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Month: November 2013

Students spread holiday cheer

The McNary High School choir performs on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda last year. (File)
The McNary High School choir performs on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda last year. (File)

Keizer youth are performing all over the area in holiday concerts. Here are some important dates and times to remember:

Monday, Dec. 2

The annual lighting of the Salem Capitol’s Christmas tree will be featuring McNary High School’s Highlanders Classic Choir singing carols to kick off the holiday season, 6 p.m. at the Salem Capitol Building.

Dec. 3-5

Claggett Creek Middle School’s drama students will stage Cafe Murder, a murder mystery dessert theater experience. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. each evening. Admission is $3 per person or $8 per household, 1810 Alder Drive N.E.

Wednesday, Dec. 4

Whiteaker Middle School’s choir performs at Mission Mill in the Viva Voce Rotary Performance. The concert begins at 12:15 p.m., 1313 Mill St S.E. in Salem.

Monday, Dec. 9

The Whiteaker orchestra performs at 7 p.m. at Dayspring Fellowship, 1755 Lockhaven Drive N.

Tuesday, Dec. 10

The Whiteaker band performs at 7 p.m. at Dayspring Fellowship.

The Claggett Creek orchestra performs at 7:30 p.m. at the school.

Wednesday, Dec. 11

McNary Intermediate Ensembles Concert at McNary High School in the auditorium beginning at 7 p.m. Featuring Vivace choir, intermediate orchestra, and intermediate band holiday-themed performances.

Thursday, Dec. 12

The Whiteaker first- and second-year orchestra performs a winter concert at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s gym.

The Claggett Creek band performs at 7 p.m. at the school.

Monday, Dec. 16

The Whiteaker and Claggett Creek choirs will sing in the Capitol Rotunda, 900 Court Street N.E., in Salem, between 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The McNary Theater Department produces a live radio-style show of A Christmas Carol in the Celtic Auditorium. Curtain time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Dec. 17-18

The McNary advanced ensembles, comprised of band, orchestra and choir members, will perform each night at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5. 595 Chemawa Road N.E.

Thursday, Dec. 19

The Celtic choirs’  annual Night of Hope at 7 p.m. in McNary’s Ken Collins Theater. Admission is $5. The concert features some of McNary’s finest soloists raising awareness for abuse and concludes the night with hope for ending this issue. All proceeds benefit Salem’s Liberty House.

Lady Celts look to improve of 3rd place finish


Senior Ashlee Koenig dodges a block in practice. Right: Freshman Sydney Hunter puts up a shot, Hunter is one of two freshmen joining the Lady Celt varsity team this season. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Senior Ashlee Koenig dodges a block in practice. Right: Freshman Sydney Hunter puts up a shot, Hunter is one of two freshmen joining the Lady Celt varsity team this season. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

For the Keizertimes

A third place finish last season has the McNary High School girls varsity basketball team thinking there may be even bigger accomplishments in the immediate future.

The foundation of a successful team is the atmosphere on the court, said Paul Pickerell, McNary’s head coach beginning his second year with the program.

Pickerell loves “promoting a hardworking environment” and making “better individuals and a team.”

The 2013-14 varsity roster is comprised of two seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.

“This team is on the verge of being a good team. They work well together,” he said.

Ashlee Koenig, one of the two seniors, said attitude on the court has been positive and that inspires faith in her teammates.

“(My role) is to be a positive role model and be a leader by example, and I’m thrilled to see what the underclassmen can do,” Koenig said.

Junior Jasmine Ernest has high expectations for the solid team, and she is looking forward to the “potential our team has to do great things this year.”

Pickerell and Michael Miller, an assistant coach, shared the strengths and shortcomings of the team.

“Our strengths include speed and togetherness, as well as the ability to put pressure on the ball and spread the floor.

The weakness that we have is that we do not have a big post. No bang,” Miller said. “(The younger players) of the team will need to get adjusted.”

Even though the team is a young bunch, a fresh group can easily be turned into an advantage.

“We are very quick and fast this year. We have an offensive system that complements high speed,” he said. “(We just have) a lot of freshmen in the basketball program.”

While the team is young, the incoming players are drawing on their experience in youth leagues.

“The energetic group of young players is willing to try new things and play hard,” Miller said.

While goals differ, slightly, between players (win the Central Valley Conference title) and coaches (improve on last year and/or make the final eight), each felt that the team had more within its grasp than last season.

Pickerell is ready for a successful season no matter what.

The team travels to Roseburg High School for a tournament Friday, Dec. 6, and hosts Dallas High School in its home opener Tuesday, Dec. 10.

The games against South Salem are what Koenig is anticipating most. For now, the team needs to focus on one thing at a time.

Location found for Dec. 12 KNOW gift wrapping party

A large crowd always turns out for the wrapping party for the Keizer Network of Women’s Giving Basket program. (File)
A large crowd always turns out for the wrapping party for the Keizer Network of Women’s Giving Basket program. (File)

Of the Keizertimes

The timing was getting a bit tight, but a solution was found.

The Keizer Network of Women (KNOW) Giving Basket program is spreading holiday cheer to 139 local families this Christmas season, positively impacting 462 total children.

One of the main parts for the program comes Dec. 12, when dozens of volunteers come together to wrap the gifts.

There was only one problem for Audrey Butler, who has headed up the program for the past six years: she didn’t have a place for the party.

Last week a site was found: the former Glass Specialties building at 3816 River Road N.

“Finally, thank God,” Butler said last Friday. “Ken and Jim McKibben are being kind enough to loan their facility for the week. It took a lot of driving around and talking to people.”

Last year Butler and her jolly crew of elves used vacant space by the old Roth’s building on Chemawa Road N.

“We outgrew it,” said Butler, who added that using some of the larger space at Schoolhouse Square was not an option, either.

In June, school counselors in Keizer are notified and asked to start thinking of students who could use some gifts during the holidays. By mid-October, Butler and the KNOW members are sorting through the requests and figuring out who gets what gifts.

Group members got 1,000 tags done on Nov. 14. The tags are on Giving Trees at five Keizer locations: St. Edward Catholic Church, Big Town Hero, Schoolhouse Square Starbucks, McNary Golf Club and the Courthouse Athletic Club. Gifts need to be dropped off by Dec. 6.

Butler noted the tags were done early to take advantage of Thanksgiving and the associated Black Friday shopping deals being later than usual.

“The tags are moving quickly,” Butler said. “There are a lot of people taking them. Generally we don’t get them out until (this) week, but this way people get to do Black Friday.”

Since the tags went out early, some improvising has taken place.

“St. Edward put up a little tree for us,” Butler said. “They don’t have a regular tree up yet. At Courthouse Athletic Club, tags are on the front counter. Look for the tags, or just ask if you don’t see them.”

Gifts are picked up Monday, Dec. 9, with sorting done Dec. 10 and 11. Straggler gifts will be picked up Dec. 11, with any last-minute shopping also being done that day. Food will be sorted and boxed that evening. Final sorting takes place Dec. 12, with the big gift wrapping party that evening.

“Just show up, bring scissors, tape and any gift wrap you might have,” Butler said. “It starts at 5:30 p.m. How long it takes depends on how many people we have and how many gifts are left.”








Monday, December 2, 2013 

7:00 p.m. 

Robert L. Simon Council Chambers 

Keizer, Oregon 













This time is provided for citizens to address the Council on any matters other than those on the agenda scheduled for public hearing. 





a. Adobo Republic Liquor License Application 






a. RESOLUTION – Approving Underground Injection Control Management Plan and Authorizing Implementation of Plans 



b. RESOLUTION – Adopting Policies for Temporary Displaying Art Work at Keizer Community Center 



c. ORDINANCE – Amending Keizer Comprehensive Plan Relating to Economic Opportunities Analysis and Housing Needs Analysis; Amending Ordinance 87-077 






a. RESOLUTION – Extending City Manager’s Employment Contract (2014-2015) 



b. RESOLUTION – Extending City Attorney’s Employment Contract (2014-2015) 


Page 2 – December 2, 2013 Keizer City Council Agenda


c. RESOLUTION – Authorizing City Manager and Public Works Director to Execute Memoranda of Understanding Relating to the 2012-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement with Laborers International Union of North America, Local 320 



d. Approval of November 4, 2013 Regular Session Minutes 






a. Storm Water Advisory Committee Appointment 



b. Traffic Safety/Bikeways/Pedestrian Committee Appointment 



c. Parks Advisory Board Appointments 





This time is provided to allow the Mayor, City Council members, or staff an opportunity to bring new or old matters before the Council that are not on tonight’s agenda. 


a. New Business or Old Business Issues 





To inform the Council of significant written communications




December 9, 2013 

5:45 p.m. – City Council Work Session 




December 16, 2013 

7:00 p.m. – City Council Meeting 

January 6, 2014 

7:00 p.m. – City Council Meeting 




Upon request, auxiliary aids and/or special services will be provided. To request services, please contact us at (503)390-3700 or through Oregon Relay at 1-800-735-2900 at least two working days (48 hours) in advance. 

Keep the momentum going

Designer Jane Lewis Holman reveals the proposed design for the new playground at Keizer Rapids Park to a standing room-only crowd at Keizer Civic Center Nov. 14. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Designer Jane Lewis Holman reveals the proposed design for the new playground at Keizer Rapids Park to a standing room-only crowd at Keizer Civic Center Nov. 14. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

On the one hand, keeping the momentum going for the Keizer Rapids Park Playground Project (KRPPP) seems simple.

After all, more than 300 people filled Keizer Civic Center on Nov. 14 to see the proposed playground design be unveiled. The design came after more than 3,000 Keizer elementary students drew what they wanted to see.

On the other hand, the playground isn’t scheduled to be built until September 2014 and – more immediately – there are plenty of holiday events happening in Keizer.

So how are project leaders making sure to strike while the fire is hot?

“We’re not going to take any time off,” said city councilor Marlene Quinn, who chairs the Community Build Task Force overseeing the project. “We will keep recruiting volunteers from the community and from the schools.”

The task force will continue to meet the first Tuesday of each month, meaning the next meeting will be at 6 p.m. at city hall on Dec. 3 – yes, the same night and time for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Walery Plaza.

“This is really important,” Quinn said of the meeting time. “We can’t keep changing dates in December. I will probably miss the tree lighting this year.”

During the Design Day community celebration on Nov. 14, Quinn and task force co-chair Richard Walsh put out a call for project volunteers, since there are a number of committees and positions to be filled. Citizens were also informed of the chance to buy personalized fence pickets for $35.

“I know we gave out every fence picket form,” Quinn said. “Some people filled them out there. A lot of people took the forms. The fundraising committee will get together soon and get a packet of information together to take to companies and organizations. That’s one of the biggest things.”

Quinn noted project leaders are utilizing tools from consultant Leathers and Associates.

“They have given us the means,” Quinn said. “We just have to reinvent the wheel for Keizer. They’ve given us the tools to be successful.”

According to Quinn, getting more general coordinators for the project remains a high priority.

“Getting the general coordinators and getting the fundraising committee going are the two things we have to get going by the end of this year,” she said. “For a lot of businesses, this is the budget time. They make those decisions in January and February. That’s why we need to get the packets out.”

Quinn said Carolyn Ream – chair of the children’s committee – and others will keep interest up in the local schools.

“What we did to get the parents to the Design Day, we need to keep doing it,” Quinn said. “Parents wanted to see why their children were so excited. That’s why we will keep going to the schools. Whatever it takes for us to keep the community involved, that’s what we will do.”

Fellow city councilor Cathy Clark noted the enthusiasm around the project.

“Everybody I know who attended the (Design Day) event was so positive and excited,” Clark told Walsh at last week’s council meeting. “The feedback from around the community is one of great excitement. Let’s keep the momentum going.”

Designer Jane Lewis Holman emphasized during Design Day how various people can help. That includes children ages 10 to 13 being able to work with a parent.

“We’re celebrating the start of a really cool project,” Holman said. “On these projects, 75 percent of the work is done by unskilled people, i.e. people uncomfortable with power tools.”

Fundamental shift at KPD


John Teague, who took over as Keizer's police chief in September, is reorganizing the Keizer Police Department and changing the department to be problem-oriented, which entails looking at problems and figuring out how to prevent them from happening again, rather than simply responding. (File)
John Teague, who took over as Keizer’s police chief in September, is reorganizing the Keizer Police Department and changing the department to be problem-oriented, which entails looking at problems and figuring out how to prevent them from happening again, rather than simply responding. (File)

Of the Keizertimes

John Teague figured the process would take two years.

Try two months, instead.

When the former Keizer Police Department captain took over as police chief from the retiring Marc Adams in September, he brought with him a change in philosophy: moving the KPD from an agency that simply responded to crime to one that seeks to understand the core problem and how to prevent that problem from happening again.

“To move to seeking out problems and solving them so we don’t need to use law enforcement tools, that’s a sea change,” Teague said. “I’m trying to make problem-oriented policing the way we do business.”

Teague shared the philosophy when he interviewed for the job and found support from those he talked to, including city manager Chris Eppley.

“I was not surprised by it,” Eppley said. “It’s something we had talked about after it was apparent he was going to be the successful candidate. He and I have talked about that concept in the past, when he worked for us previously. I think that Chief Teague is on the right track with the changes he is making. I support him and his changes 100 percent.”

Without the support from Eppley and the freedom to make such a philosophical change at the KPD, Teague likely would have continued as the police chief in Dallas.

“My boss, the city manager, can do what he wants,” Teague said. “If he says I can’t do it, I can’t do it. He has been fully informed from the beginning and has been fully supportive. If he had said no, it would have been a tug of war. I mentioned this in concrete terms in my job interview I wouldn’t have come here if it was not going to be allowed.”

As it turns out, Teague got support from many others besides Eppley. Members of the Keizer Police Association (KPA) and people in various ranks within the KPD quickly bought in.

“When I met with the KPA, a couple of them came to me to say they were rejuvenated,” Teague said. “They had lost some of their (hope). Most get into law enforcement to do something meaningful. The guys are hungry for it, man. A number of our cops are in the middle of their careers. They’re looking for a little more meaningfulness. They’ve got the techniques. They get it. I’m not at all surprised they’re smart enough to get it, I’m just surprised to move it along as quickly as we did.”

Teague was figuring he would have to do a lot of selling to make the change work.

“I figured I would have a whole lot of educating and conversations over the next months and years,” he said. “It turns out it isn’t the case at all. What does have to happen is we have to have enough problems, identify the problems and solutions for it to become second nature to us. Hopefully a year from now we will recognize intrinsically what the problem is.”

Teague noted roughly two-thirds of what police agencies do don’t involve crimes.

“We assist in the maintenance of social order,” he said. “Neighbors do that by maintaining orderly relations in their neighborhood. Sometimes they have to call in the cops to do that. We want to do that in a fashion that no one goes to jail. We would prefer to not have to do that. That’s good for the neighbors, for Keizer and our state. When done right, cops find it very rewarding.”

In short, the new philosophy changes the department to a proactive mode.

“In the past, law enforcement was largely in reactive mode,” Teague said. “We responded and took the calls. It wasn’t part of our language to figure out a solution to make the problem go away. We would just keep responding to the thefts, for example. Now we are thinking, ‘Why are they happening and how can we make them stop?’ Then the officers carry through and make suggestions that get carried out. Now they own the problems and solutions. That’s so far removed from what has been done in law enforcement the last two to three decades.”

Along with the philosophical shift has been an organizational change. While the number of bodies remains the same, titles and responsibilities have been altered.

An example: Captain Jeff Kuhns is now the Deputy Chief of Police. Previously lieutenants reported to Kuhns, then to Teague. Now, they respond directly to Teague.

“He’s not in the chain of command, but Jeff has an integral role,” Teague said. “He and I work in tandem. It’s a change in his duties, but an increase in his responsibility and ability to influence change.”

Andrew Copeland, promoted to sergeant this spring, has been promoted to patrol lieutenant. A fifth detective position has been added, while a support lieutenant position has also been added. The Community Response Unit (CRU), formerly under the investigations umbrella, is now under patrol.

“I want them to get ahead of problems, saturate areas and solve problems,” Teague said of CRU. “It used to be they responded to crimes, then fixed it. We’ll still do that now, but more so to get ahead of crime in the area. We’ll try to figure out what the problem is. We’ll throw CRU at that. In neighborhoods where crime is prevalent now, we will be active there, meet the neighbors and build a sense of community to make these neighborhoods better places to live, where crime is not welcome.”

With problem-oriented policing now being implemented, is there another large philosophical change on the horizon for law enforcement agencies?

“The answer is no,” Teague said. “There are a number of policing strategies that have arisen in the last four decades. The academics are saying right now we are beyond these radical changes. We’re not going to see them. Part of it is the federal government has throttled back a lot on research dollars, so money is not behind development of new ones.

“Part of it also in law enforcement is we need a period of rest so these current strategies can be vetted and refined,” he added. “We’re in the early stages of refining these strategies. Law enforcement in general has done a poor job identifying problems and solutions. We’ve done a good job making a shallow identity of a problem, then throwing traditional law enforcement tools at it. That’s brought us to where we are now.”

Going hungry

During each holiday season Americans, for whom hunger is not an issue, become more generous and donate food or money to food banks and local food drives.

Donations to our local food banks are taking on an increased urgency this season. More families are relying on food banks to put nutritious meals on their tables. None of us want to imagine ourselves sitting down to a meager meal,  not to mention other families with children.

Benefit increases to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that were part of President Obama’s stimulus plan several years ago have ended. Families who are on SNAP will receive the same benefits they did before; though the inflation rate is low overall, food prices have not been stagnant.

Many people think that when people use food stamps (SNAP) they are on it forever. That is not universally true; for many, SNAP and food banks are temporary bridges that help during times of need. Too many people go hungry through no fault of their own—loss of employment, decreased labor hours, unexpected expenses that cut into food budgets.  Families who wouldn’t have at least one nutritious meal a day without help should not be pitied or criticized. They don’t want to have to accept free food anymore than any of us.

The hunger problem is especially acute in Marion County. Keizer residents may not always know which of their neighbors are in need; it’s not something proud Americians like to talk about. A person driving through Keizer would be excused for thinking that our city is doing all right, they see sizable homes and vehicles and nice amenities.

The reality can be found in our schools. A large number of children in our elementary, middle and high schools are eligible for reduced price or free meals. That means those children are food insecure meaning they don’t have three meals a day and some wouldn’t eat at all if it weren’t for the school food programs.

To augment meals taken at school families in need visit the local food banks including Keizer Community Food Bank. The need is growing. Four thousand four hundred more families sought food assistance from Marion Polk Food Share and its nearly 100 food charity partners. That’s why pantry shelves at food banks quickly go bare. Almost 8 million pounds of food crossed the docks at Marion Polk Food Share last year, 5.7 million pounds were donated by growers, manufacturers, retailers and food drives.

Marion County has the highest level of child poverty in Oregon. In 2011 25,000 county children were living in poverty; almost 40,000 children were being assisted by SNAP food stamps.

Keizer Community Food Bank fills its shelves each month with donations from the public and from food drives. The bulk of Keizer’s food comes from Marion Polk Food Share itself. A visit and tour of Marion Polk Food Share is a real eye-opener.  One sees a large warehouse stacked to the ceiling with boxes and boxes of non-perishable food items; the freezer is stuffed.  There is a constant flow of food coming in and going right out again to the food pantries around the region.

Ameicans and Keizerites are a generous people. The Keizer Network of Women’s annual Christmas Basket program gathers toys and food to serve 139 families. Members of Keizer Elks collect and give out food to families as do the staff and volunteers at Marion County Fire District #1. As a community we gather thousands and thousands of pounds of food during the holidays.

Many people work hard throughout the year to alleviate hunger in our area but the problem lingers. As a community we must continue to work to lessen food insecurity without judgement but with a generous heart.


Parks are not a utility

To the Editor:

Let me first say that I support parks and am willing to help fund them, but only when the funding isn’t collected via a utility bill.

Next November there will most likely be a ballot measure asking for funding for parks. The idea at this point is to tack on a parks fee to your water/utility bill. This is just wrong. Utility bills are for utilities!

The reasoning for this collection method is to insure continued funding for parks. What this really means is the proponents do not believe the citizens should be able to vote for or against future funding. If a fee is instituted, can the council then up the fee any time they want without voter approval? Will the administration fee on the water bill go up as well?

In order to insure the parks money is being spent wisely, future needs should be addressed periodically and the voters should actually have a say on funding. I would support a levy for tax based approach much like the Fire District has. This will insure accountability and keep the voters in the loop.

A vote for a fee on a utility bill is a vote to give up your vote on future increases. A vote for a tax based levy is a responsible method to fund parks.

Ted Plumb

Worst day of the year?


If I say ‘the worst day of the year,’ everybody will think of a different day.

If I say the most chaotic day, more people might have a similar day in mind.

I’m referring to National American Consumer’s Holiday for Shopping, Sales, and Bargains Day (NACHFSSABD). In colloquial terms, it’s Black Friday. Obviously, the day is entitled after Black Frida, the inventor. This is the day that we, American consumers, lose our minds. Americans take advantage of the reduced prices on NACHFSSABD.

National American Consumer’s Holiday for Shopping, Sales, and Bargains Day is crammed with happiness and cherished by many. Although Black Friday appears as a day of beneficence, it’s a day of malevolence. The effects of NACHFSSABD are devastating. Unfortunately, this time of year came again.

When it comes to naming things, humanity can always depend on American creativity. Gold Friday is a better fit for the day that most folks do their Christmas shopping: On NACHFSSABD every shopper strikes a gold mine. Unless “black” is an economical term—which I am sure it is—there’s no reason for choosing the word “black.” Connotations of the word “black” may include dark, violent, and bad. “Black” isn’t a positive color. People don’t go around at night saying, “What a beautiful color the sky is,” and, “Why,   what lovely pupils you have.” Like the negative inferences of the word, Black Friday has negative effects on American consumers.

Without a doubt, low prices attract more people but cause human traffic. Every year, there are countless shoppers waiting outside The Dollar Tree for Black Friday. Lingering wastes time. Even after entering a store, there are still lines inside—waiting.

While waiting, people go from idiotic to even more idiotic due to sleep deprivation. Sleep deficiency leads to fatigue. Fatigue leads to poor judgment. Poor judgment leads to a fist fight on aisle nine. A fist fight on aisle nine leads to a toothless smile. A toothless smile leads to unemployment. Unemployment leads to a life of crime. A life of crime leads to the theft and assault of one old lady whose purse contains 79 cents. The theft and assault of one old lady whose purse contains 79 cents leads to prison. Prison equals misery. Don’t go to Black Friday. Get sleep. Deciding to shop over sleep on Black Friday leads to negative consequences.

On Black Friday once consumers are in the stores, even if they spent their entire Thanksgiving sleeping, conflicts will emerge. Low prices are more affordable. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true that cheaper prices make people want to buy more. This may appear as a good feature, but it isn’t; there are penalties. The effects of this madness, brings out the evil in people. Screaming for the last video game is a frequent scene on Black Friday. Even if an item has an abundant inventory, voices will be raised because buyers want “that” one. There is always aggression in electronics. Black Friday rips judgment right out of consumers. Competition results in aggression.

I find it quite facetious that crime increases on a day where pretty much everything has a price cut—so malicious of me. Apparently a couple in Tallahassee, Fl. gunned down another couple over an argument about a parking place, and in San Antonio, Texas a man pulled a gun on a line-cutter. Humanity loses its human aspect; the human aspect is what separates us from the animals.

The most fundamental effect of them all is the loss of thanks. Black Friday is no longer just on Friday. Stores now open for Black Friday the day before, which is Thanksgiving. Instead of spending time with family and friends, many Americans loiter outside stores on Thanksgiving because some stores now open at eight in the evening on Thursday.

The avarice and ambition to prepare for the giving season now has more importance than the giving thanks time of year. It’s embarrassing that humans have to establish a time for thanks and giving. Thanks and giving should be all the time, but then the seasons of thanks and giving would lose their magnitude. I blame Black Frida, the architect, for all the desolation that NACHFSSABD causes.

(Evan Rummerfield is a senior at McNary High School.)

We all have a role in schooling kids

A Box of Soap

Do you see public schools as good, bad, or barely adequate?  There are teachers in my family and among our family friends.  From Salem-Keizer schools to the state of education in America, the subject often surfaces in conversation at our home.

If we all agreed that there was a need to improve the education of our kids, could we also agree on how to do that?  If we look at the flood of studies available they are liable to contradict some of our closely held beliefs.

A Harvard study showed that in 2009 Utah spent $6,356 per pupil while New York spent $18,126 per pupil, yet a larger percentage of Utah’s students graduated from high school. A simple increase in spending is not always the answer.

Everyone would like to see smaller classroom sizes, but even that does not guarantee better student results.  Classroom size in Finland averages 20, in Korea it is 34, yet both rank at the top of the list in student knowledge.

One variable that does have some consistency is that better qualified teachers have a measurable effect on increasing student test scores.  Many of these countries pay teachers at wages competitive with other professionals, including engineers.  More than that, there is much stronger support, including professional development, continuing education, and mentoring.   College students shouldn’t have to sacrifice substantial lifetime earnings just to choose a teaching career. The thing held in common by those nations with the most accomplished students is that they value teachers.

Let’s say that the most important responsibility and privilege given to adults is taking care of their children.  Taking that responsibility seriously would mean recognizing the staggeringly important role a teacher plays in the growth of your child.  If the average kid spends the average couple hours watching TV/smart phone/video gaming each day, then the adults they spend the most face time with are teachers.

Recognizing teachers as full partners in raising your kids would mean understanding their worth.  The man that can repair the alternator in your car may earn more.  The lawyer who includes your children in your will makes a lot more. The professional that repairs a cavity in their teeth makes a bunch more. The NFL games we watch are played by men valued in the millions of dollars, the same as actors in blah movies.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Priorities.

The real actors here are us. It all begins with parents. Schools that are expected to feed, counsel, and babysit kids outside of classroom instruction cannot devote themselves solely to academics.  The major frustration voiced by these teachers nearing the end of their rope is classroom discipline.  Some of you have a couple of children, some of you four or five.  You don’t need much imagination to see the difficulty of keeping classroom order if you are given 20 or 25 kids whose behavior you can’t immediately and forcefully correct.  With no statistics at all to support the thought, I bet that 34 kids in a Korean classroom have a different level of decorum than here.  What change might happen if an uncontrollable child removed from class could only return with one-on-one presence of his parent.

This is too important to leave for a dysfunctional Congress.   Assume that parents are on their own for making schools better.  That’s how it should be.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.)