ONTARIO — Leadership of Ontario School District hosted two meetings on Feb. 5 at Ontario Middle School in an effort to bring parents and community members up to speed on a future opportunity to increase equity in schools statewide.
The Student Success Act informational meetings were held in English first and then Spanish in the later meeting with come computers provided so that those in attendance could contribute to the discussion.
According to Ontario School District Public Relations and Communications Coordinator Taryn Smith, the Ontario School District SSA meeting began with letting community members know how the administration of Ontario School District has been working with Malheur County Education Services District Superintendent Mark Redmond and Kelsi Skinner, Malheur County ESD’s SSA liaison, to both make sure that everyone is on the same page and that they have an engagement method that mirrors other schools in the county and the state.
Smith said she shared district data (including survey data on what students, staff and parents have identified as needs for the district) and Skinner explained how districts can use funds brought in via the SSA.
After the information session, attendees at the meeting were given a QR code that linked them to an engagement activity in which they were able to rank academic needs, behavioral needs and emergent trends at Ontario School District and give input on the different topics. The options provided ran a wide gamut, including “grade level schools as a way to decrease class sizes,” “add more instructional assistants,” “increased security at all school locations,” “additional access to counselors and behavioral supports,” “enhancing athletic programs/clubs” and “upgrade classrooms/facilities (windows).”
“Our district administrators were very pleased with the insightful comments and questions that were recorded,” Smith said.
What is the SSA?
Signed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown on May 20, 2019, Oregon House Bill 3427, also known as the Student Success Act, is an investment of $1 billion in Oregon education every year. Of that money, $200 million goes into the state school fund while the remainder is distributed as such:
• 50% to Student Investment Accounts
• 20% to Early Learning Accounts
• 30% to Statewide Education Initiatives
The money that school districts statewide are looking at is the Student Investment Account, which is a non-competitive grant. The Student Investment Account is money that districts can use to focus on areas of improvement, namely class sizes, instructional time, health and safety needs, and ensuring a well-rounded education.
Per the Oregon Department of Education, grant money will be used to “increase academic achievements and reduce academic disparities” for students of color, students with disabilities, emerging bilingual students, students navigating poverty, homelessness and foster care, and other students that have historically experienced disparities in schools.
Currently, all Oregon public schools are working to develop their Student Investment Account applications, part of which includes giving teachers, staff and community members the opportunity to give their input.
The submission window for all School Investment Account applications is from March 2 to April 15.
Per the state, SIA plans are expected to go into action starting in July. The first payments for those with completed grant agreements are expected to be released on Aug. 15.
Meetings at other schools
Vale School District officials are also working on plans for a School Investment Account. According to Vale School District Superintendent Alisha McBride, the district will be presenting the plan to the public at the Wednesday School Board meeting.
Nyssa School District will be holding a community meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Nyssa School District board room; child care and interpreters will be available.