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Two hours of testimony leans heavily on career/technical education, bullying, funding

TIMES PHOTO: DANA HAYNES - State Sen. Kim Thatcher talks to former Tualatin School Board member Barry Albertson on Wednesday in Beaverton.The Oregon Legislature's Joint Committee on Student Success has been taking testimony around the state, with the goal of finding solutions to problems in the state's public schools. And on Wednesday, the road show came to Washington County.

Lawmakers toured schools throughout the county and held roundtable discussions with educators and business leaders (See story, "Legislators seek advice from county business community").

Wednesday evening, they took two hours of testimony from community members at Beaverton's Arts and Communications Magnet Academy. And while topics ranged widely, many people spoke in favor of career and technical education; for stable school funding; and for programs to address bullying.

Lawmakers are expected to present a series of bills in the 2019 legislative session based on this summer's state tour.

Sen. Kim Thatcher, whose district includes Sherwood, said testimony in rural, suburb and urban Oregon have been similar. "We've heard a lot about local control and accountability," she said.

Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton commented on the diversity of the testimony. "It's all over, A to Z. There are a lot of concerns."TIMES PHOTO: DANA HAYNES - An estimated 100 people came out to testify Wednesday before the Legislature's Joint Committee on Student Success.

Among those who testified Wednesday, Southridge High School Principal David Nieslanik spoke in favor of career and technical education, or CTE, programs. His school now offers two tracks, business and communication information systems. Starting next year, the Beaverton high school also will offer engineering, communication arts and health.

"I'm 100 percent a supporter of CTE," he said. "They help us increase our attendance."

That thought was echoed by Trampas Simmons, a carpenter from Lebanon, who urged lawmakers to back career-oriented programs. "Let's be honest, not every kid is going to college," he said.

Nikki Suydam, a seven-grade teacher at Beaverton's Five Oaks Middle School, called out for more physical education, arts-oriented electives, and more "play time" for students; all of which help keep struggling kids in schools, she said.

Nancy Blake, who teaches first grade at Sherwood's Middleton Elementary School, came to praise a program called PAX, which helps teachers work with students who have experienced trauma.

Calum Nguyen spoke in favor of drop-out prevention programs and duel-credit classes, which provide both high school and college credits. Nguyen emigrated from Vietnam to the United States at age 14 and was, at one point, the family's sole breadwinner. He was in danger of dropping out of Sunset High School, he said, but counselors and teachers helped him through bad times. Nguyen graduated this spring as salutatorian and will attend the University of Southern California this coming year.

Another student, Hillsboro resident Danny Adzima, talked about mental health counseling, telling lawmakers about two classmates, one who contemplated suicide, and one who committed suicide. Adzima is an incoming sophomore at the Hillsboro Big Picture School.

Student Tyler Walker came to praise the FIRST science and technology program at Tigard High School, where she is an incoming senior. The program has fostered a love of science for her and fellow students, she said.

And Pat O'Connor is the coordinator of volunteers at Beaverton's Vose Elementary School for SMART, or Start Making A Reader Today. She told lawmakers that Vose — which serves a largely low-income community — saw 25 volunteers working with 33 kindergartners and first-graders this year, and helped get 431 books into students' homes.

She came to praise efforts to get volunteers into public schools, telling lawmakers: "If any one of you come and volunteer at my school, I've got you for life."

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