Spotlight on Yoncalla School District
Yoncalla High School shop teacher Jessie McHaffie instructs ninth-grader Logan Noffsinger on how to operate an electric car built by students.
“Every single person who works here is part of the team. The staff works so hard and jumps in where needed. They’re making great things happen.”
– Yoncalla School Distict Superintendent Brian Berry
Spotlight on Yoncalla School District
Yoncalla School District is committed to the community. Approximately 250 students attend the elementary, middle and high school with an additional 36 students in the preschool program.
Centrally located in the beautiful Umpqua Basin, the district draws educators from Eugene to Roseburg.
Through comprehensive partnering with The Ford Family Foundation, Children’s Institute, Portland State University and a variety of other community-serving organizations, the district and community has prioritized early learning and authentic family engagement. The Early Works approach has resulted in a 5-star rated preschool and a Preschool Promise site with free access for all Yoncalla students. The preschool has been the cornerstone for stronger, aligned educational approaches for all students, district wide.
The district’s youngest learners, ages 3 to 5 develop early learning and social emotional skills before they enter kindergarten. The program’s structure gives families opportunities to participate in parenting classes, activities and access resources from local agencies.
“We take what’s working in this program, build on it, and then we apply what works to future grade levels,” said Brian Berry, Yoncalla School District superintendent.
Hands-on activities that begin in preschool continue through high school. Jessie McHaffie is the shop teacher who runs the welding, wood and automotive programs. “We specialize in manufacturing,” he said. “Kids learn how to build things using instructions, and sometimes they don’t know what they’re building until they’re nearly finished with a project.” Recently, students built two electric cars.
One of the new features at the district is a greenhouse, which will be used by the high school’s natural resources and culinary classes.
The district prepares students by teaching traditional academics to providing career and technical education (CTE), with a focus on college and career readiness that includes opportunities for high schoolers to participate in Umpqua Community College’s Expanded Options Program.
Additionally, all students get to experience what it means to be part of a community. Students give to the community and the community gives to students. “We’re a community-centered district,” Berry said.
For instance, the middle and high school students in the special education program serve lunch to seniors and volunteer at Saving Grace. High school students in the natural resources class worked with Glide Revitalization to replant trees lost in the Archie Creek fire. Most recently, elementary students performed in a winter concert that was organized by an instructional assistant working toward a teaching degree. Approximately 500 people attended.
The community works together to create avenues for students and families to thrive. The Yoncalla Booster Club, Yoncalla Engaged People and Yoncalla Early Works created Care Closets, located at the elementary and middle/high school campuses. Students can ask for anything they need from toiletries, clothing and food.
“We’re really interested in the betterment of students,” Berry said. “Connections are everything. If you connect with kids, they’ll make it.”
During community engagement sessions, the district learned that the community was interested in bringing a counselor to the school and reinstating a physical education program for the elementary students. Both requests have been met.
Berry wants people to know that the district considers and appreciates ideas. He also wants people to know that they can access resources.
The district works closely with Douglas ESD’s Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education program, and some assessments are offered onsite at the school district. This is a benefit to families, saving them time and resources. Additionally, a nurse contracted from Douglas ESD provides onsite school nursing care, including health and safety education.
“Every single person who works here is part of the team. The staff works so hard and jumps in where needed. They’re making great things happen,” Berry said. “We celebrate, and then I ask them, ‘What can we do better?’”
The district’s four-day weekly schedule allows for professional development that includes offering educators’ guidance on how to teach new curriculum.
The district pays for classified staff to take college-level courses related to their careers. “We grow from within,” Berry said. “We have several staff members working toward their teaching certification.
Also, the district prioritizes self-care among staff by offering book studies, after-school yoga and Zumba, as well as cooking classes where the community is invited to participate.
During the month of January, school districts throughout the state celebrated School Board Recognition Month. School board members are volunteers. Yoncalla’s board serves as the corporate board of directors for one of the Yoncalla community’s largest employers. Berry is grateful for a collaborative board. “The board’s job is to set policy, and my job is to implement policy,” he said. “My role is to guide people.”
The highlights mentioned represent a fraction of amazing things happening in this district. Learn more about this fabulous district and the team at www.yoncalla.k12.or.us.