At August’s forum, we learned that there are eight school districts serving 34,000 kids in Central Oregon. Forum moderator Dr. Shirley Metcalf of COCC lead a lively discussing with Shay Mikalson, superintendent from Bend-LaPine School District, Mike McIntosh, superintendent from Redmond School District, and Katie Condit, Executive Director of the education nonprofit Better Together, about what graduation rates do, and don’t, tell us about education in our region.

A theme that immediately emerged across the panelists was that both statewide and regional graduation rates are improving. The current graduation rate in our region is 78%, which is up from 68% just a few years ago. Shay Mikalson described the increase as “a might lift… We’re proud of that work, but there’s more work to do.”

Panelists gave a lot of credit for the increase in Central Oregon’s graduation rate to collective community impact. “We work diligently to meet individual kids,” said Mike McIntosh. “Students fail if not engaged. They need relationships.” High schools have hired graduation coaches, enhanced CTE programs and encouraged mentoring to help kids stay in school.

Graduation rates don’t tell the whole story. Panelists said that Central Oregon’s completion rate, which is when a student completes high school in five years or earns their GED, is above 80%. “But we don’t want the achievement to end at graduation. We want kids prepared not just to get a job, but to lead. Graduation rates matter, but if that’s the only metric we use to measure success than other things suffer,” said Shay Mikelson.

City Club members were left with specific calls to action.

  • Sign up for a Better Together workgroup
  • Engage with your local school. “Walk into your neighborhood school and ask ‘what do you need?’ You might get hugged.” – Shay Mikalson
  • Become a mentor. “When you get a caring adult engaged with a kid, you win.” – Mike McIntosh

For further reading:

The Bend Bulletin wrote an article about the forum at “Central Oregon school leaders discuss challenges, successes.”

OPB recently ran a story about dramatic increases in high school graduation rates in Madras, “Madras High’s ‘All About Graduation’ Focus Pays Off.”

City Club thanks panelists Shay Mikalson, Mike McIntosh, and Katie Condit; moderator Dr. Shirley Metcalf; forum Presenting Sponsors BBT Architects, Steele Architecture and Cascade Business News and Supporting Sponsors Miller Lumber, SunWest Builders and Fratzke Commercial Real Estate.
The forum team included Lisa Goodman and Heather McPherson.


City Club of Central Oregon

See more pictures from the forum on our Facebook page!