Mueller, Mechanic, 2.5 months with KFCS

“They are the unsung heroes of the district,” wrote bus driver Virgil Schmoe. “They make sure all the buses are in #1 condition and, as needed, they drive routes, work as counselors to the drivers, stay way after quit time and provide on-call rescue with long trip breakdowns. With no buses, where would we be?”