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Korach challenged all of us to do more and be better

In this issue of The Review, we celebrate the exceptional work of Dr. Bill Korach, the tireless superintendent of the Lake Oswego School District, who retires at the end of the month.

When Dr. Korach was named school superintendent on July 1, 1987, he promised the school board to do his best to not let them down. Twenty-seven years later, we’d have to say that he has lived up to his word and then some.

As the longest-tenured superintendent in Oregon, Dr. Korach has been the guiding force in helping LOSD to be one of the highest-rated districts in both the state and the nation. Some may question whether this is really an accomplishment. After all, this is Lake Oswego — doesn’t everything come easy to those who live here?

The answer, of course, is no.

Nothing comes easy for schools in a state that has yet to establish a stable source of funding for K-12 education.

Three years after Dr. Korach became superintendent, voters placed constitutional limits on the use of property taxes to fund schools. Measure 5, Korach had warned, would significantly “limit local control of school funding.” But rather than let that happen, he helped spearhead a campaign for a tax base renewal that voters approved before the passage of Measure 5. And he built on existing resources, including the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, to provide alternative sources of stable funding.

Three years ago, Dr. Korach donated much of his salary to the foundation. Over the past four years, he has given $100,000 to the organization. Today, it is one of the most effective groups in the state at supporting schools, having raised $22 million to support students and fund additional teachers’ salaries.

Of course, it’s also not easy to be in charge of thousands of students in a community filled with over-achievers. Stable funding or not, expectations are sky high in Lake Oswego when it comes to what the school district should be doing to help students excel.

Here, too, Dr. Korach has delivered in a big way. Today Lake Oswego schools are the envy of the state and the No. 1 reason why people choose to move to this community.

Graduates of Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools attend some of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Student test scores rank among the highest in the state. The district boasts some of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios. And extensive extra-curricular programs, such as the Scholars’ Alliance, Community School, Talented and Gifted, Elementary Strings and Orchestra, and Lake Oswego Art Literacy provide unique opportunities for students to excel inside and outside of the classroom.

That Dr. Korach has found a way to do all of that — to rally the community, to position the district to weather financial storms, and to accept nothing less than excellence from students, teachers and staff — is a stunning accomplishment.

And yet there’s more.

Throughout his tenure, Dr. Korach has focused not just on what’s best for his school district, but also on what is best for all of Lake Oswego. When so many people devote their time and money to schools, he says, “it’s a superintendent’s responsibility to be an active contributor to the community.”

Dr. Korach has been an active contributor for a very long time.

The list of groups and causes he has supported is almost endless. From the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce to the Lakewood Theater Company and Lake Oswego Arts Council, it can often seem as if Dr. Korach is everywhere. (Yes, that was him at last weekend’s Festival of the Arts, wearing a red apron and serving wine at an artists’ reception.)

Dr. Korach understands the idea of mutually beneficial relationships. He believes to his core that when we all work together, we all achieve success. Hopefully, that’s a legacy that will live on in Lake Oswego, long after he retires on Monday.

No one is irreplaceable, of course. Not even Dr. Korach. But it’s vital that we continue to build on his fine work, and that we constantly strive to make Lake Oswego an even better community for future generations.

Dr. Korach likes to say that “to be a successful leader, you have to create the conditions for other people’s success.” He has certainly done that. He has led us and taught us for many years, and now it is our turn to be the leaders and to teach others.

Let’s not let him down.

Thank you, Dr. Korach. Lake Oswego salutes you.




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