Sponsored by Lane Powell

Vernonia stakes future on new school

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Making it green


RIGHT: Dan and Heidi Brown own the Grey Dawn Gallery in downtown Vernonia. Dan is also the flood recovery manager and chair of the planning commission and Heidi is the schools' nurse. 
BELOW: Brad Curtis owns Photo Solutions. He's unsure he can continue to do business in Vernonia.
// Photos by Justin Tunis

On a basic economic level, the school district means jobs; with about 85 employees, it’s the town’s largest employer. And a better school would attract more families and students. But beyond that, how to position the schools to be a bigger boost to the economy?

“The question was always, ‘What’s the economic future of the town?”’ says Alissa Keny-Guyer, Oregon Solutions’ program manager.

To answer that, in its 2010 strategic plan the city looked 20 years into the future and imagined that the new LEED platinum K-12 school had been a catalyst for the town’s improvement. It was now the “Bicycle Center of Oregon,” where Stub Stewart state park was connected to a thriving downtown frequented by residents and tourists, drawn by its parks and outdoor recreation. It was a town where the idea of being a “living laboratory for the natural resource economy” had become a reality and produced real, local jobs, a town where new light industry finally gained a foothold.

Two of the central ideas on how to connect the new school to a new green economy are a natural resources curriculum integrated into all subject areas for K-12 students — many of whom come from logging families — and the Vernonia Rural Sustainability Center, a set of programs — a strategy — that aims among other activities to incubate green entrepreneurs and new natural resource businesses, provide workforce training and apprenticeships for students and the community, and build relationships with research institutions.

“It’s an interesting idea with a lot of potential,” says Bruce Weber, director of Oregon State University’s rural studies program. Vernonia is in the right location for this, and “they have some visionary people. Urban people are interested in sustainability and going to Vernonia is not a big trip. If urban institutions could set up learning opportunities there, I think it could work.”

The green curriculum has been supported by $25,000 from Oregon Fish and Wildlife for salmon projects and training, donations from Big Horn Logging and Longview Timber, $10,000 from the Department of Education for teacher training, and help from the Oregon Natural Resources Educational Program. Such a curriculum is meant to prepare Vernonia students for “jobs of the future” in areas such as forestry, natural resource research and engineering design.

Vernonia schools struggle; scores for reading, math and writing generally have been below the state average. It is also a district where 40% of the students live at or below the poverty level. Along with this, a bruising economy has cut state school dollars, eliminating teachers and programs: The elementary school no longer has music; kindergarten has been cut to halftime; the middle school lost its principal and counselor, the high school its full-time athletic director.


More Articles


September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ben Kaiser holds his ground.


The God complex

Linda Baker
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
093015-zydellren-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

The media coverage about Pope Francis must have put me in a Biblical frame of mind. Because after touring the latest phase of the South Waterfront development, a mind boggling 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space that will spring up north of the aerial tram over the next few years, I couldn’t stop thinking about the massive project as a modern day creation story.


Living the dream

Friday, August 21, 2015

smugglespearsthumbRenee Spears, founder and owner of Portland-based Rose City Mortgage, is hot to trot to sell pot.


Downtime with Jill Nelson

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Live, Work, Play wit the CEO of Ruby Receptionists.


Reader Input: In or Out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The refugee crisis has put immigration and border issues on the front burner, in Europe and at home. In Oregon, attitudes toward illegal immigration haven’t changed dramatically since 2006.


Aim High

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

We get the education we deserve.


One Tough Mayor

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Betty Roppe steers Prineville into the future.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02