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My 5 Highlights What I'll remember most from this year

As the 2018-19 school year comes to a close, I'd like to reflect on the highlights from the year. What happened this year that makes me proud? What do I want to celebrate and remember? Here are five highlights that I want to share.

1. Grad Rate at All-Time High

This year, Bend-La Pine Schools' graduation rate increased nearly 3 percentage points to an all-time high of 82 percent - and every high school saw its grad rate increase. This increase did not happen by chance. We've put systems and people in place to keep students on track to graduate. The key to this success is personal connection. I'm proud of our staff members, who build meaningful relationships with our students. It's those connections that make all the difference.

2. New Schools

This year, we opened two new small high school options — Realms High School and Skyline High School. These schools provide options that are fundamentally different from our traditional neighborhood high schools. I am proud to see how the staff and students at these schools are creating their own culture and providing innovative and relevant education options. This fall, we are also excited to open our 35th school — North Star Elementary School in north central Bend. Thanks to Principal Kevin Gehrig and our dynamic students, staff and families, I know North Star will make us proud!

North Star Principal Kevin Gehrig tours the school while it is under construction.

3. Honoring Biliteracy

For the first time this year, Bend-La Pine Schools honored 20 graduates with the prestigious Oregon Seal of Biliteracy, which means these students excel academically in English and another language. I am proud that we are developing bilingual, biliterate students.

We expect more of our graduates to earn this top distinction in the future as our Spanish Dual Immersion program will expand to high school in the fall. This spring, 43 eighth-graders earned their silver-level Seal of Biliteracy and 60 fifth-graders earned their bronze level Seal.

A student practices for her silver level Seal of Biliteracy.

These students are not just developing language skills, they are also developing skills that will last them a lifetime and help them on whatever path they choose in the future. Growing this dual language program is just one of the ways Bend-La Pine Schools is working to create Future Ready students. We are teaching students to communicate, collaborate, be creative and think critically. I am proud of how we are developing Future Ready students with skills to bring them success in college, career and citizenship.

4. Coming Together for Education

On May 8, we saw more than 2,000 staff, students, community members and families join together to raise their voices in support of education. Together, we created a mighty wave that will result in change to benefit generations to come. I am proud of how our staff and community came together with one voice. I hope we continue to raise our voices for education and keep this momentum going until, and after, our schools are properly funded in ways that provide our students and staff with the teaching and learning environments they deserve.

5. Community Giving

This year, volunteers spent more than 102,000 hours in our schools. They helped kindergarteners learn to read and helped seniors fill out college applications. We appreciate the support we receive from all of our volunteers.

Our students are also serving in countless ways in our community, as our schools are helping them become Thriving Citizens. Our high schools hosted blood drives for the American Red Cross, built homes for Habitat for Humanity and helped fire prevention efforts by cleaning up neighborhoods for local elderly residents. Our students sang at memory care facilities, planted trees to help restore habitats and picked up litter in neighborhoods. I am proud that we teach kindness and service and that our students actively practice and demonstrate these traits every day on their way to becoming Thriving Citizens.

I'm proud to serve alongside all of you as we work together to create the next generation of thinkers, doers and neighbors. I'm proud every day of our staff, who put students and their needs first. I'm proud of our families, who support their children and partner with our schools — we could not do this work without you.

And I'm especially proud of our students, including the more than 1,200 who just graduated.

Thank you all for an amazing year - and I will see you back here in the fall!

- Shay Mikalson, Superintendent