Beckie Jones, EDN
New position, new law
Springfield School District’s award-winning superintendent Nancy Golden has been busy switching her many hats this summer.
As Governor John Kitzhaber’s educational policy advisor for the past six months, Golden spent much of her spring and summer in Salem drafting a senate bill on education and overseeing the passage of several other education bills. Her biggest and proudest accomplishment in her temporary position was the passage of Senate Bill 909.
Golden and other drafters of the bill had one overriding goal in mind — “to create a seamless zero to 20 education system to ensure more students enter school ready to learn and arrive at college prepared to succeed,” according to the law’s summary.
From cradle to career, the new law seeks to support students of all ages capabilities.
The goal is to get children “coming to kindergarten with skills to be successful,” Golden said, which will happen through consolidation of programs like Head Start and Relief Nursery, in addition to other resources for young families.
Golden said another umbrella goal is to put a strong emphasis on reading, and have students mastering this skill at grade level by third grade, and every year thereafter. Students would leave high school without need for remediation, then meet the new 40-40-20 goal, according to Golden.
The 40-40-20 plan is the end product goal for all Oregon students: Forty percent of students having earned a bachelor’s degree, 40% with an associate’s, and 20% “with a certificate and doing meaningful work in the real world,” Golden said.
Another product of SB 909 is the “budget to outcomes” provision. Golden said OEIB and individual school districts will define their needs, zero in on desired outcome, and budget accordingly.
For example, Golden explains “at the end of ninth grade, each high school has to have 90% of the kids not credit deficient, and the schools who meet that get a little extra resource. So you might budget in a way that your budget supports getting the outcomes you want.”
From teaching expert to student of politics
As Kitzhaber’s educational advisor, Golden said she had a lot to learn.
“It was a tough learning curve. In this job (as Springfield superintendent) I feel competent. I’m not saying I’m perfect. I do feel like I’m on the top of my game in this job. But that job (as governor’s education advisor) was all new, and anytime you start something new you’re making some mistakes.”
And at times there were big shoes to fill.
As the advisor to the governor, “people kept saying to me, ‘If the governor’s not in the room and you are in the room, you’re the governor.’ In a sense I’m really most people’s link to the governor, so I had to get clear: am I speaking as Nancy or am I speaking as the governor?'”
Golden also said she learned how to be more diplomatic.
“You have to think from not your own point of view, but these legislators represent all the people in Oregon, not just your perspective.”
According to Golden, the passage of SB 909 took the full six months she spent in Salem, from deciding “what you want to put in the bill, drafting the bill, giving and getting feedback, and passing the bill. And that was my main responsibility.”
“I really think democracy worked. I had a sense of democracy really working.”
Her newest appointed position
The state board that has been formed to oversee the implementation of this new plan will consolidate the State Boards of Education and Higher Education. The new board is called the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB). The governor will serve as board chair, with Golden as his alternate. Golden will attend all board meetings, and act on the Kitzhaber’s behalf in his absence.
As the governor’s alternate, Golden said “that will keep me in touch with Salem which is important because we want to be able to let Salem know what we think is good for schools, and we want to be able to do upward advocacy.”
Several points OEIB identifies in implementing a successful educational system include establishing a nine-member Early Learning Council, The board also plans to use a statewide student data system for all students. For older students, the board seeks to coordinate juvenile crime prevention programs, the Youth Conservation Corps and the Youth Standing Committee.
Still a hometown girl
Golden is know for always being able to see to see the forest for the trees. A fixture at almost every school event, she’s likely to waive at staff as she makes her way into a group of students – her comfort zone, and her priority.
In her annual State of the Schools speech Tuesday the superintendent says she is looking forward to addressing the disctrict staff.
“What I really want to do is thank the faculty for hanging in in tough times. They’ve sacrificed a lot and we’ve closed schools that we love. I just want to let them know that I really appreciate them,” Golden said.
She plans to draw attention to some people in the community who she says are really stepping up to support the school district and education. Then she will introduce the “zero to 20” plan for the governor and hand the floor over to him. Golden said Kitzhaber will talk about the importance of education, and says he knows it is one of the big reasons why voters elected him.
The year ahead
Golden sent a pointed message to a special group of students — those who lost their schools this year to the series of budget shortfalls.
“We understand how much they love their schools and we loved them too, and so do the staff that worked there. We’ve been working really hard wtih the staff that will be receiving the children and they’re excited and can’t wait for them to come. They understand that this could be scary for some of them and they’re really there to support and help,” said the superintendent.
“I’m really looking forward to welcoming students to their new schools, working collaboratively with staff to share data and talk about how we get our kids to the next level — because we’ve made a lot of academic improvement, but in my mind you don’t stop until every child meets or exceeds standards,” Golden said. “We’ve put different systems in place that really are working and just to continue to do that work is really important.”
Check back with EDN for updated coverage on the governor’s speech.