Wednesday, March 19, 2003
By CHRISTY J. PAUL
Special to the News
On Friday of this past week, I traveled to Salem with a mission: to help make Oregon public schools even better. Meeting with 40 other students as a member of the Youth Advisory Team to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Susan Castillo, we discussed issues ranging from funding to the arts to CIM testing, the list seemed endless.
However, within a few minutes of my arrival at the capital, I questioned my presence. The students around me had definite worries on their minds: their schools were not heated, their advanced placement classes were being cut, and Superintendent Castillo herself believed that some students still felt unsafe in the classroom.
I could attest to none of these complaints. At Hood River Valley High School we have magnificent facilities, classes for all abilities, and never a question of student safety. Our athletic and arts programs are stable, test scores improve each year, and the students do not feel the 25 percent cut in funding, handed to the Department of Education during the last legislative session.
Returning to Hood River Friday night, I was both astounded and offended to read a past article by Mr. Michael F. Fifer titled “How can the state call our schools excellent?” Fifer states that in their final year of high school, “Americans have fallen further behind their international community,” that “America spends more per student than any other country,” and that students emerging from Hood River County schools are neither prepared for college nor the working world.
I ask Mr. Fifer to look at the facts. Oregon requires 11 years of compulsory education compared to the nine or 10 required by nearly all European nations.
It is expected that the foreign students would perform better, on average, than Oregon students in this eleventh year, for only the European students who have decided to continue their education, would be evaluated at this point.
From a financial standpoint, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom spend more per student (in respect to per capita Gross Domestic Product) than the United States. Even if the U.S. did exceed the education expenditures of these countries, it is to be praised, not attacked. The amount of money committed to education is a reflection of a country’s dedication to the future generation.
But statistics do not explain the whole story. Step inside any of the Hood River County schools and you will see why the state calls them excellent: the amazing students, inspiring teachers, and supportive administration. When students graduate from HRVHS, they are more than ready, and adequately prepared, to lead a successful life.
Mr. Fifer claims that two Hood River Valley High graduates had to attend community college classes before moving on to a university and that others “can’t run a yard sale cash box.” It was not acknowledged that HRVHS graduates have also excelled at Stanford, Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, Williams College, Boston College, and Princeton to name just a few. Fifer’s examples are simply evidence of the amazing characteristic of human beings: we are all different, with varying strengths, weaknesses, and levels of determination; both our economic and social systems are dependent upon this vital truth.
Perhaps Hood River County schools are an oasis among the Oregon school system, or more likely, a reflection of a wonderful community. Either way, I ask critics to not stand outside the doors of our schools and derail the happenings inside.
Step in, look around, and behold the magic at work.
Christy J. Paul is a senior at HRVHS.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge