Sponsored by Oregon Business

Vernonia stakes future on new school

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

But Vernonia also produces extraordinary students. Katy Stevens was a sophomore when the flood destroyed her home. She “lived all over the place” while finishing high school. “We didn’t have a lot of books, no labs. We didn’t have a gym for a while. Oh, god. I would have loved to have had lockers,” she says. “But at the same time, all these challenges just drove me harder toward college. It was inspirational in a way. I saw all these people working hard to make life normal. If everything had been really easy, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

Despite the disadvantages, the 19-year-old Stevens is now on a four-year scholarship at the University of Portland and is majoring in both social work and psychology, turning the flood trauma into triumph. “I want to work with displaced families, orphans, foster kids,” she says. “Homeless people, like I once was.”

1011_Vernonia_Map_01The new curriculum and the rural sustainability program are meant to lift overall student achievement, and also benefit college-bound students. “I see our high school kids working with college and professional people,” says Aaron Miller, the principal of Washington and Mist elementary schools and the coordinator of both efforts. “I see us being a leader in natural resources research.”

The rural sustainability program originally was to be housed in a separate building next to the new school, which would include high school science labs and space for research partners, and be a magnet for tourism and green-minded industries.

But in May, P&C Construction said cost increases had pushed the project to $42 million and the $2.8 million stand-alone center was cut. “I’ve been pushing really hard that we deconstruct the Washington grade school and use those materials for a center because it really walks the walk,” says Hyde.

“The new campus and the whole community have become the rural sustainability center,” says an equally undaunted Miller, whose son is a senior at Vernonia High and daughter a recent graduate. “We have miles of linear park, all these rivers and streams, several outdoors schools. Every single part of our natural surroundings can be our classroom.”

The school district so far has partnered with the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council on stream restoration projects and is working with Oregon Fish and Wildlife on fish programs. A Bureau of Land Management nursery in Molalla plans to relocate to the new school, and the district wants to create a native plant nursery and garden.

Some partnership building with universities has started: OSU’s extension service has helped with the natural resources curriculum, and its rural studies program will track the school's impact as part of a Vital Vernonia study. PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions planned to develop classes using Vernonia as a case study, but that has stalled.

“There are some areas where we’ve taken some baby steps, and some giant steps,” says Miller. “University partnerships are baby steps. The No. 1 thing is our K-12 education.”

Two steps forward, one step back. It’s a ratio that can look pretty good to a town like Vernonia.


More Articles

OEN takes Portlandia route in new video

The Latest
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 3.27.58 PMBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Several Portland entrepreneurs make appearance in patently silly "The Dream of the Startup is Alive in Oregon" promo.


Storyteller in Chief: Brew Stories

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Over the years, many mentors have taught me lessons that have helped shape the way I view the world of work and our business.


Let it Rain

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

This year has been so dry we were caught napping when it finally started to sprinkle. Hopefully you didn’t get caught in a downpour while eagerly awaiting — don’t deny it — our curation of Oregon-grown wet weather wear.


The War Room

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Veteran political consultant Carol Butler plays to win.


Insurance pulse: health care and Export-Import banks

Linda Baker
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
111715-healthcarelindathumbBY LINDA BAKER

The past month has been marked by upheaval in the health insurance markets. I also check in on clients of the Export-Import bank, a federal credit agency that subsidizes, and insures, foreign exports.


Down on the Bayou

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

A Power Lunch at Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails in Bend.


Seven questions about mandatory sick leave

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
102815-contributedthumbBY DIANE BUISMAN

Many employers have questions about what mandatory sick leave means for their company. Take a look at the top 7 questions Oregon employers are asking.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02