BEND, OR -- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) toured Bend’s Marshall High School, Tuesday, to see how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in 2015, is helping students prepare for adulthood. "The law stipulates that if a school has a low graduation rate, they’d be in a position to get some extra help for things like mentorship programs. This school says that every senior has a mentor. They’d be eligible to work with companies; this school is doing that."
Marshall made a big shift this year, dividing into five academies to provide kids hands-on learning in the areas of engineering, construction, STEM, health occupations or liberal arts. Students talked about how they benefit from smaller classes and personal attention. One student told Wyden the school is, "Preparing kids to have high-wage, high-skill and high demand, real-life jobs. That is what the economy really needs." They also told him they want to shake Marshall's reputation as the school for troubled kids, so it's known as a place they take charge of their education.
Principal Sal Cassaro is pleased Senator Wyden is taking notice, "It kind of validates that we’re on the right track." Cassaro tells KBND News this year was a soft launch for the five-academy format and he looks forward to pushing full steam ahead, next fall, "Our one thing that we’re going to focus on, from now for as long as we’re all here together at Marshall High School, is building students’ futures [for] when they’re done with high school."
Senator Wyden met with a teacher who told the Oregon Democrat, "I teach a few different things; I teach robotics. I think, unfortunately, robots are going to take a lot of jobs away, so let’s teach these guys to design them, build them, manufacture them and maintain them." Wyden also visited a construction classroom and fielded questions from a group of students. He told them, "I really feel like now Oregon is headed in the right direction. We’re not going to turn this graduation rate situation around in 15 minutes; but, you guys are on to some really fresh, appealing approaches."
While in Bend Tuesday, he also met with Bend’s Mayor and representatives from several recreation businesses, to talk about how Congress can help the industry. "Recreation is now an enormous economic engine for this area," Wyden says, "But we’ve got some big challenges; in particularly, still, access to capital." He heard from several recreation businesses led by women, who he says have great ideas for the region, but struggle to find investment capital, "This idea that women, who have successful businesses, should have to put everything up - including their house, if it’s their only asset - when men don’t have to do it, isn’t right." Wyden says the discussion could result in legislation, but he wants to see first what can be done administratively to boost the recreation industry.