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Letters to the Editor 

Guest Opinion: Excellence and Equity

When in Bend, make protest signs that only locals would understand! On Dec. 17, the night before the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, hundreds of protesters lined the area around NW Greenwood Avenue and Bond Street. The largest crowds gathered outside of the offices of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR2) who's retiring this year. The final vote to impeach the president Wednesday was split almost entirely along party lines. - LAUREL BRAUNS
  • Laurel Brauns
  • When in Bend, make protest signs that only locals would understand! On Dec. 17, the night before the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump, hundreds of protesters lined the area around NW Greenwood Avenue and Bond Street. The largest crowds gathered outside of the offices of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR2) who's retiring this year. The final vote to impeach the president Wednesday was split almost entirely along party lines.

Editor’s note:

Reflecting upon the last decade, it hit me: I got my first smartphone about 10 years ago today. Mind. Blown. If anything spurred a massive change in today’s society, it was the advent of those bright blue screens, stuck in our faces every day. And with that came an explosion in the use of social media… and also a proliferation of fake news, pseudo-news and all the like. I could go on and on about the changes we’ve seen this decade—and we’ve done a lighthearted review of some of those changes in this week’s feature story on page 8.

But it strikes me that it’s taken up to now for news organizations to fully realize that we need to do more to help people understand who to trust for valid, factual information. News outlets that are staffed by trained journalists are, as 2020 dawns, aiming to do more to help readers understand the difference between organizations that vet and fact-check, and that consult multiple sources for stories, and those that traffic in the click-bait fringe theories of the day. This notion of media literacy is important to me not just so that I can personally remain in this profession—but also, more importantly, so that we as a society don’t descend into a chronic state of Idiocracy where facts, science and truth are optional. So much is at stake, and it transcends politics. Being educated and informed is not a matter of class, race, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation. Here’s to a more enlightened 2020!

Guest Opinion
Excellence and Equity

The Excellence and Equity work being done by our district is a strong move by our senior leadership—one that has the potential to change the trajectory of our historically underserved students and also improve outcomes and support the health and wellness of ALL of our students. As stated in the initial findings,

"The report is a bold, but honest call to action. We can do better; we can be better."

As a Board of Directors, we appreciate the work to date and are excited about the district's work going forward.

For those unfamiliar, Bend-La Pine Schools is developing its first Excellence and Equity strategic plan—a plan squarely focused on improving the experiences and outcomes for ALL students, with a focus on not just academic but social-emotional needs as well. This is big work—and it will be ongoing work. It is also work that deserves to be elevated in our community's conversation.

At the December Board meeting, the district shared its review of the "Listening Phase" in its plan development. While there was much to be celebrated across the schools, there was also much that was hard to hear—and critically important that it was heard. Our district actively solicited diverse voices from across our stakeholders, conducting 36 focus groups in partnership with Better Together, including affinity groups to ensure the voices of our ethnically diverse, linguistically diverse, neurodiverse and LGBTQ+ communities were heard as well as communities across socio-economic settings. Input sessions were held at all 33 schools and teacher interviews were conducted by the Bend Education Association to ensure our staff and teachers were heard. Staff reviewed survey results on school climate from 2000+ families. And historical data both in terms of overall growth and the achievement gap for our historically underserved students was analyzed to ensure that these outcomes were allowed to speak as well.

Four clear priorities emerged from this review:

Strong Relationships—Students need strong relationships with peers and staff members in order to thrive. And families want to be seen as partners in their children's education.

Quality Teaching—Varied teaching strategies, actionable feedback, equitable participation structures, collaborative and authentic learning opportunities and passionate teachers all matter to kids—and help them learn.

Sense of Belonging—Students, as well as families, need to feel both welcome and safe in schools. This includes proactive steps that engage and welcome, as well as effective reactive steps to bullying and harassment.

Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity—The wealth of backgrounds and cultures of our families is an asset that enriches our schools, but we need to examine and shift our curriculum and staffing to reflect and honor that diversity.

The work ahead will be development of a strategic plan that addresses these priorities, including specific actions and how they will be funded through the allocation of Student Success Act funding. While this will be a huge lift for our district, it is also an exciting time for our community. In the words of Superintendent Mikalson, "We are at a time where we have the power to do something profound and can truly change the educational experiences for our students."

— Melissa Barnes Dholakia, Julie Craig, Carrie McPherson Douglass, Shimiko Montgomery, Caroline Skidmore, Amy Tatom, Stuart Young Bend-La Pine Schools Board of Directors

Oops! Re: If You Build It, Will They Come? 12/12

Looks like someone forgot to impose & collect adequate System Development Charges.

—Norm Ploss

We Could Do So Much Better

First off, I don't want to be bitter and point fingers—it's fruitless and life's short. But Bend, both its leaders and citizens, needs to wake up quickly before our beautiful city turns fully into another American urban sprawl of car culture, food deserts and social isolation. I moved with my family to Bend in 1977. I grew to see a sleepy timber town become the star attraction of Central Oregon. And though I seethe a bit at the influx of immense wealth, insane driving and backed up traffic, I know that growth is inevitable. What's NOT inevitable is how we grow.

This brings me to my point. I traveled with my family to Europe this past summer and, regardless of your opinions on Europe's culture or politics, they have several thousand years of experience on how to build and run a city, and we need to take some pointers. In most of the places we traveled to in Spain, Greece, France and Italy, we could walk to a small market. Bike to a cafe. Take a stroll to a nearby restaurant or two, or three. I think of the new developments in Bend (other than N.W Crossing, which seems to be one of the only developments that was lucky enough to be developed with thought to livability) and I see sprawling houses packed in, without a store. No coffee shops. Not a market within a mile.

My friend told me she called the city about the new development off Reed Market and asked, why can't it be more like N.W. Crossing. The City Manager's office replied that the developer chose not to. Chose not to?  No Store. No Cafe. No Restaurant. Meaning, more driving. Less local connection. More isolation. Why is this even a choice? Developers are making the choices to pack houses in. Developers do not study sociology. They are not qualified to make decisions about the future of our culture. Why do we give them that power? This boggles my mind. As a city, we need to redefine who we want to be in 100 years. How we want to live. Let's break away from the ubiquitous car culture development and establish new codes that drive a kind of development that brings people together. A development that gets people out of their cars and on their feet. This is one way to increase the gross domestic happiness of a city. We could do so much better.

—Ryan Goldstein

Letter of the Week:

Ryan: Having grown up, as an Army brat, riding on the lovely dedicated bike routes of Germany, I couldn't agree more. The City of Bend has some aspirations in this regard for some of its new neighborhoods inside the Urban Growth Boundary—let's advocate for "bedroom communities" becoming a thing of the past! Come on in for your gift card to Palate.

—Nicole Vulcan

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