Malheur County Signs Oregon’s First RAC Declaration of Cooperation

Tim Nesbitt, Oregon Solutions Network RAC Project Manager, January 22, 2014

Malheur County students will have more pathways to good jobs close to home, local businesses will benefit from better prepared workers, and a new public-private partnership of community leaders will steer a strategic plan to move the county from poverty to prosperity with the launch of Oregon’s first regional achievement compact this week.

With the signing of the Declaration of Cooperation, public and private sector leaders in Malheur County became the first such partnership to enter into an agreement with the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) to expand opportunities and boost achievement for local students.

“True to your place in Oregon history, you are pioneering a new approach to education in the 21st Century,” Oregon Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden told the local leaders via a video message at a signing ceremony in Ontario, Oregon, on January 22. “With your energy and commitment, and the frontier spirit that brings people together, you will help us get to a better place for our children and grandchildren that we could not get to alone.”

Golden committed $40,000 on behalf of the OEIB from start-up funds provided by the Oregon Legislature to assist communities in building collaborative efforts with their school districts and community colleges. The Malheur County collaborative is one of a dozen such efforts now being organized around the state.

In addition to the OEIB grant, local leaders will benefit from a foundation-funded effort to assess the strengths and challenges of the local economy and tailor an economic development plan to shape its future. Confronting a high poverty rate and a large youth population, low high school graduation rates and high out-migration among its better-educated young adults, educators and businesses in the county committed to expanding career technical education (CTE) programs in a collaboration that has brought together the Ontario, Nyssa and Vale school districts and Treasure Valley Community College. The first such program launched in the current school year involves fabrication and welding. Another programs focused on health professions in conjunction with local hospitals is planned for the following school year.

Longer term, educators will work to expand a Frontier Access to College Credit program across three counties to increase the availability of college credits in small frontier high schools and launch a Malheur Summer Institute program to enhance educators’ ability to help students through the transitions from pre-school to third grade and from high school to post-secondary institutions.

 “Your schools may be rivals on the football fields,” said Golden, “but you are proving that you can create an all-star team to serve the interests of our children and meet the needs of your community.”

A total of 55 signatories formalized the collaboration this week, representing:

  • Businesses: Joe Kinney Industries; Lifeways Inc.; NORCO Welding and Medical Supply; Presbyterian Community Care Center; St. Alphonus Medical Center; St. Luke’s Treasure Valley and XL Hospice Care.
  • Schools:  Ontario, Nyssa and Vale School districts; Malheur Education Service District; Treasure Valley Community College.
  • Civic associations:  Boys and Girls Clubs; Four Rivers Health Community; Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce; Ontario Executives Affiliated; P2P CTE Action Committee; P2P Natural Resources Committee; St. Alphonsus Medical Foundation; Snake River Economic Development Alliance; Training and Employment Consortium.
  • Local governments:  Cities of Nyssa, Ontario and Vale; Malheur County; Malheur County Economic Development Department; Malheur County Juvenile Department.
  • State government:  State Representative Cliff Bentz; Oregon Youth Authority;  Oregon Department of Human Services; Oregon Education Investment Board; Oregon Employment Department; Oregon Solutions Network and Regional Solutions Team.
  • Federal agencies: Bureau of Land Management

Golden recognized Dirk De Boer, Riley Hill and Ken Hart for their leadership from the business community,  Dana Young and Abby Lee from Treasure Valley Community College, Steve Phillips of the Malheur Education Service District and superintendents Nicole Albisu, Janine Weeks and Matt Hawley of the county’s three school districts.

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Tim Nesbitt is the Regional Achievement Collaboratives Project Manger for the Oregon Solutions Network. He has served as an adviser to Governors Ted Kulongoski and John Kitzhaber, and is past president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. He writes on public affairs and is a guest columnist for the Oregonian.