Bethel School District Eugene OR

Bethel B-mail: March 2017


What’s With The Tweeting?

Always ready with a tweet, Superintendent Chris Parra visits Fairfield Elementary.

Don’t worry, Bethel. I am not (yet) known as someone who goes on Twitter rants. But I do tweet when there’s something the greater community would find interesting, helpful, inspiring, or just plain informative.

Follow me: @Bethel_Supt

It’s quick, personal, transparent, immediate, unfiltered and free.  Twitter can build connections and remove barriers, and that’s important for a school superintendent trying to communicate with her families.

I promise not to waste your time, but whether it’s a snow day announcement, a student’s achievement, a current event, or even a word of thanks, I try to share it through a tweet.

And no rants allowed.

Chris Parra
Bethel Superintendent


Chess Mates

6th grader Bryce Newell is at the table with the big kids. The 11 year old played on the Willamette JV Chess Team.

Although he’s only in the 6th grade at Meadow View School, Bryce Newell was on the JV Chess team at Willamette High School.

He’s only been playing for 6 months after a friend showed him how.

Since then, Bryce has been searching the internet and teaching himself, joining the Sunday quad competitions at Willamette, and taking on his 3rd grade brother Leland who’s also giving chess a try after seeing his big brother’s interest.

The high school students have welcomed him onto the team, although Bryce declined an opportunity to join them at the state tourney where the JV team finished first in the Open division for the second year in a row.

But Bryce is highly competitive, and really likes the strategy involved in chess. Remember, you read about him here first.


Keep Calm And Play On

Prairie Mountain teacher Jenifer Gerlach plays some soothing music on the piano as her students prepare for some quiet work at their desks.

This is how an idea becomes reality.

Jenifer Gerlach was awarded a grant from the Bethel Education Foundation, and now she’s awakening minds and calming young bodies.

The Prairie Mountain 4th grade teacher used the grant to purchase an electric keyboard for her classroom.

Gerlach plays gentle music for her students to calm them down after recess, prepare them for focused thinking on math, and during quiet work times.

An accomplished pianist, she got the idea for the few minutes of soothing tones after visiting the classroom of Malabon teacher Johnny DeFlaminis, who softly strums a guitar for his students.

She says the piano music creates an instant calm among her kids, and she’s read research on the relationship between music and students’ ability to learn.

All Gerlach knows for sure is that it works for her kids, and she’s happy to have found another tool to help her students learn.


To Moscow And Back

The Willamette Topnotchers in the snow of Moscow, Idaho at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, where they took home the first place trophy.

After three days of student performances, workshops, clinics and concerts, Willamette’s Topnotchers choir headed home from Idaho with a first place trophy.

The annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho in Moscow welcomed schools from Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon and Canada.

Wil-Hi’s singers, led by Choir Director Katie Reuter, were recognized as among the best choirs on hand. Judges remarked on their blend, style, tuning and even their choice of music.

The trip to Idaho is the biggest of the year for the Topnotchers, but not the last.

They’ll be taking part in festivals in Pleasant Hill, at the Hult Center, and in the District choral competition, with more opportunities to let their voices be heard.






Try It Thursday

Irving students give a close look at a recent Try It Thursday offering of Barley Bean and Corn Salad.

Some dive right in, and others give it the stink-eye and hustle past.

Try It Thursday offers new, healthy, nutritious, tasty and fresh foods for Bethel students each month. It’s up to them whether they try it.

In February it was Barley Bean and Corn Salad. Kids at all Bethel schools have also been introduced to foods like roasted edamame, rainbow potatoes, and lentil soup.

The Try It Thursday feature is now in its third year. It’s an attempt to expose students to healthy side dishes that primarily consist of vegetables and whole grains.

It might not be a surprise that the older students are more adventurous when it comes to tasting the new foods. We’ll see how they do in March with Honey Roasted Brussel Sprouts.


Still More Promises Made…And Kept

A big step toward making Danebo Elementary more secure, workers install walls with doors to control access to the school’s breezeways. The safety improvement is courtesy of the Bethel Bond.

A much-anticipated safety improvement is nearly complete at Danebo Elementary.

The ends of the school’s open breezeways are being secured with walls and doors. They’ll be unlocked before and after school, but during the day all visitors will be funneled through the office in order to access the school.

Closing off the breezeways will also prevent after-hours trespassers.

Meanwhile, powder-coated iron fences have sprouted at Willamette, Irving and Shasta schools, which feature multiple separate buildings. The fences will provide a perimeter barrier at each campus.

School safety enhancements were promised to voters through the Bethel Bond measure, and those promises continue to be kept.


After The Ribbon-Cutting

Ron Spencer, who managed the building of the new Fairfield school for Essex Construction, joins principal Jenny Sink and BEF President Kelly Sandow in a check presentation helping provide an Artist In Residence at Fairfield.

The contractors that built the new Fairfield Elementary School didn’t just walk away after the school was opened. They’ve also made a connection with the kids in the new school.

Essex Construction recently made a $1,000 contribution to the Lane Arts Council to sponsor an artist in residence at Fairfield.

A matching $1,000 came from a Fairfield pencil sale, the Bethel Education Foundation, and the school’s PTO.

Now Fairfield is figuring out the very best way for a professional artist to spend a few weeks in the school.

Thanks to Essex for the generous donation…and for the beautiful new school!


All The Buzz

Using mostly her background knowledge, Meadow View 8th grader Hailey Koontz won the school’s Geo Bee and then qualified for the state Geo Bee.

It began as just a whim, and now look what’s happened. Hailey Koontz entered Meadow View’s annual Geo Bee for the first time and to her surprise won the school-wide contest.

Then, with no expectations, Hailey sailed through a written test to earn an invitation to the state Geo Bee finals later this month. All this occurred without any preparation.

The soft-spoken 8th grader’s interest in geography has been through history’s relation to places. Her general background knowledge got her this far, but now that she’s in the state Geo Bee finals Hailey will begin to actually prepare for the competition.

For a 13 year old who enjoys learning more than competition, studying for the bigger stage should not be a problem.


All Aboard

It’s open now, but for a time students could only watch and wait for the new playground structure to be completed at Malabon Elementary.

The waiting was the hard part.

Malabon’s PTO raised all the money – nearly $15,000 – and Bethel’s maintenance department did all the installation work, but the students were helpless.

Kids could only stand and watch longingly as their new playground structure was put into place. They were tantalized for more than a week while the ground was cleared, cement was poured, and the structure was bolted together.

Finally they were allowed to climb aboard. It was probably the most exciting unveiling since their new school was opened a year and a half ago, and now the Malabon playground feels complete.


College Scouts

Students from all grades at Willamette were part of the tour at the University of Oregon. Groups will also take part in college trips to Portland and the mid-Willamette Valley.

Plans are already being made for going to college in the fall.

Karen Wiant, Director of the College and Career Center at Willamette, takes students on three spring trips: to Eugene colleges, schools in Portland, and to colleges in the mid-Willamette Valley.

The idea is to expose students to public, private and community colleges in differing communities of the state.

They’re also finalizing plans for next month’s Career and College Knowledge Night. Wiant is adding a jobs fair/career component to the event.

Along with representatives from colleges and universities, business owners and professionals will be on hand to actually hire employees, talk about career paths, explain their businesses, and help with skills on how to land a job.

The event will also feature a give-away of three $500 scholarships. Plan now for that April 27th event at Willamette.


Just Buds

Kindergartners and 8th graders teamed up to read fun books in Meadow View’s recent Buddy Day.

There’s nothing like it for building community within a school. Buddy Day at Meadow View School paired up older kids with younger children for a variety of fun and engaging events.

8th graders read Dr. Seuss books with kindergartners, and it was difficult to determine who loved it more; the older students who had a chance to serve as mentors, or the 5 and 6 year olds who clearly look up to the big kids in school.

Because it happened on Read Across America day, many of the activities focused on literacy. But groups also worked on science experiments, made their own books, took taste tests while graphing the results, and created origami.

Buddy Day is a great idea that continues to build closer school communities throughout Bethel.


The Malabon Way

Malabon kids took to the stage with signs encouraging good behavior as part of the school’s effort to promote empathy among students.

Promoting positive behavior is an ongoing goal at all Bethel schools, and now Malabon Elementary is trying something new.

After studying behavior data, Malabon staff set out to teach empathy to students school-wide.

Kindergarten teacher Windy Leona and groups of her students visited every class in the school and introduced the concept of empathy.

They practiced with scenarios and taught how to solve problems peacefully.

Now they’re considering ways to continue supporting the school-wide campaign, like posters in the hallways and talking points for teachers in the classroom.

The Malabon Way will take time, focus and perseverance, but the lessons can last a lifetime.


We Have A Health Center?

Willamette High School students, members of the Bethel Health Center’s Youth Advisory Committee, offered quick tours of the Health Center, which has its own entrance on the north side of Cascade Middle School.

Do you know about the Bethel Health Center?

Hundreds of Willamette High School students visited the Bethel Health Center recently. It was part of an introduction to the services the Health Center provides for all Bethel students.

Health Center Awareness Week was an opportunity to invite students in Wil-Hi’s Health classes to tour the facility, which is located inside Cascade Middle School.

Click here for a list of Health Center services.

And a number of students had no idea the Health Center – opened in 2011 – even existed, let alone what services it provides.

The Health Center’s Youth Advisory Committee is trying to help change that, with continued outreach efforts at Willamette and beyond.

So, let the word go forth: the Bethel Health Center is open and ready to serve.


Pageant With A Purpose

Fellow contestants react as Brandon Wang is crowned the winner of the annual Wolverine Pageant. The students raised $21,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network.

With a dozen students on stage and double that number working behind the scenes, the annual Wolverine Pageant culminated months of effort by Willamette students.

They spent countless hours fundraising for the Children’s Miracle Network, visiting babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and rehearsing for the pageant.

Brandon Wang was crowned the winner, with Kareem Khalifeh being recognized with the congeniality award

When all was said and done, the Wil-Hi students had raised more than $21,000 for CMN in what will certainly be one of the most memorable experiences of their lives.


The Giver Receives

After volunteering hundreds of hours, Willamette senior Alexa Whitehead is surprised in class by principal Mindy LeRoux with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

Presidential recognition doesn’t happen every day, so it was an honor for Alexa Whitehead to learn that she qualified for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

The Willamette senior has been a dedicated volunteer for the American Cancer Society, putting in hundreds of hours.

Alexa made the connection with the American Cancer Society after her grandmother died of the disease.

The nature of volunteer work is not designed to attract attention, but Willamette principal Mindy LeRoux wanted to share Alexa’s award publicly to honor her work and encourage others to take part in volunteer service.


Making The Cut

Ty Van Lith, Jared Ralls-Clark, Parker Hansen, and Dylan Cunningham get cooking at the state championships under the watchful eye of manager Taylor Woolett.

They were so close! Willamette’s Culinary team, always among the best in Oregon, wound up 5th at the state ProStart Championships.

They tested themselves by cooking up a challenging meal: Pan-fried Coho salmon, handmade ravioli, and a French almond cake dessert.

They had to do this in one hour on a pair of propane burners and no electric utensils or appliances.

Under the leadership of veteran teacher Martha Humphreys, Willamette Culinary teams have won state titles twice before, in 2005 and 2007. And they were close again this year.

Congrats go out to Parker Hansen, Jared Ralls-Clark, Dylan Cunningham, Ty Van Lith, and Taylor Woolett.

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