Change abounds as Malheur County kids head back to school

As Malheur County students return to the classroom, schools across the county have many new faces, from superintendents to teachers, coaches and principals. 

Meantime, Mark Redmond, the Malheur County Education Service District superintendent, said recently passed legislation to boost reading scores across the state will help educators bolster efforts in the coming years to raise reading scores across the county. 

Redmond said a little more than $40,000 of state allocations went out to area school districts less than a month ago. He said some are mulling hiring a part-time instructor, purchasing a new curriculum, or establishing an early literacy consortium with part-time reading coaches. He said since information and funds just went out to the districts, programs will not take shape until next year. 

Redmond said countywide reading scores were down last year. On a scale from 1 to 5, with five being the highest, students in Malheur County scored a two. However, for the test that measures growth, kids scored a four. 

The test scores revealed that kids are coming into kindergarten below where they need to be in reading, which, he said, is why there is such a big push across the county to boost early learning or preschool for kids in Malheur County. 

Redmond said abundant research shows that kids who do not learn to read by the third grade are “swimming upstream” academically. 

According to researchers, reading by the end of third grade is considered a key benchmark because students must be able to read in subsequent grades to learn math, science, social studies and other subjects. 

Meantime, Redmond said, only a third of Malheur County kids are enrolled in early learning. However, efforts to expand preschool are beginning to take shape. Last year, Redmond said, the education service district opened an early learning care center in Ontario. This year, he said, there will be two full classes.

In Adrian, according to Superintendent Nick Ketterling, opening a preschool in the district has been made a priority. Last year, he said, Adrian sought but did not get funding through Preschool Promise, a state program for low-income families, and a federal immigration organization. 

He said the district would continue seeking money to open such a program.

The idea is to ensure that children from low-income homes start at the same place as other kids who can attend preschool. 

“We’re really looking at trying to get that support for those kids who don’t have the same opportunities so that they’re coming in with the same opportunities or close to the same as the others,” Ketterling said.  

Attendance ordinance 

One change for students and parents is that Malheur County’s truancy ordinance goes into effect. Under the ordinance, a parent or guardian can be cited for a student’s chronic absence, defined as missing 10% or more of scheduled school days. 

A school district superintendent or the education district superintendent must provide the student and the responsible adult with written notification before police can issue a citation. The notice would require the student and the responsible adult to attend a conference with a school official. 

If a student continues to miss school or does not attend the conference, they risk being cited by law enforcement. 

Those cited are required to appear at the Malheur County Justice Court with a parent or guardian. 

A parent or responsible adult can be fined up to $500 for the first offense and a second penalty of up to $1,000 for a second offense.

Here’s a look at changes in local school districts.


This year, the largest school district in the county is bringing on 15 new teachers, three learning specialists, two counselors, and a school systems coach, according to Taryn Smith, the district’s public relations coordinator. 

The additional staff, teachers and “instructional supports” will help fill many of the pandemic-era “voids and barriers” that resulted from the lockdowns and restrictions that impeded kids learning. 

“This year,” Smith said, “we are excited to be able to streamline instruction and really intentionally work with our students and staff.”

At Alameda Elementary, Lucas Tackman, former Vale High School principal, is returning to the school as a vice principal. Leonel Martinez will be the athletic director and vice principal at Ontario Middle School. At the same time, Jeremy Berquist will step in as vice principal at the high school to replace Chad Hartley, who took over as principal at Vale High School. 

The district also added a pair of speech language pathologists, Tabitha Syme and Lisa Newman. 


 The Nyssa School District has many new faces this year. The start of the school year will see a new principal at the elementary school. As the elementary school’s principal, Shane Pratt will step in, replacing Matt Murray, who has take on a role as the district’s federal programs director.

Pratt is new to Nyssa but new to education, having been an administrator in the Umatilla, Hermiston and a charter school in Idaho over his career that spans more than two decades. 

Tricia Book, Pratt’s vice principal, who the district hired in December, was made permanent in March, according to Superintendent Ryan Hawkins. 

The elementary school has six new educators. Lauren Dalton will teach English as a second language and Erin DeAnda and Paola Delgado will teach second grade, while Chelsea Mendez, Courtney Lewis and Kaylee DeWitt will teach third grade. 

Additionally, the district hired Miraiha Mendoza as an instructional assistant. 

Hawkins said the district hired art teacher Kacie Shaffer, who will teach at both the middle and high school. Shaffer most recently taught in Ontario and Vale. Former Alameda Elementary School teacher Katrina Dayton will teach math at the middle school.

Hawkins said Kristina Hernandez, Nyssa’s former office manager and librarian, will move to the classroom this year and teach English at the middle school along with Naomi Gallegos, who was an elementary instructional assistant last year. This year, Hawkins said, Gallegos will be a middle and high school resource room teacher. 

According to Hawkins, Andrea Arant will be the new vice principal at the middle school after teaching math at the elementary and middle school. He also said that Arant has been a summer school principal and coach during her tenure at Nyssa.

Hawkins said this year, at the middle school level, the district added academic support during the last period of the day. He said this time would allow students to make up an assignment, get help in a class they might be struggling in, or give students time to complete a required task at the end of the day. 

Historically, he said the final period of the day is when the school sees the most absences. The time also helps minimize interruptions because it will allow for school assemblies, class meetings, or other activities. 

Another goal of the support period is to mentor students and check in with them during that time, Hawkins said. 

“It’s a time for students to get that support from teachers that day,” Hawkins said. “That’s really the goal.” 

It remains unclear if the high school will offer the same support period, Hawkins said. The school would likely need a zero period, typically a class that starts early in the morning, to add the support period, according to Hawkins.

Hawkins said the district is stepping up tracking students’ grades and additional metrics through their database, which compiles their performance from early elementary school.  

Should a student have behavior issues, miss an assignment, or have a low score on a quiz, an administrator can reach out to the student, parent, or teacher to provide help. 

“We’re really thinking about how we can do a good job,” Hawkins said. 


Alisha McBride, the Vale School District superintendent, said this year, the district’s career and technical education department will roll out its certified nursing assistant program. The program will offer dual credit courses, classes that count as high school and college credit. 

McBride said the district will cover the tuition costs for the dual courses to provide equitable access. 

Jeri Schaffeld, most recently a district diagnostician, will step in as principal at Willowcreek Elementary School this year. Willowcreek will have a new physical education teacher, Jake DeLong and a third and fourth grade teacher, Monica Flynn. 

Meantime, Vale Elementary School will also have four new teachers – Bo Lord, kindergarten; Payton Anderson, third grade; Lindi Robertson, sixth grade and Makena Cecil, special education. 

Emily Cade and David Scheidegger, both English teachers, will teach at Vale Middle School and Vale High School, respectively. 


Ketterling said with a new science teacher joining the district, the high school will provide dual credit courses that count as high school and college credit, a first for Adrian. 

Ketterling said Jennifer Gray, a long-time educator who taught at Treasure Valley Community College, the Ontario School District and Snake River Correctional Institution, will teach computer science and biology classes. 

The high school will also have a Western civilization dual credit course. 

Ketterling said the fifth-grade classroom at the elementary school will have a former student as its new teacher. 

Amanda Devos, who at Alameda Elementary School in Ontario, is taking the reins from her former teacher, Shawn Garrison, who taught in Adrian for over 30 years.

“It’s really cool to have that dynamic that she was one of her former students,” Ketterling said.  

Four Rivers Community School 

Chelle Robins, superintendent of Four Rivers Community School, said this year the district is rolling out a new math curriculum and will be working on integrating the state’s early literacy initiative into its dual language program. 

Robins said the district hired two new teachers, Kelly Tolman and Elizabeth Hale, at the district’s Senior Preparatory School, or high school. 

Tolman, who taught in Adrian last year, will teach math, while Hale, who taught in the Huntington School District, will teach English. 

Mario Grimaldo will take over as head coach of the boys soccer team and Marcus Zacarias will step in as head coach of the boys varsity basketball team. 

Harper Charter School 

Ron Talbot, Harper Charter School superintendent, said with the addition of Jason Sherman to the school’s FFA program, the district is now offering FFA courses to seventh and eighth graders. 

Additionally, Talbot said the school expanded its automotive program to the middle school. 

He said last year, the school brought in an academic counselor, who has been instrumental in getting students into dual credit courses and helping students stay on track to graduate. 

A fire destroyed the maintenance and welding shop the night before the school’s graduation ceremonies. Talbot said the district is currently going out for bids, and the goal is to rebuild the shop sometime after the holidays this year. 

Jordan Valley 

The Jordan Valley School District, as of Friday, Aug. 18, appeared to be searching for a new superintendent, according to the district’s Facebook page, to replace Rusty Bengoa, who stepped down last month. District officials did not reply to an emailed list of questions. 

Young students file into Vale Elementary School Friday, Aug. 18, for their first day back to school. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)
Young students file into Vale Elementary School Friday, Aug. 18, for their first day back to school. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

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