A Message from the Superintendent

Posted by John Higgins on Wednesday, Aug 26th, 2015.

It's the time of year when the sights and sounds of teams practicing on Mel Ingram remind us that a new school year is just around the corner. I hope all of our students and families had an enjoyable and restful summer break.

As I begin my last school year as superintendent, I am reminded of all we have to be grateful for in our District and community. As this message is being written, additional elementary classrooms are being completed that will facilitate full day kindergarten, a significant step forward in early childhood education. This year will also see an expansion in extended learning opportunities for students from expanded robotics participation to business internship opportunities for high school students. Elementary Learning Centers will provide greater opportunities for elementary students to stay "on track", while a new "Check and Connect" pilot mentoring program will enhance high school transition support.

Last spring, I posted a blog titled "The Importance of Community Partnerships" stressing the importance of partnering with our community support agencies to expand learning opportunities and to better leverage available student/family support services, recognizing that it truly takes a village to educate a child. This year, for example, our summer lunch program partnered with Early Intervention and College Dreams to add a story reading/book give away component to encourage student and family reading over the summer.

Even more importantly, finding effective ways to increase family engagement in their student's education is vital if we want to motivate our students to recognize that they can realize their potential if they are willing to work hard and view setbacks as just another opportunity to learn and succeed. We must also understand that in today's society "family" means a responsible, caring adult including not only immediate and extended family members but also friends, teachers, administrators, coaches, mentors, community volunteers, support agency professionals and more.

The District will be pursuing these and other strategies to reach our goal of College and Career Readiness for all of our students.

So Welcome Back District 7, let's make it a great year!

Posted by John Higgins on Thursday, Mar 26th, 2015.

The well-known phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" refers to the truism that raising and educating our children is truly a communal effort. Our District currently partners with many community organizations to support our students throughout their K-12 education. Head Start, Josephine County Early Education, the Boys & Girls Club, Aspire and College Dreams are just some of the community organizations that provide critical early learning, extended learning and mentoring support helping to keep our students on track to realize their full potential. 

PTA's, the Four Way Foundation, the Josephine County Educational Foundation, Rotary and other local service clubs, banks and other businesses provide vital financial support to help fund technology expansion, facility enhancement and scholarship opportunities for our students.

Parent and other volunteers provide invaluable educational support in our classrooms and extracurricular programs that would otherwise be unavailable given the fiscal challenges Oregon school districts have faced in recent years.

This year the District developed and started using a "GP on Track" system that tracks our students' academic, attendance and behavior information in order to identify those students at risk of not staying on track to graduate so support interventions are provided for students as early as possible. These interventions include mentoring support which is not only provided by District personnel but also in partnership with a number of community organizations.

Extended learning opportunities is another area in which community partnerships play a key role as the Boys and Girls Club and other after school programs provide valuable (and increasing) extended learning time for our students. The District continues to pursue other community partnership possibilities to increase educational support alternatives going forward.

In summary, we are very fortunate to live in a community that truly "steps up" for our students to give them the support they need to be successful. We should not only celebrate these community partnerships but also continue to explore new and creative ways to partner as a community to better serve our students.

Posted by John Higgins on Friday, Nov 14th, 2014.

Just as the leaves changing color lets us know what a wonderful time fall is in our community, it also reminds us how fortunate we are to call Grants Pass our home. From the Homecoming Cavalcade Parade to all the wonderful fall athletic, band and other student activities going on across our school district, they are all reminders of what we have to be grateful for as we enter the holiday season.

This year we are focusing on the importance of motivation and how each of us can be a positive influence in helping our students believe that they can accomplish their goals and why it is important for them to work hard to do so.  These goals are going to be different for each student but the overall objective is to prepare every student for a full and productive life, defined by their individual talents and interests.

Being grateful is a key companion of motivation for no one achieves success without the help of others. When we take time to recognize this, it motivates us to work harder as a way of saying thank you for all that our educators, families and community have done on our behalf.

So as we enjoy the many blessings we share in our school community, let's take time to pause and be grateful. Grateful for this place we call home, grateful that "We are GP" and grateful it's where we come from…

"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude."   - Alfred North Whitehead

Posted by John Higgins on Monday, Aug 25th, 2014.

"If you can imagine it, you can achieve it, if you can dream it, you can become it."-William Arthur Ward

Since the School Board's proclamation in December 2012 committing to build and maintain a collaborative learning culture throughout our District, considerable progress has been made to:

  • Establish clear learning objectives for our students;
  • Enhance our ability to know if students are reaching these objectives; and
  • Intervene to support them if they aren't and challenge them if they are.

These efforts include District support for over 160 collaboration and professional development grants involving teachers from subject areas and grade levels across the District. Access to regularly updated student academic, attendance and behavioral information has been developed to help provide timely student "on-track" profiles. School schedules with embedded invention/enrichment time are now in place so students can receive the individualized support and additional challenges they need.

Even so, no matter how much progress is made to develop a collaborative learning culture in our District, unless students are motivated to learn, our efforts will fall short. So as we begin the 2014-15 school year, our new challenge will be to address the following question:

"How can we better motivate our students to stay on track and fully realize their post-secondary potential?"

Students can be motivated to learn if they are convinced that they have the ability to learn and why it is important for them to work hard to learn. Convincing a student they have the ability to do the task and motivating them to take on more challenging tasks is directly related to a student's sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, research shows that although most students start school with a high level of self-esteem and intrinsic motivation to learn, they tend to lose these traits as they get older. As students get older, their need for approval and belonging increase, which can lead to students prioritizing socializing and being popular over working hard to learn.

All members of our District 7 learning community (teachers, counsellors, administrators, support staff, parents and volunteers) can play a role in motivating our students to believe in themselves and helping them realize why it's important for them to work hard to realize their educational goals. All of us can make a commitment to:

  • Recognize that times have changed for today's students;
  • Work to build genuine relationships by understanding the basic needs of all students; and
  • Help our students see the importance of hard work, achievement and the resulting sense of accomplishment.

Join with us as we pull together on the next phase of our collaborative learning community journey by realizing the importance of motivation in our students' education.

Posted by Superintendent John Higgins on Tuesday, Jun 17th, 2014.

As the 2013-14 school year comes to a close, we are reminded of all the things we have to be grateful for and which we sometimes take for granted. Attending our recent high school graduation and seeing the parade of graduates receive their diplomas (accompanied by our orchestra and choir's inspirational rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") was a joyful tribute to the successful completion of another school year and a significant accomplishment for our graduating seniors. At the same time, the recent tragedy at Reynolds High School outside Portland is a sobering reminder that we need to remain ever vigilant in our constant and continuing efforts to keep our students and staff safe. Thankfully, the recently completed Oregon Educator Tell Survey showed overwhelming agreement that our schools are a safe, supportive environment for our staff to work and our students to learn.

As we look forward to next year, we need to increase our efforts to ensure that all of our students are learning what they need to remain on track for college or career readiness. The recently approved 2014-15 budget (which is subject to Board adoption later this month) includes strategic investments to help accomplish this goal. With these investments our District will be better poised to identify struggling students and provide them with the support and interventions they need to remain on track.

A critical part of this intervention process is to motivate struggling students by showing them they are capable of achieving their educational goals and why it is important that they do so. Research shows that students are most likely to successfully engage in school-based learning activities if they have confidence in their ability to do well and place a high value on their education. This confidence is developed by students receiving strong, consistent messages reinforcing their academic ability from parents, teachers and peers. This research also shows that students place a high value on learning based on various factors including whether they enjoy what is being taught and its relevance to what they want to accomplish. It is critical that as members of the our educational and greater Grants Pass community, we remember that we all have a role in helping our students build their academic confidence and making their learning experience a valuable and essential part of their lives.

Posted by Superintendent John Higgins on Monday, May 5th, 2014.

One only has to drop by the Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center (GPHS PAC) during one of the events held there each year to get a sense of the importance of this facility to our community. Whether you're going to watch your child or grandchild perform, enjoy a GPHS musical production or a symphony performance, you can't help but see the impact the GPHS PAC has had and continues in making our community such a special place to live.

Opening in 1999, the GPHS PAC is currently in its 15th year of operation, averaging 175 events each year. GPHS PAC Director Steve Daggett estimates that more than 1 million audience members have attended events there over the past 15 years. The 800 seat facility is the largest stage and auditorium between Eugene and Redding with a full size loft and professional sound and lighting systems.  The facility also boasts a state of the art concert/symphony acoustical shell which was funded through patron donations including a generous gift from the Richard Steffey family.

Use of this wonderful facility is currently split evenly between Grants Pass School District related events and other community performances with the stage being used for rehearsals and performances 320 days of the year. Community group related events include performances by Community Concerts, the Rogue Valley Symphony, local dance and theatre groups, as well as various travelling and touring shows. The center is also used for community meetings/forums, as well as Three Rivers and other Rogue Valley school district events.

In a letter thanking District patrons for their support in building the GPHS PAC, School Board Member Debbie Brownell expressed the School Board's gratitude stating "Thousands of children, elementary, through high school, have sung, played, and performed on stage at the GPHS PAC.  Thousands of parents, grandparents, community supporters, and patrons of the arts, have clapped, cheered, and smiled with joy at their accomplishments. Programs have grown, flourished and blossomed, spreading appreciation and education through the community.  The beauty, acoustics, and infrastructure built into the PAC is a tribute to the vision, trust, and generosity of this community."

The GPHS PAC is truly a community treasure that continues to enrich and help define our community 15 years after welcoming its first audience.

Posted by Superintendent John Higgins on Monday, Mar 24th, 2014.

Five Grants Pass High School winter sport/activity teams were recently recognized for their combined team grade point averages. This OSAA recognition program, sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Oregon, celebrates outstanding student athlete achievement in the classroom. Congratulations to the following teams and coaches for this outstanding achievement!



Team GPA

Boys Basketball

Jeff Huston


Girls Basketball

Scott Wakefield


Girls Swimming

Marlo Manzanares


Boys Swimming

Marlo Manzanares


Dance and Drill

Joy Huston