By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

The Bend-La Pine School Board met for its annual retreat Tuesday, where members brainstormed a vision for the district’s future while also rewarding its superintendent with a raise and bonus tied to past accomplishments.

In October, the board voted to create a bonus and raise structure for Superintendent Ron Wilkinson tied to six quantitative measures of student performance and six subjective evaluation categories. The quantitative measures, dubbed key performance indicators, are tied to math and reading scores, ACT scores and graduation rates, while the subjective categories cover areas such as fiscal management and communication to the board.

“With this system, we want to show that we value data-driven excellence,” Cheri Helt, board co-chair, said at the retreat.

Wilkinson missed two of the six quantitative measures, earning him a 3.3 percent bonus out of a maximum of 5 percent. He also received top marks on the qualitative measures, netting him an additional 5 percent bonus. In total, the 8.3 percent bonus represents about $13,000 on top of his 2013-14 base salary of $158,000.

The board members also decided to give Wilkinson a raise equal to 50 percent of the bonus for his 2014-15 base salary, though they could have given as small a raise as 30 percent.

With the salary bump, Wilkinson will make about $164,500, representing his only raise since he was hired in 2008, besides a cost-of-living adjustment a few years ago.

Teaching ‘grit’

During the six-hour retreat, board members also began re-evaluating the district’s long-term goals. The meeting’s buzzword was “grit,” a term popularized by education researchers and writers to signify a student’s commitment to achieving long-term goals, as opposed to that student’s raw intelligence.

“Really, grit is about mindset,” Wilkinson said, “We need to help students to develop personal and interpersonal skills, and a mindset that they can achieve. Grit is an area where we can move forward.”

The board endorsed the idea of finding ways to teach grit, which is seen as essential to student success, with co-chair Nori Juba adding that the district should also focus on empathy. This discussion was intended to complement work from previous retreats, where the board set quantitative goals for the district, such as sending 10 percent of graduates to selective colleges.

“This is meant to continue our work toward being world-class, but the question is, what in the world does it mean to be world-class?” Wilkinson asked at the beginning of the meeting.

The board also discussed the issue of freedom in schools, with member Julie Craig saying she wished teachers had more autonomy to experiment with their instruction and students had more leeway to focus on topics they love. Member Peggy Kinkade cautioned that “every school shouldn’t be a free-for-all,” but that students should have options to fit their needs, whether that be in the form of specialized classes or schools.

Members also expressed a desire for students to have options in their career paths, with member Andy High suggesting there is too much emphasis on attending four-year colleges, whose costs have climbed, and not enough on technical education. Juba agreed, saying, “You’re better off going to a trade school than a four-year school and being a barista.”

District administrators and the school board plan to finalize a list of priorities drawn from this conversation in October.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,