Flurry Of Education Forums Encourage Public Input

Have something to say about education? In the next few months, Eugeneans have a multitude of opportunities to voice their thoughts in a series of public forums, some specifically for Eugene School District 4J and some on a statewide level.

According to Kerry Delf, 4J’s associate director for communications, 2,027 people responded to 4J’s online survey, which wrapped up earlier this month and asked community members to describe, among other things, what aspects of education should take priority — survey takers could choose from categories such as “highly qualified teachers and staff” and “higher graduation rates,” or they could write-in a category.

Delf says that one topic in particular has emerged repeatedly as one of concern to the 4J community — class size.

“Our class sizes have grown over the years, and they are higher than the school district would like to see,” Delf says.

At a recent meeting on 4J elementary class sizes, parents expressed dismay about kindergarten classes with more than 30 students (see “Parents Concerned about Elementary Class Sizes,” March 3).

The first community feedback meeting was April 21, and the next two, May 12 and June 2, are opportunities to talk about the future of 4J and help the district come up with its strategic plan for the next few years.

The 4J Visioning Committee will use this information to help set the district’s priorities, Delf says.

On a statewide scale, Oregon Rising will hold a number of meetings throughout Lane County to find out what Oregonians dream for schools and children. The public outreach effort, sponsored by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, the Oregon Education Association and the Oregon School Boards Association, is nonpartisan and is not affiliated with any campaigns or ballot measures.

Instead, it’s an attempt to get Oregon thinking about what might be possible for schools if funding was not an issue.

“It’s not that money doesn’t need to be taken care of, but so many other groups are tackling that,” says Cathy Hamilton with Oregon Rising. “This is about removing all of the barriers that have framed a lot of the discussions for the last 20 years and figuring out what could happen.”

Oregon Rising encourages people to think big — at meetings, community members can take a survey and talk about their priorities for Oregon schools. The groups behind Oregon Rising will then take that information and create a report to be shared with education leaders and legislators later this year.

“People have been really excited to step in and share their dreams,” Hamilton says, adding that Oregon Rising hopes to hear from 10,000 people around Oregon.

Oregon Rising meetings are happening all over Lane County in the next few months, including a gathering 7 pm Tuesday, May 3, at Willamette High School, 1801 Echo Hollow Road. See oregon-rising.org for a full list.

4J’s Vision 20/20 Community Update and Feedback Meetings are 7 pm Thursday, May 12, at North Eugene High School, 200 Silver Lane, and 7 pm Thursday, June 2, at Roosevelt Middle School, 680 E. 24th Ave.

Admission for all events is free.

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