Camas, WA — Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Jeff Snell and Mayor Scott Higgins addressed the public Tuesday evening at the annual Camas State of the Community presentation at Lacamas Lake Lodge.
It was the final public address for Higgins, who retires his position this month. Camas School Board President, Doug Quinn, served as Master of Ceremonies.
Snell addressed the following:
- District size
- State assessments, national assessments, and secondary pathways
- Beyond the classroom: Student mentoring, student activities, student athletics, intramural options
- Social-emotional learning
- The learning experience
- History and vision of Camas schools
- Challenges and opportunities
CSD is now a medium to large school district with 7,100 students, 1,000 employees, six elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools.
“We think about the future of our kids,” said Snell. “We want students to feel part of the community, and … we want to inspire kids with their learning. They learn because they’re excited about it.”
“Our kids are doing well with the assessments,” said Snell. “But we need to prepare them for the future, and we know they will have 12-15 job changes in their future careers. Kids need to learn how to learn.”
Beyond the Classroom
Snell praised the effectiveness of student mentoring programs, and how student activities and athletic events unite a community. He also said that CSD is introducing an athletic intramural program, and will report on its effectiveness at a later date.
Snell said that Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is broadly understood as a process through which people build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships and making responsible decisions, leading to success in school and life. Research shows that SEL on a large scale supports better performing and more positive school communities.
“It’s one thing to know how to do math,” he said. “But, it’s another thing to learn how to navigate the world, and how to interact with others. To know where your strengths are, to know what your weaknesses are.”
The Learning Experience
“In order to engage them, and not just to engage them, but to inspire them, we want them to want to learn,” said Snell. “… We want to connect people with the reason why we are doing things. If we do that, we find that students are way more motivated. Workers are more motivated … We really try to personalize the learning.”
History and Vision
Snell praised former school boards that had vision, which was laid out in multiple phases, starting with Skyridge in 1994-1999 and moving to build multiple schools and the renovated Doc Harris Stadium.
Challenges and Opportunities
Snell outlined several challenges:
Student engagement: Educators continue to look for best ways to engage students.
Preparing our students for life after K12: Wants to make sure that CSD is adequately preparing kids for adulthood.
Social Emotional Health: He said social media puts unnecessary pressure on youth.
Growth and sustainable systems: “The new state funding model doesn’t benefit our community, and other communities will benefit more now. And it’s hard to do, it’s like health care reform.”
Federal government funding: “It has gone down, and I believe that school choice should happen within
Local levy: “We’ve been able to grow with local funds. New model caps the local funding, and we’re not able to keep pace. We’ve always been at the mercy of the legislature and the biennium. If this doesn’t change, then we’re heading for an unsustainable model, and we will need to have a conversation around priorities.”
Experience factor: “We have an experienced staff, and we used to get more funding for veteran teachers. We did well under the old model, but the new model just gives a set amount per teacher, and that’s a real problem.”
Regionalization: “I looked at the cost of living in particular regions. We received the highest regionalization so we got a 12% bump in funding. Other regions got more, others got less. In 2020, they will back off 1% of that, so we see challenges down the road.”
Special education funding: These are students that have the highest needs. We’ve had to use local funding historically to do that, with the levies.”
Higgins addressed his 17-year history of public service in Camas, and all the changes that have happened during that period, starting with the population. In 2002, the population was 14,085. Today, it’s 23,770.
“Camas will stay special because of the people who live here,” Higgins said. “Jobs is what put Camas on the map, and we’ve always made sure that jobs are an important part of our community. People want to bring their businesses here. I’m also really proud of the families who make up this community.”
Elected to the Camas City Council in 2002, Higgins became Mayor in 2011, and he said during that time he was first elected Camas was working really hard to ensure that downtown was successful — and noted it was struggling at that time.
He talked about the excitement of the many downtown events, and how those events unite the community, and addressed success points during his tenure, which include:
- City expansion east of Lacamas Lake
- Camas turned 100 years old
- Green Mountain and North Shore annexations
- Downtown Camas Association founded
- Construction of Lacamas Lake Lodge
- Modernizing city services with new technology
- The current Parade of Homes
- North shore Lacamas Legacy Lands Project
- Currently 880 existing acres parkland acreage in the Lacamas Lake corridor
- City staff working to secure another 140 acres for parkland — before they are converted into developments
“Camas is surrounded with good leadership,” said Higgins. “We have an amazing council. They work hard to find common ground. They have a skill and that is the ability to try to find common ground. They don’t get polarized. They have that vision; they have that ability. Your staff at city hall is like no other. They figure out how to save our citizen’s money. They show up.”
“I just want to make sure you need to have tremendous confidence in our city council and staff, and that the city was built to be successful. I’ve had the honor of serving with 15 different council members, three Superintendents, and two mayors. I can say that ‘I love them.’ I love them because they love Camas, and that’s why Camas has been successful. So, I will just tell you I will be leaving some things in Camas, but I will not be leaving my Papermakers. I will always be a Papermaker.”
“We had a lot of changes happen in the city, and we’ve lost many of those mill jobs, and that causes you to be sad. It hurts deeply when those things happen, but we’ll be OK. Camas still has its identity, it still has its heart.”