2006.04.25: April 25, 2006: Headlines: COS - Swaziland: Schools: Education: Speaking Out: The News Review: Swaziland RPCV Jim Proctor writes:Saving southern Douglas County -- one school at a time

Peace Corps Online: State: Oregon: February 8, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Oregon : 2006.04.25: April 25, 2006: Headlines: COS - Swaziland: Schools: Education: Speaking Out: The News Review: Swaziland RPCV Jim Proctor writes:Saving southern Douglas County -- one school at a time

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Swaziland RPCV Jim Proctor writes:Saving southern Douglas County -- one school at a time

Swaziland RPCV Jim Proctor writes:Saving southern Douglas County -- one school at a time

"Recently I learned that some Canyonville schools may close their doors forever starting next year. A community without a school is not a place where families with children can easily live; it's not a place that takes pride in its athletic teams; it's not a place that can honor its youth with the one institution that gives them a future. This is the Canyonville that raised me, and now the thing I have valued most in my life is dying."

Swaziland RPCV Jim Proctor writes:Saving southern Douglas County -- one school at a time

JIM PROCTOR
April 25, 2006

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I had the great fortune of growing up in Canyonville in the 1960s and 1970s. Since graduating from South Umpqua High School I've devoted my life to education, teaching in the Peace Corps after getting my undergraduate degree, returning to study for nine additional years, then serving as a university professor for 13.

Recently I had the equally good fortune of relocating to Oregon to serve at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, motivated in part by my desire to be closer to Alder Creek Children's Forest, the nonprofit I and others from Douglas County founded in 2002 in memory of my parents, Bob and Virginia Proctor (see www.aldercreek.org).

Each time I return to Canyonville my heart is filled with love and sadness: love for the hard-working people and the natural bounty I find there, and sadness for some of the changes I've seen. Change is not necessarily a bad thing, but Canyonville is no longer the thriving community it once was.

Recently I learned that some Canyonville schools may close their doors forever starting next year. A community without a school is not a place where families with children can easily live; it's not a place that takes pride in its athletic teams; it's not a place that can honor its youth with the one institution that gives them a future. This is the Canyonville that raised me, and now the thing I have valued most in my life is dying.

I keep wracking my brain with the question: what can I do to help save Canyonville? Canyonville cannot really be saved if its schools cannot be saved.

The problem spills far beyond this one town, as rural communities and schools in Oregon face increasing challenges to their very existence. The recent Chalkboard Project, devoted to improving K-12 education in Oregon, produced a long series of worthy recommendations, but the situation in rural Douglas County is grim, as revealed in a just-released report by the Rural School and Community Trust. According to the report's press statement, "Rural Oregon districts facing the most severe socioeconomic challenges receive the least money and produce the lowest levels of student achievement," a vicious downward spiral linking deterioration in educational quality, economic vitality, state support, and community well-being.

This spiral is not fixed by consolidation into larger districts: "Inequities in the distribution of resources are not primarily the result of the smaller size of school districts." Significantly, some south Douglas County school districts score quite low in the report's set of critical factors affecting school performance, as they do in school performance itself.

I cannot address all of these interrelated factors affecting the quality of Canyonville's schools, but I can do something with my 80 acres near Canyonville on which ACCF conducts its educational programs, and via our partnerships with neighboring tribal, federal, industrial, and individual landholders in the 2,500-acre Alder-Jordan Creek watershed, running from the top of Canyon Mountain down to the South Umpqua River.

ACCF intends to work with these and other partners in Douglas County so that our south county youth will become field experts in forest and watershed management, master the latest natural resource management technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS), and develop important science, communication, and collaboration skills as well as professional training.

The recently-unveiled Umpqua Basin Explorer (www.umpquaexplorer.info) offers unparalleled opportunities for our youth to learn and use GIS, and the desire of the Cow Creek tribe to restore anadromous fish populations in the Alder-Jordan watershed offers an important opportunity for students to get involved in hands-on activities that will ultimately produce educational, natural resource, and economic rewards.

If we can perfect this model, it could help not only southern Douglas County but other parts of the state, as many schools have opportunities to learn in, and benefit, their nearby watersheds, and Umpqua Basin Explorer is but one of a suite of online GIS technologies being deployed across Oregon.

I want to help because my love of learning came from my childhood in Canyonville, and the crisis facing Canyonville is experienced in much of the state. The challenges in rural Oregon are real, and many of us feel powerless in addressing them.

Yet maybe if we work together to save southern Douglas County one school at a time, using models such as ACCF, we can play a leadership role in demonstrating how educational performance, environmental quality, and economic vitality can again return to communities across rural Oregon.


Jim Proctor has a residence on Riddle Road.





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Story Source: The News Review

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Swaziland; Schools; Education; Speaking Out

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