Enrollment at Oroville schools unexpectedly on the rise

OROVILLE – Ernie Bartelson, Superintendent at Oroville School District, reported an enrollment increase of about 85 students over last year.

“That’s a lot,” Bartelson said at the Sept. 28 school board meeting. “Brewster is up 105 students and the Methow is down about five. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern as to why.”

The superintendent said there weren’t any one or two areas that were accounting for the increase in enrollment at the district which has been struggling with sagging enrollment.

“We were told a large part of the increase could be the fourth year of the cycle of welfare,” he said. “We have a lot of grandmas and a lot of grandpas taking care of kids.”

Mary Willey, a teacher at Oroville Elementary discussed the recent results from the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning). She started by explaining some of the reasons the score results can be “confusing.” In one example, she said five students who were not enrolled at the time the WASL was given were listed as enrolled and their “missing” scores were recorded as zeros. Another student had changed grade levels earlier in the year and was still listed as enrolled in a grade that was tested. His score was recorded as zero. She told the board the scores had been corrected, but were not yet posted on the state’s report card.

Overall, the students tested well in reading in grades three through six, but struggled, specially in the fourth grade, in math, writing and science. Although the numbers still need to come up to meet the state standard for reading, they are very close.

“As a building, we realize we do have to focus on math,” said Willey, who specializes in reading. “We have got kids who need a little more and when they get a little more it shows.”

Willey said there was a need to learn more about measuring student progress and not teaching to the test, but letting the kids know what is expected of them.

Later, when asked for comments from those in attendance, Phil Barker said he objected to the employment of High School Principal Steve Quick as Athletic Director. Quick has been serving as interim AD since the beginning of the year.

“I object to Item F,” said Barker, referring to a resolution that would hire Quick, who has been serving as AD, for the rest of the year at $8500.

“Having the principal as athletic director takes away a line of appeal,” Barker said. “If I have a student athlete I’d have to skip the principal and go right to the board or hire a lawyer. Second, your own policy says the AD has to have at least two years experience as a varsity coach.”

Bartelson, who will be stepping down as superintendent at the end of the year, said, “Mr. Quick has done an admirable job as interim AD on short notice. The board can set any qualifications they wish to.”

Later in the meeting, Quick was hired for the AD job by the board in the approval of a lengthy consent agenda.

In a related matter, Supt. Bartelson said the board needed to be thinking about the superintendent hiring process for his own replacement. Bartelson recently spoke with the Rich McBride, Superintendent of the Educational Services District, who recommended the board look for a superintendent from within the district.

“He said the same thing he said a year ago… you look inside first and then you look outside,” Bartelson said. “He also said whether you go in, out or sideways, he’s willing to work with you.”