Friday, September 7, 2007

Back to School 2007

Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.

September 7, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

The first week of school is behind us. Everywhere I went this past week, it
was clear that it was a very smooth start to the year – and that is because
of the great work of all. So, thank you for your dedication and hard work on
behalf of our students.

It seems our Welcome Back Celebration was a long time ago. At the end of the
Celebration I made a few remarks that I would like to repeat now that we
have the first 4 days of school behind us.

You may recall that I recognized Mr. Gary “Big” Miller who has taught many
years at Bend High. Gary had recently visited with me and said that he
never had a bad day teaching. That comment gave me to pause to reflect.
What Gary was saying is that working with young people is a privilege and
honor – and working with great colleagues makes it even better. I
certainly have been fortunate in my career to have that privilege and honor.
Each year that privilege and honor is renewed.

We are in a unique business because we start new and fresh each year – what
an opportunity. As I visited schools over the past two weeks, I felt the
enthusiasm and excitement that comes with a new beginning. Each new
beginning is also a chance for a rededication to our purpose and our

We are known in the Bend-La Pine Schools for many things. Foremost is that
we focus and thrive on student success – success of all students. In this
case – All means All. I have a simple but powerful request of each of you.
Please continue to focus on our purpose and on whatever it takes for each
student to succeed – that is the Bend-La Pine way.

Have a great second week of the 2007-08 school year.


Students First Success Focus Data Driven
Positive Relationships

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Superintendent Dr. Douglas Nelson Announces Retirement

Educating Thriving Citizens

August 15, 2007

Dear Colleagues:

This e-mail is to let you know that last night, August 14, I tendered my letter of retirement to our School Board. My retirement is effective at the end of this upcoming school year – June 30, 2008. I wanted t let you know as the media is being informed and I wanted you to hear it from me rather than from the media.

I look forward to working with each of you this school year as we continue to do amazing things for our students.

Attached is the letter I submitted to the Board, and below is a copy of the press release to the media.

I will see you on the 27th at Bend High.




August 15, 2007 Contact: Julianne Repman, Communications Manager, 541.383.6002

Superintendent Dr. Douglas Nelson Announces Retirement
Nelson to retire June 30, 2008, after 38 years as an educator and leader

At 10 am this morning, Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Dr. Douglas Nelson announced his plans to retire on June 30, 2008 to a group of more than 60 administrative staff members during a back-to-school training. Nelson will be available for interviews at 11:00 am today on the front lawn at Bend’s High Desert Middle School. High Desert Middle School is located at 61000 Diamondback Lane.

Nelson says that he leaves the Bend-La Pine Schools poised to become the best school district in the state, and a world-class district in which the community can take pride.

“In the last eight years, Doug has helped lead Bend-La Pine Schools through tough financial times for Oregon’s public schools and helped build a financially, organizationally, and educationally stronger school system,” said School Board Chair Nathan Hovekamp. “His success is a testament to his strong work ethic and belief that every child deserves and receives a first class education.

“He will leave the district in a better place than it was seven years ago when he started at Bend-La Pine Schools,” Hovekamp adds.

He says that Nelson has been a champion of reducing class sizes, increasing test scores and student achievement in every subject area, reducing the dropout rate, increasing curricular rigor, adding educational technology to the classroom, and recruiting high-caliber teachers, administrators and staff – to name just a few of his successes.

“There is much work to do in the next twelve months and great initiatives to continue,” Nelson says. “We are in the midst of tremendous literacy and technology initiatives, the delivery of three new schools and more than 170 much needed improvement projects at our schools, and about to take a look at our current school boundaries - to name of few of the efforts we’ll be undertaking this year.”

“My career has been a wonderful journey,” said Nelson, “My work has given me a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but now it is time to try my hand at retirement with my wife and three lovely daughters.”

Nelson says that he will stay in Bend, work on his golf game during the summer months, his skiing technique during the winter months, and is looking forward to spending extra time with his family - including at his daughter’s August 2008 wedding.

“The timing is right,” he said. “There are many new beginnings and successes to celebrate, in both my personal and professional lives.”

Hovekamp says that a national search for Nelson’s successor will begin immediately, and the community and staff will be asked to engage in the selection process.

“Doug’s early announcement of his retirement will allow us to make a smooth transition while continuing to build on our many school accomplishments,” said Hovekamp. “We wish him nothing but the best, he will be greatly missed.”

Nelson has served as Superintendent of Bend-La Pine Schools, the states seventh largest school district, since July 2000. Prior to moving to Central Oregon, he served as Superintendent of the Pullman, Washington School District from 1989-2000.

Nelson began his career nearly 38 years ago when he gave his first social studies lesson to a group of eager 11th grader students at Washington’s Auburn High School. Since then he has helped shape the future of thousands of students as a teacher, assistant principal, principal,assistant superintendent and superintendent.

A lifelong advocate for public education and furthering the successes of our children, Nelson

earned his Doctorate in Education from Seattle University in 1986, Masters of Education from the University of Puget Sound in 1974, and Bachelor of Arts in History from Whitman College in 1970.

He and his wife, Virginia, have three adult daughters: Kourtney, Karly, and Jenna.



August 14, 2007

Members, Board of Directors
Bend-La Pine Schools

Dear Board Members,

Doing the work about which I am passionate has consumed all of my adult life. This is my 38th year in our wonderful profession, my 19th as a superintendent, and eighth year with the Bend-La Pine Schools. It is a demanding and complex job that I enjoy immensely. It is very rewarding to know that I have positively influenced the education of so many young people.

We have accomplished much during my tenure with our schools because of the quality professionals we have working with our students. We have many good people doing great work. I have been fortunate to be the superintendent leading such an outstanding group of professionals in our schools – and it is they who deserve the credit for our many successes.

It has been a long and satisfying career. However, it is time to pass the mantle of leadership to a successor. Please accept this letter of retirement from my position as the Superintendent of the Bend-La Pine Schools effective June 30, 2008.

Since 2000, we have witnessed profound change in our schools. During a period of severe financial distress, our schools prospered and thrived. We laid the foundation to move our schools and staff toward being a “world class” school district and the best school district in the state of Oregon. When I review what we have accomplished over the past eight years, I am confident that I am leaving the district in a better place than when I arrived, and for this I am especially proud. It is my hope that I have provided the framework and culture for all to excel.

Some things of which we can all be proud:
➢ High quality of people working with and for our students
➢ A strong group of educators leading our district
➢ Positive, long-term direction for our schools with our current emphasis on literacy and technology, as well as our long-range facility work
➢ Improved student achievement in many venues – academically, artistically, athletically, and through service to our community while reducing the drop out rate
➢ Increased rigor and higher expectations in our curriculum
➢ Renewed financial stability as recognized by of our improved bond rating
➢ Management of growth with the tremendous and on-going support of our community
➢ Positive employee relations with our employee groups and staff members
➢ The number of schools being rated either strong or exceptional
➢ National level of success of many student groups
➢ Recognition of staff at both the state and national levels
➢ Improved relationships with COCC that has led to more opportunities for students
➢ Great sense of pride and satisfaction in the work all employees do each day
➢ Revitalization of our Education Foundation to support our efforts
➢ Streamlined processes that make our district organizationally stronger
➢ And so much more

By announcing now, you have sufficient time to conduct a thorough and effective search for a qualified successor. I will continue as the Superintendent of the Bend-La Pine Schools through the end of June 2008. We have so much to do this year with all of our initiatives and our continuing efforts to provide the best possible education for each student, and I look forward to actively leading our schools as we pursue these endeavors.

Thanks to you and all former school board members with whom I have had the pleasure of working; to all members of our staff who have given so much and accomplished so much for each of our students; to the administrators with whom I have worked so closely; and to our community who has been so supportive.

Very truly yours,

Douglas M. Nelson, Ed.D.

Friday, April 13, 2007

2007-08 Bend-La Pine Schools Budget News

Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.

April 13, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

Tuesday evening, I presented our proposed budget for the 2007-08 school year which is in support of our Comprehensive Plan. It was a privilege to share with our budget committee a bold, balanced, plan and budget that will be beneficial to our students and schools. After five years of struggling to balance budgets from decreased state allocations, we are on a strong upward swing!

Thanks to this years’ proposed state budget, we will be able to invest significantly in our schools and programs, and meet our goal to become the best school district in Oregon.

As of today, the budget for K-12 education, as proposed by the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee Co-chairs, has increased by 18%, to $6.245 billion, from the 2005-07 biennium. The Co-chairs budget has a base budget of $5.985 billion along with a $260 million School Improvement Fund. As it is currently proposed, monies in the School Improvement Fund are to be spent on specific initiatives – literacy, class size reduc9itnl all day Kindergarten, specialists, mentoring, staff development and supplies and equipment. It just so happens that our comprehensive Plan has all those items in it.

Since the final budget number has not been set, we are basing our proposed budget on $6.0 billion – call it the base budget. Our Comprehensive Plan will guide how we will invest revenue both within and above the base budget. Starting with the base budget and then more intensely as revenue increases, we will be able to continue implementation of many of the initiatives and improvements we have identified in our Comprehensive Plan to meet Board goals. Our priorities include enhancing literacy, increasing academic accountability, continuing technology improvements to enhance learning, and managing growth.

Building administrators have been hard at work identifying the greatest needs at each level. A matrix that defines how funds over $6.0 Billion will be used has been created. In the base budget is sufficient staff to address growth and to maintain programs started this year, such as literacy improvement grants at the school level. For revenue scenarios above the base budget, plans include further enhancement of literacy programs, significantly reducing primary class sizes (18:1 in K-1 and 20:1 in 2) and adding additional positions 3-12. We are also planning to: add more resources to the supply and material budgets at all levels; put more resources into our library-media program by purchasing library materials and adding some certified library-media specialists at elementary and middle levels; providing more resources for staff development; adding resources to implement stronger building-based academic intervention programs; continuing to expand our technology program; and a variety of other items.

Also, an additional $3.2 million in “one-time” resources is being made available to the Bend-La Pine Schools. These funds are from the final reconciliation of our 2005-06 budget by the state. We are recommending these funds be applied to non-recurring needs that will benefit us for years to come. This may include paying off the recent purchase of computers (this will save us $100,000 in interest payments) and purchasing new school buses, among other things.

Using a disciplined approach and critical thinking, we have developed a budget that ensures the optimal allocation of available funds for the programs our students need most to be successful.

In the weeks to come, John Rexford, Ron Wilkinson or I will attend a staff meeting at each site to share this news with you, and tell you more about our plans for the 2007-08 school year and our proposed budget. This budget is something to celebrate, and one for which we can be proud because it will enable us to even more effectively “Educate Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen”.

Have a great week.


Students First Success Focus
Data Driven Positive Relationships

Thursday, March 8, 2007

TESA - an update...

Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.

March 8, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

Yesterday at about 2:00 PM, I received an e-mail from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) that was sent to all school districts in our state telling us that the TESA assessment program was suspended until further notice. It was also sent to all principals among others.

What is important for you all to know is that any changes being contemplated in student assessment are being directed at the state level by ODE. We are taking our lead in what we might need to do from them.

Of major concern to many is whether we will need to switch to a “paper and pencil” test as has been reported in the media. That decision is not a district decision but a state level decision and will impact every school in our state. When we know what direction is determined by ODE, we will work with that as best we can.

Because of NCLB requirements, states are mandated to assess students, as we all know. TESA has been a system that enables us to use assessment processes as part of the teaching-learning process. Going to a “paper and pencil” test is regressive and will only serve to meet federal mandates.

I know you are all frustrated and your frustration may only be exceeded by mine. Since this is a state issue and since it impacts every school in our state that uses TESA, our frustration is shared statewide. Every issue and concern we have is the same in every school. (I heard these same frustrations from my daughter who teaches 7th grade in the Portland area.) You have many questions, and we have the same ones. I know that at the BEA Representative Council, TESA was a topic of conversation and many questions and comments were raised and forwarded on by BEA President Dan Jones.

As we know more, we will keep you informed. From the memo it looks like for now, all assessment is suspended; a decision on “paper and pencil” assessments is pending; and we will all have to deal with the aftermath of this situation from an accurate appraisal of student learning to AYP determination to lost time to cost and legal implications to . . . . It is very hard for all of us to have faith in an unreliable system.

Here are the major components from the e-mail sent yesterday by ODE:

Schools are continuing to experience serious technical issues that make reliable testing impossible. The Oregon Department of Education has determined that all state assessment testing on the TESA system is suspended, effective immediately, to allow us time to conduct quality assurance and stress testing of the system with our vendor, Vantage Learning.

We are actively investigating a paper-and-pencil testing option in order to complete the school year and ensure that schools, districts and the state of Oregon meet their obligations under state and federal law and to support the use of valid and reliable assessment data to improve student achievement.

No later than 5 pm on March 13, ODE will make a determination if TESA can be used for the remainder of the school year or if paper-and-pencil testing will proceed. . . .

The bottom line is this: Either our vendor will be able to test the system and assure us that they can proceed or we will turn to another option to finish this year. Failing to complete testing will generate costly sanctions for school districts and the state.

IMPORTANT NOTE: ODE recommends that schools DO NOT begin any planned paper-and-pencil testing during the current paper-and-pencil testing window. Based on the outcome of March 13th decision, ODE may extend the paper-and-pencil testing window. Students might be better served by testing later in the school year. . . .

Even though suspending TESA creates new challenges, we believe it is the only responsible action given the ongoing technical issues everyone is experiencing.

That is what we know. I can only advise that we take a deep breath and wait for further direction from ODE. In the meantime, please continue providing that wonderful education to our students.


Students First * Success Focus
Data Driven * Positive Relationships

Friday, February 23, 2007

Blogging the Foundation

Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.

February 23, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this week I wrote to invite you to the Trivia Bee which is sponsored by the Education Foundation for the Bend-LaPine Schools. Since then I realized that perhaps you were not all aware of the work of the Foundation and what it is. So, this week our blog will address the Foundation.

Before I get into the Foundation, I want to mention an e-mail I received this past week. The e-mail came from the editor of a national education magazine. I believe he is in Washington DC. It seems the staff of the magazine had been surfing the internet and came across our blog – I was surprised that they had found it and then sent me an e-mail. I guess we never know who is checking us out in cyber space.

Back to the Foundation. The Foundation is designed to be the fund raising arm of the school district. It currently impacts every school and potentially every employee and student through its fundraising. Since 2003, thanks to an increasingly generous community, the Foundation has provided over $493,326 in support to our teachers, classrooms and students

Foundations are common in higher education - how many solicitations have you received from your alma mater? Or from the college your children attend? COCC has a foundation that raises significant money for scholarships and other programs. St. Charles also has a foundation that recently announced that they had raised $10 million for a building program. So what about our Foundation?

The Education Foundation for the Bend-La Pine Schools is an independent, non-profit 501(c) (3) organization founded by parents, concerned citizens, civic and business leaders, and educators. [501(c) (3) is an IRS code designation that enables people to donate funds and receive a charitable tax deduction.] The Foundation was originally established in the late 1980’s to help fund programs that were threatened by the loss of funding. Specifically, significant dollars were raised to maintain the athletic program. As financing stabilized, the Foundation went dormant until it was resurrected in 2002 to support our schools.

The Foundation believes that a vibrant public school system is essential to the social and economic well being of our community. Their mission is to mobilize resources to ensure exceptional public education that enriches our community.

Specifically they seek to:

-To give teachers the tools needed to teach effectively
-Increase educational opportunities for all students
-Foster scholarship and professional development
-Encourage creative and innovative curriculum

The programs they sponsor currently are:
Classroom Impact Grants provide invaluable resources to our teachers and students. Annually, teachers and district staff submit grant requests to the Foundation for valuable educational initiatives or projects. Grants are reviewed by the school’s site council to ensure they are consistent with the school’s educational objectives and school improvement plan. The Foundation has awarded over 125 classroom grants in the past 4 years. Unfortunately, the Foundation has not able to meet all the funding requests. For more information on applying for a grant, visit

The Activity Fee Scholarship Fund has directly benefited more than 644 local high school students. This fund provides financial support to students who cannot afford the pay-to-participate fees for sports and the participation fees for performing arts and club activities. Many of our students would not be able to participate without outside support.
The Foundation also administers special projects like the Summit Initiative to Reduce Class Size, special scholarship funds and district wide educational projects.

Funds are raised in several ways:

-The Annual Trivia Bee is the main fundraising activity of Foundation.
-Proceeds from the Mt. Bachelor Ski for Schools program.
-Annual campaigns have solicited individual contributions to the Foundation.
-Businesses are solicited and provide contributions.
-Employees make monthly payroll deductions to the Foundation.
-Individuals and businesses provide funding unsolicited.

Recently, the Foundation hired an Executive Director, Sharon Leighty (lick – tee). Look for her name more as the Foundation continues its work. The Foundation has been governed by and the work done by a volunteer board of dedicated citizens. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

For more information, please visit the Foundation website:

I hope this gives you an overview of our Foundation and the importance it has for all of us.

Have a great week.


Students First * Success Focus
Data Driven *
Positive Relationships

Friday, January 26, 2007

Statement Regarding NCLB and the State of the Union Address

January 24, 2007

American Association of School Administrators Statement on State of the Union Address

ARLINGTON, Va. – The American Association of School Administrators, the professional organization for school superintendents and other school system leaders nationwide, today issued the following statement on President Bush’s State of the Union address:

“We are disappointed in President Bush’s plans for education, which he mentioned in his State of the Union message last night. The President reiterated his plans to ‘stay the course’ with his badly flawed program created by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. He claims the program has been successful, when teachers, parents and children know that its main success has been in diverting attention and energy away from real learning and a comprehensive curriculum. While the President acknowledged that changes needed to be made to the law and flexibility would be required, his overall approach failed to consider the destructive elements of his policy and how they might be addressed differently in the future.

“The President holds fast to the idea that ‘accountability’ must be pursued by a coercive process of federal oversight built upon a few rewards and a great deal of punishment, and his unbending belief that student achievement is the equivalent of a single test given to every child every year. It should be noted that other countries that are economic competitors have found ways of shaping accountability to be a process of continuous improvement carried out in a collaborative manner.

“The President, like most Americans, is concerned with our ability to stay internationally competitive. However, his unbending support of a law that that narrows and minimizes the educational experience undercuts the very creativity and innovation necessary to be competitive in the international environment.

“The President’s ideas for privatizing education under the cloak of parental choice has actually weakened the very skills and children his program purports to help by siphoning off higher achieving children and resources to private and more privileged schools. His proposal to create two new voucher programs will not ensure increased student achievement; it will simply divert federal tax dollars from public schools to private schools that are not held to the same standards the President espouses.

“During the five years NCLB has been in place, several of its underlying assumptions have inhibited students’ progress. For example, the law has failed to take into account the individual learning needs of students in special education and students with limited English proficiency. Under NCLB, students are judged on a single test score, rather than multiple measures that more accurately reflect students’ individual growth and learning during the school year. In addition, the law’s focus on reading and math test results has led to a narrowing of the curriculum, which limits schools’ ability to offer children the broad education they need to succeed in life.
“There is a better way to proceed to close the achievement gap and increase student achievement. We support a fundamental transformation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to restore the law’s original intent to provide equitable educational opportunities for all children. We ask the Congress to join us in an effort to transform the current version of ESEA. Specifically, we ask that the Congress enact and the President support:

-A law and regulations based on trust and an assumption that teachers and principals are trying their best to improve the achievement of all students, including low-income students;
-Continued improvement of how student achievement is measured and data is used to assess group scores and individual progress;
-Selecting a goal for progress in student achievement that is attainable;
-Focusing the federal government’s role in education on providing support and developing capacity for improvement, rather than emphasizing sanctions; and
-Engaging parents of low-income students as regular participants and partners in their children’s achievement.”

About AASA The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders across America and in many other countries. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. AASA’s major focus is standing up for public education. For more information about this press release, please contact Amy Vogt, communications and media relations manager, at or 703-875-0723.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Blog-o-sphere in the 21st Century

Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.

January 19, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

Last week I sent an e-mail that discussed some of the comments from Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. Many of you wrote back with great comments and feedback.

Well, I am going to take the plunge and move into the 21st Century by converting my weekly letter to a blog. As I understand it a blog is an on-line conversation where a community of users (in this case employees of the Bend-La Pine Schools) can weigh-in on a topic and provide comments and feedback. The comments I received last week were thoughtful and provocative and inspired me to set up my very first Blog. You can check it out at Just click on the link. You will see my original letter and 7 of the responses I received are included in a link. I asked each if I could share their comments with all staff.

I hope that we will be able to have some great dialogue in this format. Please feel free to post comments, raise questions and share information that you believe will be of interest to our colleagues. Have patience with me as I am a neophyte in the “blog-o-sphere” – if there is such a word.

As we move more into the technological world in which our students are so involved, I feel it is incumbent on us and especially on as me as a leader to use the technologies and provide an example. Mine may not be a good example, but I am trying.Have a great week. Give the blog a try.

Students First * Success Focus
Data Driven * Positive Relationships

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Public Education in the Flat World

Educating Each Student to be a Thriving Citizen.

January 13, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

I recently completed The World is Flat – A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times. In sum he traces the tremendous changes that have and are occurring – leading up to and during the first few years of this new century.

Clearly, technological changes have had significant impact on how the flattening of the world and how people all over the world access information and how business is conducted in a far different manner than in recent times. I won’t go into the details of the book and encourage you all to read it – actually I listened to it.

Of significance to us as educators are the challenges and opportunities that our “flattening world” provide for us. Our students will live in a far different world than today. No longer can we assume that we will dominate the world economy and that our current approaches in all endeavors will lead the way. Students in many other countries (India and China for example) no longer are lagging us but in some ways are gaining advantages in key professions such as engineering. If our nation is to maintain its leadership role we have to step up to some challenges and of course, some of those challenges are in education. While we may not be in a crisis, Friedman quotes another writer by saying: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Part of the book addressed what Friedman calls “compassionate flatism” of which there are five components. One of those components is parenting. In his discourse on parenting two passages struck me. The first is the role of parents:

Helping individuals adapt to a flat world is not only the job of governments and companies. It is the job of parents. They too need to know in what world their kids are growing up and what it will take for them to thrive. Put simply, we need a new generation of parents ready to administer tough love: There comes a time when you’ve got to put away the Game Boys, turn off the television set, put away the iPod, and get your kids down to work. . . . The sense of entitlement, the sense that because we once dominated global commence and geopolitics . . . we always will . . . the sense that our kids have to be swaddled in cotton wool so nothing bad or disappointing or stressful happens to them at school is, quite simply a growing cancer on American society.

However, he addresses an important concept, the role of public education.

David Baltimore, the Nobel Prize-winning president of Caltech, knows what it takes to get your child ready to compete against the cream of the global crop. He told me that he is struck by the fact that almost all the students who make it to Caltech, one of the best scientific universities in the world, come from public schools, not from private schools that sometimes nurture a sense of just because you are there, you are special and entitled. . . . Baltimore said: “I give parents enormous credit for this, because these kids are all coming from public schools that people are calling failures. Public education is producing these remarkable students – so it can be done.

We know it can be done because we are doing it every day in our schools.

I welcome any responses. Hope you have a great week.


Students First * Success Focus
Data Driven * Positive Relationships