Oct. 11—UNION COUNTY — Union County school districts have a wealth of experienced teachers and do a solid job of getting high school freshmen on track to graduate on time.
These are among the conclusions that can be quickly drawn from looking at the Oregon Department of Education's latest Oregon At-A-Glance reports on public school districts and their schools.
The Oregon At-A-Glance school reports are produced annually and are meant to provide parents and community members with an overview of how public schools serve students. The reports do not rate or grade schools and districts.
Included in the reports is information on the percentage of teachers who have at least three years of experience as educators. The statistics indicate that 94% of the Cove School District's teachers have at least three years of experience. This is the highest percentage among Union County's six public school districts.
Cove School District Superintendent Earl Pettit said that of his district's 20 faculty members, 17 have taught for an average of about 15 years, two have been teaching for seven years and one is a second-year teacher.
The Imbler School District has the next highest teacher experience mark at 91%, followed by La Grande at 90%, North Powder at 88%, Union at 77% and Elgin at 74%.
Many teachers in Imbler have taught there for the majority of their careers, and Doug Hislop, who is an interim superintendent after working as Imbler's superintendent for 10 years before retiring in 2014, said he can understand why so many teachers are spending much of their careers there. He noted that his district has strong community support and excellent facilities and staff members.
Statistics in the At-A-Glance reports also provide information on how well the freshmen at Union County's high schools are doing in terms of staying on track to graduate in four years. This was based on the percentage of freshmen who had earned at least a quarter of the credits they needed to graduate. The statistics, based on data from an earlier year, indicate that 95% of freshmen at North Powder's Powder Valley High School and Imbler High School were on track to graduate, the top marks in Union County. Elgin High School is third at 88%, followed by Cove High School at 71% and La Grande High School at 70%. The state average according to the ODE is 74%.
Hislop credits his school district's high rating in the on track to graduate category to hard-working students and staff and incentives given to students to encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork.
Hislop added that student attendance is also a big plus in keeping students on track to graduate.
"We have very good attendance in our school district," the superintendent said.
The Oregon At-A-Glance reports also provide information on the numbers of teachers school districts have, student demographics, teacher retention, student attendance and more. The reports can be viewed at ODE's website, www.oregon.gov/ode.
Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.