Christopher McMorran, right, asks superintendent Susan Halliday a question while board chair Rick Wells scans his laptop computer screen. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Six years ago this month, Christopher McMorran was in his final spring as a Philomath High School student looking ahead to graduating with the Class of 2017 and embarking on the college experience.

Now back in his hometown after earning a degree, McMorran has become heavily involved in local governance, which has included his appointment last year to fill a vacant seat on the Philomath School Board. As part of the five-member group, he often brings a somewhat unique dynamic to the proceedings with the perspective of a not-long-ago student.

During a discussion Wednesday evening of the district’s draft Integrated Guidance Plan, McMorran had a flashback when he read the following within the document’s pages: “Lunch for both middle and high school students is a half hour in length, providing time to eat as well as play and/or participate in intramural activities.”

Said McMorran, “I think it’s kinda ambitious to say that a half an hour provides enough time to eat as well as play or participate in intramural activities. That’s a bold statement there.”

The statement came within the context of a discussion of the Oregon Department of Education’s new initiative referred to as “Aligning for Student Success: Integrated Guidance.” The plan requires school districts and charter schools to undergo a comprehensive needs assessment and application process to continue receiving funds from key grants.

ODE came up with several questions for school districts to answer in the document. In a section on learning strategies, ODE asked, “How do you ensure students have adequate time to eat, coupled with adequate time for movement and play?”

“I was a high school student who often did not eat lunch because I was doing lots of play and intramural activities,” McMorran said.

Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday provided details on what went into the statement, including how it fits into the overall strategy on movement. Board member Erin Gudge, who has a daughter currently at the high school, provided input as well.

Halliday summed up the conversation by saying, “There’s all kinds of possibilities to think about but a lot of this is we’ve got to make sure that kids have time to be able to move.”

The exchange was just one component of a 38-minute meeting on the Integrated Guidance Plan. Halliday started the meeting with an overview and went through a draft version of the document before answering various questions.

The board later unanimously approved it so Halliday could move forward and submit it to the state ahead of a March 31 deadline.

The intent of the state’s Integrated Guidance initiative is to streamline the grant application process while simultaneously aligning strategies to provide better outcomes for students.

“There are six programs pulled together and four of them that have funding attached to them,” Halliday said. “The idea was to pull it together to be able to plan and cross-pollinate, if you will, to be able to look at how you can spend funds from multiple places to be able to do what you may want.”

The four programs that involve funding are titled “Career and Technical Education,” “Early Indicator Intervention Systems,” “High School Success Act” and within that act, “Student Investment Account.” The other two programs are called the “Continuous Improvement Plan” and “Every Day Matters.” (See accompanying graphic for details)

Said Halliday, “Our target as a district is to be able to take the information in these questions that go to the state and put them into a readable, comprehensive format … in a way that is visible and used as opposed to being in a notebook on a shelf.”

ODE provided a guidebook that combines all of those pieces.

“It’s really more about getting people talking to each other and making sure those things are happening,” Halliday said.

Kings Valley Charter School is included in the Philomath School District plan.

“They’re using our same outcomes … but they’ve just got a different set of strategies,” Halliday said.

Money flows to KVCS directly from the state in three of the four funded programs, Halliday said. The one that goes through the Philomath School District involves the 

Halliday said KVCS asks for funds directly from the state Student Investment Account.

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.