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Corbett School Board has some explaining to do

The Corbett School District has become a national leader in preparing its students for college. This remarkable improvement has taken place before our eyes, in little more than a decade.

Unfortunately, there is a move afoot to make significant changes and it isn’t clear that those changes will maintain all of its excellent programs.

MATT WANDThe Corbett schools are truly the heart of the community. Lacking a central employer, city or other government structure, it is the schools that are the social structure for Corbett residents.

It is no surprise that what takes place in the schools is felt deeply by Corbett residents of all ages. Corbett is a close-knit community that can be slow to accept new residents.

With this in mind it was a bit outside character when the Corbett Charter School was created and the district agreed to share space with it in the same buildings. Many of the students in the charter school would not live in Corbett and adding students from outside the district would increase the total number of students at the building and in the community. It was a bit of a risky strategy.

In spite of those challenges, the results have been excellent.

Instead of being an average school in an above-average community, the school has become excellent in a very short time.

The graduates are reaping the benefits, most of whom graduate high school with college credit. This reduces their college expenses and gives them a much greater chance of being accepted into higher-level universities.

I once asked the superintendent (Dr. Randy Trani) what was different about Corbett that has worked so well.

Quite simply, he said that the district and teachers don’t take “no” for an answer. When they find research or techniques or strategies to help students learn, they adopt and implement them. The teachers, administration and parents all work together for the good of the students, who remain at the center of their strategies and goals.

All of this stands in stark contrast to the current strategy of the Corbett School District.

After approving an extension of the Charter School’s contract to operate within the geographic boundaries of the district, it has refused to allow the charter school to continue operating in its buildings (although negotiations are ongoing). Presumably, the school district believes that the charter students and teachers will simply move over to the district school, bringing their state funding (students) and expertise (teachers) with them.

That may happen, or it may not, but the unanswered — perhaps unasked — is why would the district make such a dramatic and drastic change and take the risk?

There is a modest increase in funding to the school district if the charter is abandoned and all of the same students attend the district schools with a corresponding increase in students it teaches and loss of rental income.

There also is rumbling in the district among residents regarding personality conflicts with the charter superintendent, traffic and the population of the school, none of which seem to be insurmountable problems in general, and in the past haven’t prevented Corbett’s impressive record of success.

It is time for the Corbett School Board to state clearly what it hopes to accomplish, why it is risking losing an incredible record of improvement in a short time, and ultimately whether it is putting the best interests of its students first or if this is just a dispute among the adults with the students’ best interests in the backseat.

Matt Wand of Troutdale writes a monthly column for The Outlook. He is an attorney with a law practice based in Gresham since 2006. He has served as a Troutdale City Councilor and state representative from East County.



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