Dear Santiam Community,
I am proud to serve the kids and families of the Santiam Canyon, alongside a group of amazing professionals who give their all, so the next generation of kids can graduate with the skills and qualities they need to be successful and find their path in life. Times have been challenging these past few years, with devastating wildfires ripping through our communities, COVID rules and protocols, distance learning, new construction taking place, being continually short-staffed and lacking subs, political divisions, national drama, and the combination of all of it impacting mental health. We cannot forget our past, as these last few years have shaped where we are now. That being said, it is easy to see challenges and issues, but we sometimes fail to look for the beauty. We have a lot to be thankful for in the Canyon, and owe a huge thanks to the staff of the Santiam Canyon School District, who have pushed us through the problems. I’m happy to share that we are now operating THE BEST programming we have ever offered in this district, from preschool to elementary and middle school through high school. I am so proud of our staff and where we are, despite all the challenges.
Recent national studies show that 55% of teachers have considered leaving the profession early, 90% of teachers are experiencing feelings of burnout, and 63% of school administrators have considered leaving the profession due to high stress. These numbers are staggering. These are national statistics, but locally we face the same issues. In order to keep great schools in our amazing community, we need to retain great educators and continue to attract new ones. Attracting quality people is key and has the greatest impact on our students. I put a high degree of importance in hiring the right person for the job; however, it is our duty as a community to maintain a local culture that promotes the Canyon as a place to work and a place to stay. It’s in all our best interest to do so, and it is just the right thing to do. Without our staff and their ‘never give up’ mentality, we would not be where we are today.
Just after the fires subsided and our buildings were cleared of smoke damage, we were the first district in the region to get kids back into school due to the nearly impossible COVID restrictions placed upon schools. Not only were we the first, but our kids got the most schooling each week of any district around. This didn’t happen by chance, it happened because our staff rolled up their sleeves, looked beyond the barriers and found solutions. Cafeteria staff changed the way they prepared and delivered meals, while custodial staff worked tight timelines and rotations of cleaning and sanitizing to keep our facilities safe. Classified staff stepped up and taught online, delivered materials to kids at home and filled every gap that we didn’t know how we would overcome. Administrators and office staff continued to perform the countless daily tasks they have to run a school, plus the additional 20 things added to their plate to keep up on the logistics of the day. Teachers taught in a way they have never taught before (teaching kids both in-person and online at the same time). One well-respected educational consultant told me last year, “Your district has every excuse to be the one doing the least right now, but you are the one doing the most.” It was nothing short of impressive! Our kids and community were the beneficiary of it, while the staff added to their loads, thus creating the environment that leads to the statistics we see today. Amongst their feelings of tiredness and frustration, our staff should also feel proud. These past years may not have been how we wanted them to be, but they sure made the most of it.
Again, we have so much to be thankful for. We now offer free preschool. We have a beautiful new campus for our kids and community. We leveraged the community’s investment of $17.9 million into a $29 million project (that is fully funded and the community only owes their portion). Our elementary school is posting some of the best data in student growth that we have seen. We offer music and PE to all elementary kids every day. Our middle and high is offering amazing programming and social emotional supports for kids to meet their varied interests and needs. We have kids working in construction, metal works and welding, automotive, nursing programs, pharmacology, culinary, hospitality, music, district-paid college classes and many more impressive programs along with our growing list of core courses. Our programs would not be where they are now without the creativity and dedication from our staff. Our schools are only as good as the people working in them, and I so appreciate them and their continual dedication to learn, improve and solve problems. They don’t do it for themselves, they do it for our kids.
I’m asking that our community think about the future of the Canyon and how to continue to provide the best services to our kids. This service comes from people, and national data shows uncertainty for the future of education. We know we have areas of growth and we are ready and willing to work on them, but let’s also take a moment to look for the beauty, see the great work that is happening and give thanks and support so national statics stay just that, and do not become our local story. The Canyon is a special place filled with incredible people. We cannot control the tone of the country, but we can influence our area, our schools, our kids and ourselves. The work of our staff has been nothing short of incredible, and will be the guiding force for our future. Please join me in thanking those who have stepped up during these last few years of turmoil and worked to better our community and serve our kids. It is admirable and greatly appreciated.
Todd Miller, Superintendent