Parkrose principals promote prime educational principles

While not new to the Parkrose School District, find out more about the newly-appointed Parkrose Middle School Principal, Molly Davies, and also about Parkrose High School’s Ana Gonzalez – in their own words – right here …

Parkrose’s Principals, Molly Davies at Parkrose Middle School and Ana Gonzalez at Parkrose High School, appear at the Parkrose PTA meeting, shortly after being appointed to their new posts in May, 2009.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As the new school year begins in Parkrose, two the largest schools in the district will be lead by newly-appointed Principals – both who came from within their system.

In their own words, learn what Parkrose Middle School’s Principal Molly Davies and Parkrose High School’s Ana Gonzalez feel are their schools greatest assets – and challenges – in the year ahead.

Parkrose Middle School

Molly Davies, Principal, Parkrose Middle School, prepares for the opening of another school year – as well as taking on a new role as the school’s leader.

Parkrose Middle School teaches some 800 sixth through eighth grade students. The school operates with about 50 certified staff members – teachers, counselors, and 20 classified workers.

“I became principal here last May,” Molly T. Davies, Principal at Parkrose Middle School, told us late this summer in her office, as she and her staff prepared for a new school year.

“I was an assistant principal for almost 2 years, and taught here for about eight years before that – so I am not new to the school, and the community and staff.

Assets at Parkrose Middle School
“Definitely, our staff is a key asset here at the middle school. Another great thing about the situation is that I’m not new. Our school’s programs will continue to grow and to move forward.

“The [Parkrose School] District is also very supportive; they’re dedicated to achievement and student learning. I’m really excited, because I feel we have a common focus. A lot of programs and systems have been put in place the last few years that are going to play a big role in helping us move forward. I see – not so much change – but forward growth.”

Defining what Davies believes is the objective of the District’s common focus, she adds, “It is student learning – making sure the students are actually learning, and growing, and are ready for high school. We want them ready for as many opportunities as they can have in high school.”

While budgets have impacted the school’s programs, Davies says her school is fareing better than many others in the metropolitan area, thanks to the District’s conservative fiscal management.

Schools primary dilemma: budget restrictions
“Our number one challenge is the budget situation. We have to make some tough decisions – like not participating in Outdoor School. We really wanted to keep that program; it’s a great experience.  A lot of our kids will not be able to afford Outdoor School if it’s not sponsored by the school.

“The budget has impacted our band program, also. Our Band Director position was cut to half-time. Instead of teaching a full load of five classes, it’ll be about two or 2 ½ classes. In day-to-day operations, our personnel losses are spread throughout the school. We’ve lost a few educational assistants, and some security staff.

“Overall, our [school district’s] business manager has done a good job of being [fiscally] conservative over the years. In talking with other school administrators in our area, we’ve actually been impacted far less than have other districts.”

Language diversity challenges educators
“Our population of those who do not speak ‘English as a primary language’ – about ten percent – is growing every year. We’re also seeing a greater diversity of languages; this is challenging to address. I believe we have 26 different languages spoken at home, within our school district.

“We’ve added a half-time English Language Learning position, which I think will provides more support for teachers and for students. We have a very strong English Language Learners Department.  Also, the district has put a lot of support in place for training for teachers, as well as for our English Language department. I feel we’ll be able to meet the challenge.”

Principal Davies asks that parents become involved and stay involved in their child’s middle school education in Parkrose.

Asks for parents involvement
We asked Davies what message she’d most like to convey to the parents of her students?

“I ask for you to continue to be involved with your student’s education, and with your school. Last year, we saw an increase of parent involvement in the school – it makes a huge, positive difference. We have volunteers who help out during recess, and others who are reinforcing positive behavior in the cafeteria, for example.

“Ask the questions; no question is a ‘bad’ question.  I sometimes get calls from parents who apologize for contacting me – you should never feel that way. Your involvement makes a difference; a big, positive difference here.”

Contact Ms. Davies by e-mail at, or by telephone, Phone: (503) 408-2903.

Parkrose High School

Ana Gonzalez, Principal at Parkrose High School, says she looks forward to leading the school, as it approaches its centennial year in 2013.

Parkrose High School will start the year with at least 900, perhaps topping out at 1,000, students this year. About 110 staff members – both certified and classified – provide their educational experience, and operate the school.

Ana A. Gonzalez, named Principal of Parkrose High School in May, 2009, is also well-known in the school district, having been the Parkrose Middle School Principal for two years before moving across the street to Parkrose High.

New staff and renewed facilities greet students
“Our greatest asset, as we look forward to starting a new year, is our staff,” commented Gonzalez, as we conversed in her office. “Another is our school’s PTA and Bronco Boosters group. For example, over the summer, they’ve completely renovated our stadium’s concession stand.”

Students will also find a new track surface in place when they return to school, Gonzalez revealed – as well as a new roof, and a new Desert Aire dehumidifying system at the Parkrose Community Swimming Pool.

“We have new staff coming in,” Gonzalez continued. “With some federal funding, we were able to bring in a reading specialist. This is going to be of great benefit to our students; we will be able to provide really focused task analysis regarding kids’ reading needs.”

Preparing for the Oregon Diploma program
Gonzalez added, “We’re preparing for the implementation of the Oregon Diploma for the classes of 2012 and 2013. By the way, 2013 will be the 100th year of Parkrose High School – this is exciting.

“The Oregon Diploma,” explained Gonzalez, “makes sure high school graduates have acquired ‘essential skills’. Students will need to learn central skills. In addition to passing their core content classes, they also follow a professional educational plan or a PEP plan, and meet criteria for graduating.

“In the past,” she went on, “students were required to pass classes and turn in senior projects.  The class of 2012 and beyond will have to meet assessment criteria. Some students will be showing proficiency in work samples. These students struggle with testing; testing is not their forte. Yet, they have the competency to complete the work samples and [thus] meet the standards.

“Other students will be showing proficiency by passing their state assessment score test. The criteria will be as rigorous as if they had seat time in class.  You still have to provide the body of evidence.”

Gonzalez says a challenge for the school’s staff is reducing dropout rates in an era of budget reductions.

Seeks to reduce dropout rate
The reason for “Credit by Proficiency”, Gonzalez noted, is to reduce student dropout rates.

Looking up the statistics, Gonzalez reported that Parkrose High’s latest “Oregon School Report Card” showed a 3.0% dropout rate for 2006-2007; compared with a 4.5% level across the state.

“We are concerned about dropout rates,” Gonzalez said. “This summer we offered incoming ninth-grade students who could benefit from additional English instruction our ‘JumpStart’ program. And in mid-August, we held the Bronco Stampede, for all of our new ninth graders. This helped them learn about their schedule; it covered ‘Bronco Pride’.

“During Stampede, they learned about Inquiry-Based Learning and AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) strategies, such as taking Cornell Notes. We’re preparing them for Freshman Academy. We’re trying to embrace the freshman, keep them contained, so we have a better knowledge of who they are; gain a better understanding of their needs, and also monitor them for success. In the transition from eighth grade to ninth-grade, it’s about connections as much as it is about skills.”

High school deals with budget shortfalls
“Like all schools, one of our main challenges is our dealing with the budget,” said Gonzalez. “We are running school with a restricted budget already. We don’t want to lose staff; we’re making do. But, at the same time, we’re trying to keep a quality program going on, with limited resources.

“This year we lost two full-time equivalents [teaching positions] – a technology person and an art teacher. We had to reduce our full-time French instruction to a half-time teacher. The result is larger classes.”

Also challenged by language diversity
Principal Gonzalez continued, “Our diversity is one of the beauties of Parkrose; it’s also an educational challenge. This year, we’re welcoming two new students who are coming from Uganda.

“The challenge will be to make sure that all of our students meet the English Language Proficiency Levels as required by the federal government, as well as the Oregon Diploma requirements. When a student enters as a freshman, we have four years to get them up to proficiency – while, at the same time, earning the class credits they’ll need to graduate. That’s quite a challenge.

“But, it’s no different than the challenge faced by a student who grows up in an English-speaking household who is not reading age-appropriately. All students still have to meet criteria for the new Oregon Diploma.

“At the same time, we want to sustain, and increased, our Advanced Placement (AP) programs.

“We want to make sure that we have more AP classes for available for our students. We want them to not only be able to enter the college of their choice, but also complete their four-year college education.”

Above all else, Gonzalez asks parents and community members to take an active role in the district’s educational programs.

Says many ways to be involved
Addressing parents of students at Parkrose High, Gonzalez urged, “Please be involved. ‘Involvement’ means seeing you here, and being involved with your student’s activities.  It’s being part of the Bronco Boosters. It’s communicating with your student, their teachers and administrators. It’s coming to back to school at night for parent conferences.

“And, what students need most is to have the support of their parents. Sometimes you can do it by e-mail or phone call; but what’s really important is your visibility here. The really critical piece for us: We need a partnership with our parents and our community.”

Contact Principal Gonzalez by e-mail at, or by phone at (503) 408-2600

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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