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District saddened by student’s death

The Hermiston School District was notified by the Hermiston Police Department of the death of Jenna Thomas, a sophomore at Hermiston High School.

This is a difficult day for our staff and students. When things like this happen, people have all different kinds of reactions, like shock, sadness, fear, and anger. A safe room has been set up at Hermiston High School by members of the crisis flight team to assist staff and students deal with today’s news.

The district asks for parent and community support by keeping an eye out for those students, or staff members, that may be struggling with the news. If a student is struggling with the news counselors are available to provide emotional support.

We are heartbroken for the Thomas family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and friends and relatives of Jenna.

By |02/05/2018 11:34:02|District News|0 Comments

February is attendance awareness month

Hermiston School District made February Attendance Awareness Month. Students’ education and success is the District’s top priority. With the start of a new quarter/semester district officials ask that parents join forces with school administrators and staff to ensure children understand the importance attendance has in their ability to learn and be successful in school.

Research has proven that attendance is the greatest predictor of student success. Simply missing a day or two a month can add up to nearly 10% (about 18 days) of the school year. If a student is chronically absent from school, that can be a leading indicator that there will be academic trouble and the student will drop out and not graduate from high school.

According to, chronic absence, whether it is excused or unexcused, or if the student is suspended from school, the attendance problem may translate into third-graders not being able to master reading, sixth-graders failing classes and ninth-graders dropping out of high school.

It is especially important that kindergartners attend school so that they can have a solid foundation in their early learning years. Attendance habits that are learned at an early age will help them form good habits when they transition to the middle and high school.

How parents can assist:

  • Make sure that your child has all the required immunizations.
  • Address health needs the child might have such as asthma, diabetes, dental concerns.
  • Avoid making medical or dental appointments during the school day.
  • Avoid making extended trips when school is in session.
  • Have a backup plan to get your child to school if something unexpected comes up. Call on a family member, another parent or a friend.
  • Do not let your child stay home unless he/she is really sick.

The district, building staff, and parents/guardians play an important role in the success of each student. Parents/guardians and community can help make attendance an important life skill that will help the child be successful in school, in college and in maintaining a job.

To learn more about the importance of attendance please visit

By |02/01/2018 11:48:29|District News|0 Comments

HSD recommendations during flu season

Hermiston School District wants to remind families that the flu season is in full swing this winter. To protect their student and others, good hand hygiene should be practiced. Hands should be washed with soap and water frequently to help prevent the spread of illness.

If you have an ill student, please refer to the following criteria to know when students should be kept at home:

  • Fever greater than 100.5°F; (stay home until fever free for 24 hours);
  • Vomiting (stay at home until vomiting has stopped for 24 hours);
  • Stiff neck or headache with fever;
  • Any rash with or without fever;
  • Unusual behavior change, such as irritability, sleepiness/fatigue;
  • Jaundice (yellow color of skin or eyes);
  • Diarrhea (stay home until diarrhea has stopped for 24 hours);
  • Skin lesions that are “weepy” (fluid or pus-filled);
  • Colored drainage from eyes;
  • Brown/green drainage from nose with fever greater than 105 F;
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
  • Serious, sustained cough;
  • Symptoms or complaints that prevent the student from participating in his/her usual school activities, such as a persistent cough, with or without presence of fever;
  • A need for care that is greater than school staff can safely provide.

If a student becomes ill at school and the teacher or school nurse feels that the child is too sick to benefit from being in school or might be contagious to other children, the parent will be called to pick up the student from school. It is important that the school is informed any time there is a change in a daytime or emergency phone number; so parents or guardians can be easily reached.

If your child is showing some of the symptoms above or if your child is recovering from the flu and you are not sure when your child can go back to school, ask your healthcare provider.

By |01/31/2018 8:57:28|District News|0 Comments

Rusted pipes create water leak at Highland Hills

Hermiston School District wants Highland Hills parents to know that there is a water leak outside of the building at Highland Hills due to rusted, aging pipes. The District administrators contacted the City and a work crew will be working to fix the leak. The water to the building will be shut off at 12:30 p.m.

Administrators have portable restrooms, bottled water, and hand sanitizers on site, available for students and staff. Lunchtimes will not be affected by the water leak.

Parents of the students that attend Champions will be contacted by the administrators of the program for alternate arrangements.

District administrators will provide an update as more information is available.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m.

District officials were informed at approximately 3 p.m. that the water leak had been fixed at Highland Hills. Water has been restored at Highland Hills.

Thank you to the crew from the City of Hermiston and Hermiston School District maintenance department for working together to resolve the water issue in such a timely manner.

By |01/29/2018 3:27:22|District News|0 Comments

HSD immunization requirements

Hermiston School District reminds families that State law requires all students in public and private schools, preschools, certified child care facilities and Head Start have an up to date immunization record or an exemption on file to stay in school. If a student’s record on file shows missing immunizations, the student will not be able to attend school as of February 21, which the state has determined as Exclusion Day.

If a student is missing immunizations, parents have been notified either by mail or with an automated call. Parents have until February 21 to bring their student’s immunizations up to date and take missing immunization information to the student’s school. Students will be admitted back to school once immunizations are current.

Please schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, local Public Health Department or the District Wellness Center, located at Hermiston High School, by calling (541) 667-6199.

“Children should be immunized to keep them healthy and to prevent the spread of diseases in schools,” said Kira Tomlinson, the district’s lead nurse. “If students are healthy they will not miss school and will have the opportunity to get the most of their educational experience.”

For additional information visit:

By |01/26/2018 10:26:04|District News|0 Comments

District graduation rates have room for growth

On Thursday, January 25, 2018, Oregon Department of Education released the graduation cohort and dropout rate data for all public school districts in Oregon. Results show Hermiston School District has room for improvement with its graduation rates.

The cohort graduation rate is calculated by taking the number of students in the group who graduated with a regular diploma within four years and dividing that by the total number of students who entered high school for that cohort, in this case, 2013-2014. The figure is adjusted for students who move into or out of the system, emigrate to another country, or are deceased, to form the adjusted cohort.

Cohort graduation data looks at students who entered high school as ninth graders in 2013-14 and then graduated with a regular or modified high school diploma within four years. According to Oregon Department of Education, data for 2016-17 shows the state increased from 74.83 to 76.65 percent for its four-year cohort graduation rate. Hermiston School District saw a slight increase from 65.68 to 65.82 percent.

For the same cohort of students, Hermiston School District increased from 75.34 to 79.21 for the four-year cohort completer rate, which is just shy of the state’s 80.18. The completer rate includes students who earned an extended or adult high school diploma and students who earned a GED, in addition to the students who earned a standard diploma.

The state’s five-year cohort completer rate was 83.22 percent in 2016-17. Hermiston School District saw a 2.17 percent increase from 78.86 to 81.03 percent. Similar to the four-year completer rate, this figure includes students who in five years earned an extended or adult high school diploma, and students who earned a GED, in addition to the students who earned a standard diploma as completers.

The District saw some improvement in several subgroups in the four-year cohort graduation rates from 2015-16 to 2016-17:

  • Hispanic/Latino subgroup, the percentage went from 60.49 to 61.78 percent.
  • Economically disadvantaged, the rate went from 56.90 to 59.14 percent.
  • Students with disabilities, the rate went from 42.86 to 46.55 percent.
  • Ever English Learners in High School, the rate went from 57.55 to 60.81 percent.
  • English Learners in High School, the rate went from 14.29 to 26.32 percent.

“As a District, we certainly have a lot of room for improvement,” said Interim Superintendent Tricia Mooney. “Digging deeper into our results we realize that as a district we need to get better at tracking our mobile population – the students that transfer into the district. We need to learn their whereabouts when they leave our district. However, I am very hopeful that we will see greater gains in the years to come. We have dedicated staff, students, and parents. Our staff, the district’s culture, and professional development will continue to help us move in the right direction and to see improved graduation rates.”

Tom Spoo, Hermiston High School principal said, “As a District, we have taken steps to improve our graduation rates. This year we hired a graduation coach who works with our freshman and sophomores to help students develop individual success plans which may focus on areas such as grades and attendance. As a principal, I meet with our juniors to make sure they are on target for graduation. Counselors and vice principals work hand and hand with seniors to discuss graduation requirements and assist them in choosing options that will help them graduate.”

For more information on dropout rates, please visit the ODE website.

By |01/25/2018 8:02:52|District News|0 Comments

District announces 2017-18 Educators and Administrator of the Year

Each year HSD also recognizes its outstanding teaching staff with the Educator of the Year Award. It is awarded annually to one educator from each of the elementary and middle schools, two educators from Hermiston High School, and one district-level educator. School staff members nominate coworkers from their respective schools for the honor. Nominees must have worked in the district for at least five years. The award is considered a “career-level” award that is granted only to the most deserving of educators.

This year’s recipients are:

Hermiston High School

Leah SmithLeah Smith has been a teacher for 11 years. Leah is a true professional in her craft of teaching agriculture science to her students. She dedicates hours before and after school to provide opportunities for her students to learn and grow. One only needs to attend any of the many events put on by FFA to see her dedication and the growth of her students.

As a teacher and advisor with FFA, Leah has developed relationships with teachers, parents, and community partners. The Ag Program continuously puts on events at school and in the community. Through her work, students interact with 20-30 community members on a regular basis. Our FFA events are some of the most successful and well-organized events put on by the school. Leah has been a driving force for the success of these endeavors.

Leah has always pushed the envelope of instruction and organization with her classroom. Her vet science labs expose students to the latest technology and practices. She works tirelessly to expose students to hands-on activities in the classroom and at industrial facilities. Students who come through her program are prepared for the next steps after high school. She is often asked to open her classroom, as a way to show new teachers best practices in teaching.

Emilee Strot-Smith has taught at the high school for 5 years. Emilee is always positive and encouraging no matter the students’ ability, and she seeks out opportunities to support and connect with students. She goes above and beyond to inspire a healthy lifestyle among our students, even making workouts available during breaks.

Emilee is a member of the Hermiston High School leadership team and lends her voice to influence decisions for the school. She is always willing to collaborate and will seek out other teachers and staff if she has concerns about a student.

Emilee strives to bring diversity to her approach to physical education. Her development of Club Bulldog has had a major impact on our school and shows her vast knowledge and ability to inspire.
She coaches track, helps with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is present at student events. She is very supportive of the Hermiston High School community.

Armand Larive Middle School

Katie Abbot has taught in the Hermiston School District for four years. Katie sets high expectations for her students’ learning, incorporating Best Teaching strategies into her instruction to support the students, as her tiered lessons become more rigorous. She also recognizes the additional mental and emotional supports her students need. She wants all of her students to feel comfortable and safe in her classroom and goes out of her way to be very accommodating.

Katie has her students work together to solve problems and is willing to try new ideas and strategies. She works hard to show students that science is fun, and they CAN learn, even when they think they cannot. Co-workers appreciate how easy she is to work with and appreciate how she pushes them to improve their craft. She is a team leader and sets a positive example for her teams and others at Armand.

Sandstone Middle School

Kent Barnes has taught in the Hermiston School District for 11 years. Kent is popular with students, families, and colleagues. Students love him because he is kind, loving, fun, and they know he cares not only about their education but about them as a person.

Kent consistently inspires students in his classroom to achieve high standards, year after year, through thoughtful, purposeful, and engaging lessons. He is able to find students’ unique strengths and uses them to help them achieve their highest potential. He has strong academic expectations and shows his students every day that they can and will succeed.

Kent is also active outside the classroom, connecting with students through coaching both football and basketball. Students exceed his expectations to make him proud.

Desert View Elementary School

Ashley Nicodemus has taught in the Hermiston School District for 5 years. Ashley fosters the love of learning through her great ideas and strategies. She is very knowledgeable and pushes students to do their very best. She continues to support them even after they left her classroom. Ashley communicates often, which is appreciated by her team and other staff members. Ashley is also very approachable and always has her door open.

Highland Hills Elementary School

Tracy Tynkila has taught in the Hermiston School District for 16 years, all at Highland Hills. Tracy is passionate about what she does. She develops meaningful relationships, is selfless, and has the drive to help others improve as well. Tracy is always willing to go above and beyond to help students and staff, and she is very welcoming. Tracy is a team player and wants the best for Highland Hills.

Rocky Heights Elementary School

Michelle Dunkel has been a teacher for 14 years. Her willingness to support her grade team and the dedication to the initiatives at Rocky Heights is what sets her apart. She provides positive ideas for her team and works with her committee to push the school, its teachers and students to become better.

She is a member of the school professional development committee and leadership team. She is helping to lead the implementation of Rocky’s instructional framework across the building.

If one visits Michelle’s classroom any day, at any time, they would see a teacher who gives every ounce of energy to delivering quality lessons. She embodies the notion that as soon as you stop learning, you stop growing. She is invested in the lives of her students; caring for them as if they were her own children because, in Mrs. Dunkel’s opinion, they are. It is not uncommon to walk through her classroom in the morning to find former students working, doing extra jobs, visiting, receiving extra help, or just for a hug. Her commitment to her students is first class.

Sunset Elementary School

Tina Crowell has been a part of the Hermiston School District for 4 years. Tina is a beloved counselor and teacher. She has a caring heart and serves as a role model to both students and her peers. She is cooperative, upbeat, helpful and friendly. Tina has a commitment to the staff to keep them informed about issues and concerns related to students. She goes above and beyond to make sure Sunset is a great place for kids and those who work with them.

West Park Elementary School

Bridget Schultz has been with the Hermiston School District for 4 years and has taught for 12 years. She is always finding new, innovative ways to make learning fun! She has campouts in her classroom with fake fires and takes her students on wagon train rides around her classroom, all to drive home a learning concept. She has a special way of making every student feel special, from nicknames or nametags to fund handshakes in the hallway.


Sandra Rice has been with the Hermiston School District for 25 years. This is her third year as an instructional coach; prior to that, she taught middle school science for 22 years. She is trained as a trainer in both Constructing Meaning and Explicit Instruction, which allows her to mentor and support Hermiston teachers for the first three years of their career in education.

Most recently Sandra devoted her summer to revamping the FOSS science kits for grades K-5, to outfit a completely new K-5 science curriculum for implementation in the fall of 2017. Sandra has assumed additional duties this school year, including coordination of student teaching candidates in grades K-12; facilitating the Oregon Science Project in partnership, with Ben DeCarlow; and overseeing the implementation of a new science curriculum at the middle school and high school level.

The educators and administrator of the year will be recognized at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Citizens Awards Banquet scheduled for February 1, 2017.

By |01/15/2018 2:46:38|District News|0 Comments

Heidy Mejia-Puerta accepted to Brown University

Hermiston High School was recently notified that Heidy Mejia-Puerta, a high school senior, was accepted to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island as an early decision (binding) applicant. Brown University is an Ivy League school and in 2016, Brown had a 9.3% acceptance rate; 32,390 students applied and only 3,015 were accepted.

Heidy Mejia-Puerta is a first-generation college student. “Heidy’s achievements are another indicator that students at Hermiston High School have the drive and ability to go for big opportunities,” said Melody Bustillos, school counselor, and Generation College advisor. “Heidy works hard, is curious, and motivated to affect change in her life and those around her.”

Heidy was selected as a LEDA Scholar to participate in a seven-week program at Princeton University the summer after her junior year. The LEDA Scholars Program is designed to help high-achieving, low-income, students go to the most selective colleges in the country. During the Scholars Program, Heidy participated in leadership training, academic writing instruction, standardized test preparation, college guidance, and community building activities.

Heidy is the sixth Hermiston High School student to be selected as a LEDA Scholar in the 13 years LEDA has been in existence. LEDA selects 60-100 students each year across the nation to participate in this all-expense paid college preparation experience.

“Heidy’s admission to Brown with the scholarship they are offering is equivalent to a basketball player getting a full-ride to Duke,” said Roger Berger, Generation College advisor. “This is a big deal and shows the ability of our students to be successful academically at the highest levels in this country.” Hermiston has been having students attend the top universities in the country for many years. “This is not the first student who is achieving the pinnacle of success academically, and this will not be the last. Heidy is continuing a strong tradition of academic excellence and we are proud of her work ethic and ability to take risks to show herself and others what is possible,” says Berger.

Heidy is undecided as to what field she will pursue, but she is inclined to pursue the political science field and law field. “This opportunity means so much to me,” said Heidy. “Not only do I get to attend one of the top institutions in this country, but I get to bring pride to my friends, family, and community. It’s really nice to show that everything they have invested in me is paying off. My acceptance into Brown has only reinforced my confidence in my ability to accomplish whatever I set my mind to.”

By |01/08/2018 9:36:17|District News|0 Comments

HHS to perform Seussical, a musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss

Hermiston High School is thrilled to perform Seussical, a musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss. Evening performances are scheduled for February 9, 10, 16, and 17, at 7 p.m., and a matinee performance will be held on February 18, at 2 p.m.

All performances take place in the high school auditorium. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the high school bookkeeping office. Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults, and $8 for senior citizens 65 years and older with ID.

Now one of the most performed shows in America, Seussical is a fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza that brings to life all of your favorite Dr. Seuss characters, including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie La Bird and a little girl with a big imagination – Jojo.

In Seussical, The Cat in the Hat tells the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust that contains the Whos. Horton faces a double challenge. Not only must he protect the Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must guard an abandoned egg left in his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird. Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him. Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family, and community are challenged and emerge triumphantly.

Seussical is suitable for the entire family. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to see your favorite Dr. Seuss’ characters.

Full credits for Seussical are Music by Stephen Flaherty; Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens; Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Co-conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle.

By |01/05/2018 4:08:25|District News|0 Comments

HSD celebrates ‘School Board Recognition Month’

The Hermiston School District will join the other 196 school districts throughout Oregon to celebrate January as “School Board Recognition Month,” Interim Superintendent Tricia Mooney announced on January 4.

“Our school board members spend countless hours of unpaid time working to support the best possible educational opportunities for our students,” said Interim Superintendent Mooney. “They also serve as the corporate board of directors to the fourth largest employer in the community. Celebrating School Board Recognition Month is one way to say thanks for all they do.”

“School board members represent their fellow citizens’ views and priorities in the complex enterprise of maintaining and running the community’s public schools,” Mooney said. “They also reinforce the principle of local control over public education, which is an important, highly valued aspect of education in Oregon.”

“Too often the efforts of school board members go unrecognized,” Mooney said.

The school board’s main goal is to support student achievement, Mooney added. To achieve that goal, the board focuses on the following needs:

  • Creating a vision for what parents and citizens want their school district to become and how to make student achievement the top priority
  • Approving standards for what students must learn and be able to do
  • Assessing whether schools achieve their goals and whether students are learning
  • Accounting for the outcomes of decisions and by tracking progress and reporting results
  • Aligning the use of the district’s human and financial resources
  • Supporting a safe and orderly climate where students can learn and teachers can teach
  • Collaborating to solve common problems and to support common successes
  • Focusing on continuous improvement by questioning, examining, revising, refining and revisiting issues related to student achievement.

During the month of January, each board member is recognized by a school within the district. Members of the board may be recognized at a student body assembly, may join students for lunch, bulletin boards or door decorations may be done in their honor. The district will acknowledge the Board at the January 8 meeting, where Interim Superintendent Mooney will proclaim January School Board Recognition Month and hold a social to honor the members.

“Even though we are making a special effort during January to show appreciation for our school board members, we recognize their contributions reflect a year-round effort on their part. They are dedicated individuals who are committed to improving student achievement and to fighting for the best for all of our students,” Mooney said.


By |01/04/2018 12:20:31|District News|0 Comments