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Editor’s note: Today’s editorial was written by school superintendent Dr. Dan Zorn. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

The start of the school year was a challenge for Longview Public School employees, parents and students. Navigating through a work stoppage was something we did not have experience with and thankfully, it is in the past. Rest assured that from the first day of school, all of our district’s educators have been focused on meeting the needs of the students we serve.

While labor negotiations are in the past, we’ve been working very hard since the start of school to re-establish the valued and trusted relationships between the district and staff members. Many administration and board listening sessions have been conducted with our staff over the past few months to assure we have a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities that are before us. I am proud of the outstanding work our teachers and support staff do to educate our young people. They deserve to be well-paid and we will continue to do all we can to assure we provide a salary and working environment that assures we can hire and retain the best in the region.

Earlier this year we celebrated the district’s 88 percent high school graduation rate for the 2017-18 school year. R.A. Long’s graduation rate finished at 96 percent, Mark Morris was at 89 percent and Discovery High School was at 61 percent — a significant increase from past years. The teachers, support team members, administrators and students of the district should be very proud of such an outstanding accomplishment.

Along with earning one of the highest graduation rates in the state of Washington, R.A. Long also was named a Washington State School of Distinction for the fourth time. Monticello Middle School also earned the School of Distinction honor for achieving outstanding growth in English and math proficiency. Being named a School of Distinction is an honor and one of which the entire school district can be proud.

Three Longview schools were the only schools in Washington recognized by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for creating a “culture of health” — R.A. Long and Mark Morris High schools and Olympic Elementary School won a “Healthy Schools” award. Creating a culture of health in schools is more than serving nutritious food. A healthy culture means healthy food, exercise, community involvement and a focus on the health of students and staff members. The result of a healthy school culture is students performing better on tests, getting better grades, attending school more often, behaving better in class and earning a high school diploma.

In October, the community showed its enthusiasm for the school district when people came to the pre-apprenticeship program grand opening at Mark Morris High School. Working with several different trade unions, the district remodeled existing space into a pre-apprenticeship career center where students can learn skills that will lead them to careers in the trades.

Brian Blake, 19th District State Representative said, “This is a fantastic program and it’s great to see the school district partner with businesses and the trades to prepare young people for rewarding careers.”

While students from any Longview high school can participate in the pre-apprenticeship program located at Mark Morris, the district aims to expand career and technical learning opportunities at R.A. Long as well. For example, the district recently received great news: We’ve been awarded a grant of $1 million, which will be used to establish a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) lab at R.A. Long. This will give students another pathway to good-paying jobs and a productive future. More news will be forthcoming about this.

R.A. Long assistant principal Lacey Griffiths has been named the 2018 Washington state assistant principal of the year. We also have learned that 10 Longview teachers recently received their National Board Certification, which requires a rigorous process affirming the highest level of instructional expertise.

These are simply a couple examples of the excellent educators we have working with our district’s students.

Longview Public Schools is working hard educating students and preparing them for the future. At the same time, we’re developing plans for the future of the district. Literacy will continue to be the most important thing we do because it provides the necessary foundation for future learning and success. Together the teachers, support staff, administrators and board members of Longview Public Schools are focused upon creating an educational future that will improve the lives of the students we serve. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season as we look forward to a great 2019.

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Dr. Dan Zorn is superintendent of Longview Public Schools

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