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Community Link

Teacher speaking with students around a table.

Reaching New Heights


Welcome to the first Community Link of the 2023-24 school year!  The opening months of school always provide many events worth celebrating, whether it’s our young elementary students establishing new friendships for the first time, our middle schoolers enrolling in their first electives that spark lifelong interests, or our high school students aligning their paths toward college or career readiness.

Doctor Shay James pictured with service techs on top of a roof.

As you’ll see in the following pages, the theme of this edition of Community Link is also celebration…as we have so many exciting and heartwarming stories to share about students and staff members who help make the North Clackamas School District community so special.

The most recent Oregon State Assessment scores have been released, and cheers to all of our students and staff for their hard work.  In this issue, we're highlighting Riverside Elementary, where staff members are taking the district’s innovative instructional guidance to new heights and helping the school achieve its highest results yet!

Speaking of heights, have you seen the giant outdoor mural stretching all the way to the roof of Seth Lewelling Elementary’s gymnasium?

If so, you’ll understand the school’s recent celebration during a unique outdoor assembly.  After a summer full of color mixing and thousands of particularly precise paint strokes, a partnership with a local artist has turned an outdoor gym wall from blah beige…into a creatively colorful countryside!  

Finally, as we begin Year 2 of our 5-year Strategic Plan, we’re celebrating our more than 17,000 students with a continued commitment to building strong, trusting relationships with each and every one of them.  Relationship building is one of our Strategic Plan’s 5 Core Values, and you can read about how that commitment is not only being demonstrated by our 32 schools, but also by the many departments who support those schools each day.

We have so much to look forward to in our school district, including our Proposed Teachers Levy on November’s ballot, so please don’t forget to vote!

On behalf of everyone in North Clackamas Schools, please know that we also celebrate YOU for your continued partnership and support.  Here’s to an exciting conclusion to 2023!

Dr. Shay James, Superintendent

Building Relationships is Part of the Plan

three women smiling standing side by side

They’re two words you’ve probably seen referenced many times in NCSD communications throughout the past two years, but what exactly is our district’s Strategic Plan?  This important five-year plan is more than just a document—it formalizes and communicates our district’s mission and vision for all stakeholders in our community.  It also identifies five Core Values we’re dedicated to making sure are prominently displayed every day in every school and department: Equity, Relationships, Integrity, Empowerment, and Care. 

Our district’s goal throughout the 2023-24 school year is to clearly define each of these values at the district level, but also provide each school and department an opportunity to share what each value looks and sounds like in their communities.  Throughout September and October, our first districtwide Core Value focus has been on building trusting Relationships with students and families.

We’re proud that nearly all schools have sent eye-catching notices home about the importance of relationships and how they’re building them.  However, school staff members aren’t the only employees focusing on this key Core Value.  Here are Relationship Core Value commitments from some non-school NCSD departments:

Equity, Enrollment, & Engagement:  Build relationships with families while seeing culture, ethnicity, and what their strengths are so they can find academic success; really get to really know each student and not the stereotype that can surround certain cultures

Early Childhood at Campbell:  Show interest in learning more about the other person (student, parent, staff) by asking questions about them, such as pronunciation of their name, pronouns they prefer, their strengths/interests

Facility Operations:  Lean on each other; have difficult conversations while being open and honest; learn the communication styles of others.

Technology & Information Services:  Treating each person with kindness, respect, and empathy.


Measure 3-599: On the November Ballot

Did you know that the North Clackamas School District has been funded by a local option levy voters passed in 2018, which supports the equivalent of 180 positions across the district?  This levy is set to expire in June, 2024.  Proposed Measure 3-599 is on this November’s ballot.

Here are the facts: 

If passed, what would the Proposed Measure 3-599 fund?

*The Proposed Levy would generate approximately $25 million per year for five years.
*It would continue to retain teachers and staff at all schools.
*It would maintain current class size averages across all NCSD schools.

If passed, what would Proposed Measure 3-599 cost?

*As a renewal, this Levy would maintain existing tax rates.
*It would authorize a continuation of the current tax rate of $1.63 per $1,000 of assessed property value for five years.


What happens if Proposed Measure 3-599 does not pass? 

* A continuation of the current tax rate of $1.63 per $1,000 of assessed property value would not continue.
*The equivalent of 180 teaching positions in NCSD would not continue to be funded.
*The current tax rate would expire on June 30, 2024.


6 Things To Know About Proposed Measure 3-599:

1)    It is on this November’s ballot.
2)   It is a renewal and would maintain the current tax rate of $1.63 per $1,000 of assessed property value for five years.
3)   If passed, 100% of levy funds would be used to fund the North Clackamas School District.
4)   If passed, it would maintain the equivalent of 180 teaching positions.
5)   If passed, it would maintain current class size averages across all NCSD schools.
6)   If passed, it would preserve programming such as vocational career technical education, music, art, and physical education.


You can find out more by reviewing the NCSD Proposed Teachers Levy webpage.

*Note: Numbers presented here are estimates based on school enrollment and average teacher costs. 

Change of Scenery at Seth Lewelling

hand standing next to child with arm around shoulder looking toward a large scenic mural on the side of a school building

The outside Seth Lewelling Elementary is now filled with color, thanks to a beautiful mural created over the summer. 

This project was several years in the making, according to Principal Mason Branstetter. He said members of Lewelling’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) came together and wanted to contribute to a larger legacy project, and decided a mural would be a perfect way to beautify the school.

Group of students and adults gather during ribbon cutting ceremony

The mural was created by artist Emma Berger. To start, Emma worked on an art project with Lewelling students where they invented their own flower. She was able to incorporate those flowers into her design. Among the landscape, you will notice some hidden easter eggs like cherry blossoms, representing Milwaukie, and the Mason bees, an ode to Principal Branstetter.

Emma dedicated hours over the summer to make the project come to life, and it was completed just before the school year began. On September 29th, the school had a special Friday morning meeting where they held a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It’s a really special thing to give to a community and brighten and beautify a neighborhood,” Berger said.  “It’s a special thing that for the next couple of decades my work will be a part of their lives”

You can see more of Emma’s work on her Instagram page, @flatrabbitstudio.

More from the artist

Mural artist Emma Berger

Emma Berger is an experienced artist from California’s Bay area. Berger says art and creativity is in her family, as her mom is a retired public artist as well.

When Emma’s not painting murals, she is also a tattoo artist. “My business card says I draw on people, places, and things,” Emma laughed.

Berger connected with Seth Lewelling through the Portland Street Art Alliance. The role of the Portland Street Art Alliance is to pair organizers like Lewelling’s PTO with local artists based on style and the artwork they are looking for.

Image of wall at Seth Lewelling before the mural was painted.
Photo of Lewelling Mural after the painting was complete
Photo of mural at Seth Lewelling Elementary.
Students watch ribbon cutting ceremony.
Group of students and adults gather during ribbon cutting ceremony
Mural artist Emma Berger


How Teacher Collaboration Is Improving Student Performance

woman assisting 3 students in elementary school classroom

As math time began on a recent October morning at Riverside Elementary, teacher Staci Martin admittedly was a little nervous looking at all the fourth-grade faces in her classroom eagerly awaiting her first instructions. 

That’s because that morning, “all the fourth-grade faces,” actually meant every fourth grade student from three different Riverside classrooms were in her classroom…along with two observing colleagues, a classroom assistant, the principal, and a district provided math instructional consultant.  All the extra professionals were scattered around the room to watch, learn, and provide constructive feedback after class.

Young student writing at her desk.

Riverside is one of several NCSD elementary schools utilizing this “Math Studio” model, where teachers observe and learn from each other as they’re provided thoughtful, immediate feedback about how they’re engaging kids in mathematical concepts.

"While having so many adult eyes observe your teaching can be a little nerve wracking, participating in Math Studio has been a great experience,” said Martin.  “I'm always looking for ways to make math more purposeful, productive, and increase student engagement.”

Such innovative approaches to instruction are paying off in all subject areas across NCSD, but especially in math at Riverside.

Oregon’s latest round of statewide assessment data showed many North Clackamas schools making improvements on standardized reading, math, and writing tests, but Riverside’s math scores especially stood out.  About one-third of the school’s third graders hit proficiency targets in math, which is a huge jump from just 15% the previous year.  Principal Teresa Jaramillo is excited to see her staff members rewarded for their intensive teacher training, which includes participating in Math Studios and targeting specific math concepts.

Teacher in her classroom helping students.

“These approaches have allowed teachers to provide small group instruction or re-teach math concepts before simply moving on to the next lesson or topic,” said Jaramillo.  “They’ve empowered Riverside teachers to deliver high-quality instruction and support to our students, enabling them to grasp complex math concepts more effectively.”

Math isn’t the only subject area where North Clackamas students continue to improve.  A recent review of reading readiness for the district’s youngest students also produced results worth celebrating.  Last year’s kindergarten and first grade students districtwide displayed respective end-of-year literacy rates of 56%, and 64%, which are both improvements of more than 10% from the previous school year.

“Our focus on strengthening instruction through teacher efforts, investments in early literacy as well as literacy guidelines reflect best practices, student agency, and student identity,” said Assistant Superintendent of Education Dr. Ivonne Dibblee.  “We’re excited to see these initial promising results and are looking forward to seeing even more improvement at the end of this year.”


View Acres Gets Pumped About Heart Health

NCSD schools are the heartiest fundraisers in the state


When View Acres Elementary students shuffle into the gym for Physical Education twice each week, they’re always excited to learn one of teacher Kevin Greenleaf’s creatively cooperative games that keeps them running, skipping, jumping, and sometimes even balancing pool noodles in the air. 

“If we’re keeping them moving, it keeps them energized and it’s a good day for them and a good day for me,” said the 23-year PE teaching veteran.

Teacher covered in silly string after reaching fundraising goal.

Yet Greenleaf’s approach isn’t just to teach kids how to keep their own hearts healthy.  In line

with NCSD’s Core Value of Empowerment, View Acres was one of seven district elementary schools last year participating in the American Heart Association’s “Kids Heart Challenge,” where students and families spent weeks learning about heart-healthy activities and raising awareness and funds for the American Heart Association.

Both View Acres and North Clackamas deserve some heart-felt applause!  NCSD finished the 22-23 school year as the top fundraising school district in the entire state, gathering more than $64,000 worth of lifesaving donations.  Nearly one-third of that record total came from View Acres, who led all seven participating NCSD schools by raising more than $20,000. 

“It was an amazing thing for our school,” said Greenleaf.  “It feels good knowing we were able to help an organization that helps families with heart research and kids that have heart defects.”

Congratulations to Scouters Mountain, Lot Whitcomb, Spring Mountain, Ardenwald, Riverside, and Beatrice Morrow Cannady, who also participated in the 22-23 Kids Heart Challenge…and participation from even more NCSD schools will soon start to circulate in the 23-24 school year.

“My grandpa, my mom, and my dad helped me raise money last year because we know it’s important for people to stay healthy,” said View Acres first grader Ellie Ciabattari, who says her uncle passed away from heart disease.  She can’t wait to get started this year.  “I want to raise the most biggest amount that no school has ever had before, even more than last year!”

Group of view acres students with PE teacher.



Celebrating More Than a Decade of Dedication

front of school building with large welcome banner across front

More than 13 years ago, the North Clackamas School District converted an aging elementary school into a community resource center located in the heart of the school district’s 40 square miles.  Since then, the Wichita Center For Family & Community has served as the lifeblood for hundreds of families who visit the King Road location each week to access supports ranging from a clothes closet and food pantry to housing assistance, dental care, and a preschool program. 

Girl and adult talking during Wichita event in October.

This fall, NCSD hosted an open house at the Wichita Center to celebrate more than a decade of heartfelt support from these community partnerships, and the local families who utilize them.

“We want all of our partners housed at the Wichita Center to know how thankful we are for their commitment to our community,” said Superintendent Dr. Shay James.  “It’s because of them that we’re able to help provide our families the extra assistance they may need week to week.”

One Oak Grove mom who wished to remain anonymous says she doesn’t know what she’d do without that assistance.  The mother of five former or current North Clackamas students ranging in ages from 19 to pre-kindergarten relies on the Wichita Center’s resources to provide her kids food, clothing, and medical care throughout the year.

“I honestly don't know what I would do,” she said.  “My family wouldn't have these resources. I probably wouldn't know about the Head Start program here and would have to figure out somewhere else to go to for food. I am not sure if they have another place to go to for clothing, so we’d feel pretty hopeless if it wasn't here.”

Three women talking during the November Wichita Event

NCSD’s recent open house celebration showcased those partners who fill community members with hope each day.  Lining the center’s hallways were program directors from Clackamas County Children’s Commission, Smile Squad Neighborhood Health Center, Oregon Department of Human Services, Metropolitan Family Services, Clackamas County Health Centers, and the Oregon Health Authority, each of whom are housed in this one-of-a-kind community center. 

This “one stop” resource approach, where families can access multiple resources without appointments and all under one roof, gathered the attention of many community leaders in attendance, including Milwaukie Mayor Lisa Batey.

“It’s of big importance to the community,” said Mayor Batey.  “I see and I know the great services that it provides for our families from clothing to backpacks to the food pantry to after-school care and just so many services that families in our community take advantage of.”

The Wichita Center For Family & Community is located at 6031 S.E. King Road in Milwaukie, and is open Monday-Friday from 8:00-4:30.  The food pantry is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00-6:00, and Wednesdays from 10:00-4:00.  Volunteers are encouraged to contact the center directly or visit their website