Eugene Schools Stress Collaboration
Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard
A mob of enthusiastic Eugene School District employees descended on the downtown Hilton on Thursday for a day-long back-to-school gathering that included lectures and workshops with two nationally known educators.
More than 1,200 employees showed up - not just teachers but also secretaries, nurses and custodians - and they so packed the hotel's big conference room that Superintendent Sheldon Berman chose not to give his own "welcome back" speech, using the time instead to have hundreds more chairs brought into the room to accommodate everyone.
Veteran employees said they couldn't remember a time when the district had brought so many of them all together.
In previous years, the back-to-school event attracted a few hundred people, mostly teachers, and was held in the South Eugene High School auditorium.
But Berman said he wanted something different this year, a gathering to remind everyone of their common goals, regardless of which school they work in or what job they do.
Closing the achievement gap and making sure all students graduate with the skills to continue learning requires everyone in the district, Berman said.
"Today is an opportunity for us to say we're one team ... whether a teacher or a custodian or a finance officer, all of us have a vitally important role," he said.
To elaborate on the goals, Berman turned to Dave Conley, a University of Oregon education professor and head of a nonprofit education research center known for his work in defining what students need to know to be successful beyond high school.
Students today need much more than rote learning, Conley said. They need to know how to learn because they'll be doing it for the rest of their lives, whether or not they go to college.
Once-common jobs in Lane County in the timber industry and in RV manufacturing have given way to health care and call center jobs, he said.
"Students need to be life-ready in a changing world that none of us can really imagine," he said.
To prepare students for an uncertain world requires teachers who are themselves life-long learners, Jon Saphier told the audience. …