OHS Social Studies teacher George Thornton retires from Oroville

Enrollment drops in last months of school year

Oroville High School teacher George Thornton received a plaque in recognition of his more than three decades as a teacher in the Oroville School District. Thornton, who grew up in Oroville, has no long range plans for retirement other than to do some traveling and ‘catching up with life.” Gary DeVon/staff photo

OROVILLE – Oroville teacher George Thornton received a plaque acknowledging his 33 years of service from the school board at their Monday, May 20 meeting.

“One of the first administrators from when George started teaching said in his evaluation that he was going to make an impact on his community… that’s just what he’s done,” said Superintendent Steve Quick.

Social Studies teacher Thornton is a 2011 recipient of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Education. When he got that award, one of only 10 given in the state each year, it lauded Thornton for “overcoming Oroville’s rural isolation by using technology to connect with the rest of the world and for his work developing a system of senior projects for his students that help them give back to the community.”

It continued, “His students have learned about Afghan culture by holding the first Skype conversation with an all-girls school in Afghanistan and used Google Earth to better understand the homes of their peers across the world. Senior projects emphasize community service and study-abroad programs bring the world to a remote community of less than two thousand. Thanks to his work, students at Oroville High are increasingly open to the possibilities awaiting them in the wider world.”

Thornton said he had no special plans following retirement and that right now he was just looking at finishing out the year and doing US Forest Service vegetation surveys at the Tonasket Ranger District. He will also be a guest teacher at Discover Washington: Youth Heritage Project to be held July 16-19 at Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island.

“(I’ll be doing) some traveling of course… catching up with life. Like so many people I’ve worked constantly since my teens,” Thornton said.

After the school board heard reports from administrators, the student representative to the board, staff and spring sports coaches, business manager Shay Shaw gave the financial report.

Shaw said that the district was going to get $3,000 from one federal program, but due to sequestration was getting $15,000 less for Special Education.

“That’s a $12,000 difference, but I’ll take that because we could have been looking at $50,000 to $60,000 less,” she said.

Shaw said enrollment, which had been higher than predicted for most of the school year, had started to drop.

“We took quite a hit in enrollment in April and May. We are down almost 25 kids in two months… we had been thinking 568 for the budget,” she said.

Enrollment numbers are important because the state pays basic education funds based on FTEs or Full Time Equivalents, the number of students enrolled in the school district. The Oroville School Board has had a conservative policy of basing the upcoming school budget on a number lower than the district’s best guess at what FTEs will be in the upcoming year.

When asked what was the reason behind the numbers drop, high school principal Kristen Sarmiento said, “People have been moving out of the area, many are making big moves, not just to nearby towns. I think it is for work reasons.”

Rocky DeVon, chairman of the school board and co-owner of a local real estate agency, said, “It’s not just blue collar workers we are also seeing a lot of professionals move.”

Citing a report from fourth grade teacher Kelly King and second grade teacher Cynthia Poynter, School Director DeVon said he would like to invite a teacher from each building to address the board on a revolving basis at their meetings.

“We need to know what’s going on… we need that input,” he said.

He also suggested the board do a walk through of facilities as part of their meetings every six months.

Supt. Quick said the plans for the new crow’s nest at the football field had been turned in to Oroville Permit Administrator Christian Johnson for approval.

“We should have a new one by football season, Harold Jensen will be working on that,” said Quick.

The superintendent also said each board member was given an email address that works through the district’s email system.

“By going through the district’s system we won’t have to use your personal emails and that helps to keep things on the up and up,” said Quick.