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School survey seeks dreams

The school district is encouraging citizens to take a new survey — either online or a meeting coming up — to share their hopes for what they want public education to look like in Oregon.

Called “Oregon Rising,” the survey is a project of three organizations in the state representing school administrators, teachers and school board members.

Locally, two meetings to present the Oregon Rising survey have already happened, and another is set for Tuesday, May 31, at 5:30 p.m. at The Dalles City Hall.

If organizations would like to host a meeting to hold the survey, they are asked to call the school district at 541-506-3449 ext. 1002.

The webpage of Oregon Rising states, “The aspirational nature of the name is intentional. You’ll note that Oregon Rising is more about dreams, and less about practicalities such as funding.

The decision to largely remove the funding element from the equation wasn’t out of naiveté or because it’s not a real challenge. But we find that as soon as the conversation turns to money, aspirations are tempered.”

The survey effort began in April, and the goal is to reach 10,000 people.

The deadline to finish the survey is June 10. To take the five-to-seven-minute survey, visit Oregon-rising.org.

The results will be used to formulate a plan for the future of Oregon public schools, which will be presented to the 2017 Oregon Legislature.

“It’s really a different conversation,” said Cindy Miller, executive assistant to the superintendent for North Wasco County School District 21. “Instead of focusing on the funding aspect of it, it’s asking, ‘Well, really, what do you want?’

“I’m very curious to see the results,” she said. “Maybe it’s time to change the discussion on education, a different view on it, and getting that information from our community and our parents and our educators. This is really, truly thinking outside the box.”

She liked a phrase that is used by Oregon Rising, “the dream unencumbered — truly an open question.” There is no right answer for the survey, she said, and Oregon Rising doesn’t know what kind of responses it will get.

At the meetings, attendees watch a short three-minute video and fill out part of the survey, then watch another three-minute video and fill out the rest of the survey. The first video talks about “why we’re doing this and what it’s about,” said D21 school board member Kathy Ursprung.

On the second video, “the theory is you need to know where we are to think about how to get to where we want to be. So it talks about our founding levels compared nationally.”

School districts haven’t recovered their pre-recession funding levels, she said.

“One thing the video talks about is as the economy grows is thinking about bringing the schools along in that process,” Ursprung said.

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