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Redefining the Way We Learn

Colors: Orange Color

Akron Public Schools superintendent candidates, from left, Felisha Gould, Christine Fowler-Mack, Rebecca Kaye and Sandy Womack Jr.

The four finalists for the top job in Akron Public Schools are all in town this week, each with a chance to make their case to the school board and the community for why they should be the next superintendent. 

The four candidates — three women, Felisha Gould, Christine Fowler-Mack and Rebecca Kaye, and one man, Sandy Womack — will each have a day-long interview, starting with Kaye on Monday. Each will visit a school and hold forums with students, staff and the community.

April 11, 2021

Mary Boyles has a story to tell. A story that is constantly evolving, with the next chapter a big unknown as she leaves the job she’s held for nearly six years.

Boyles, the executive director of The Shepherd’s House, is retiring from the post she took in September 2015. In talking about her time at the agency — she had served on the board of directors prior to becoming the executive director — she constantly deflects credit to her staff, to businesses and individuals in the community who have supported the homeless shelter’s mission, and to agencies with whom she’s been able to partner.

(Top row, left to right) Mikayla Cole, Camila Martinez and Vinay Karthik. (Bottom row, left to right) Zoe Rose, Suniti Shah and Adam Eisdorfer.

Six students from The Wardlaw+Hartridge School in Edison attended Columbia University’s Youth Climate Summit during spring break. The summit was designed to teach students “about climate change on a personal level through plenary speakers and workshops that demonstrate actionable ways to engage in the climate movement.”


A distinguished pianist, composer and band leader, an inspiring school teacher/administrator and quadruple amputee, and a respected veteran professor known for leading hundreds of students on study trips to the Bahamas, will be recognized at Youngstown State University’s three commencements Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8, in Stambaugh Stadium on campus.

The in-person graduation ceremonies will be 6 p.m. Friday, May 7, for all Spring 2020, Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 graduates, whose commencements were held virtually and not in-person last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic;  9 a.m. Saturday, May 8, for Spring 2021 graduates of YSU’s Cliffe College of Creative Arts, College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and Williamson College of Business Administration; and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 8, for Spring 2021 graduates of YSU’s Beeghly College of Liberal Arts, Social Sciences and Education, and Bitonte College of Health and Human Services.

The ceremonies are open to graduates, family and friends; tickets are not  required. All pandemic protocols, such as masks and social distancing, will be enforced. All three ceremonies will be livestreamed; visit For more information and updates, visit the YSU Commencement page.

Ron Shaklee
Ron Shaklee

6 p.m. Friday, May 7
Ron Shaklee,
professor of Geography who served 15 years as director of the YSU Scholars and Honors Programs, gives the commencement address at the Friday evening ceremony. A Vietnam veteran who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Geography from the University of Kansas, Shaklee joined the YSU faculty in 1987. While Shaklee was at the head of the Honors program, YSU experienced a significant increase in the number of national scholarships, including the university’s first-ever Rhodes Scholar. For more than 30 years, he has taken more than 1,000 YSU students to San Salvador, a small island in the Bahamas, to study the physical environment and cultural setting of the island. 

Shaklee has received the YSU Distinguished Professorship for Service three times, as well as the Distinguished Professorship for Teaching and an Excellence Award for Department Chairperson in Teaching. He is active in the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, serving two years as a regional vice president and also as president of the YSU chapter.

Harold Danko

9 a.m. Saturday, May 8
Harold Danko,
a YSU graduate whose 50-year-plus music career has included collaborations with legendary jazz artists at prestigious venues throughout the world, receives an honorary Doctor of Music degree and gives the keynote address at the Saturday morning commencement.

Danko is professor emeritus at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he chaired the jazz studies program for 11 years and established the Jazz Performance Workshop curriculum. He previously served on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, the New School/Mannes and Hartt College, among other institutions. His column, “Solo Piano,” appeared in Keyboard Magazine for more than five years, and his keyboard improvisation method, “The Illustrated Keyboard Series,” is a highly-regarded reference work.

Danko has been featured at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center’s “Meet the Artist” series, Washington DC Performing Arts Society series at JFK Center, and numerous jazz festivals in the United States and abroad. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship and has earned ASCAP awards yearly since the 1980s. His newest CD, released in March 2021, is entitled “Spring Garden”, 

3 p.m. Saturday, May 8
Kristin Fox, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education from YSU, gives the commencement address at the Saturday afternoon graduation ceremony. 
Fox began her career at Eagle Heights Academy in Youngstown, teaching 7th and 8th grade, and continued her career teaching English Language Arts at Struthers Middle School, later earning both a principal’s license and a master’s degree in Educational Administration at YSU. In 2013,  Fox moved into an administrative role as an instructional supervisor with the Mahoning County Educational Service Center, working with administrators and teachers across the Mahoning Valley. In 2017, she became Special Programs coordinator and assistant principal for the Campbell City Schools.

In March 2020, Fox was diagnosed with Influenza A, which led to several other complications, including Sepsis. As a result, Fox became a quadruple amputee, losing both her arms below her elbows along with her legs below her knees. While a life-altering experience, Fox is determined to not let it define her and to continue her work in the educational field, as well as to inspire others to overcome obstacles.

Photos of Dr. Geoffrey Thomas throughout the years courtesy Madison School District 321

REXBURG — To those who know Madison School District 321 Superintendent Dr. Geoffrey Thomas, it’s clear that the pursuit of education, both to himself and others, is very important.

After decades of teaching, himself being taught, and overseeing the teaching of others, the longtime administrator plans to retire and turn over the leadership of Rexburg’s school district to someone new.

To Thomas, education was about giving students the chance to grow, learn, and develop in their own way.

“Most times, if you open the door, people will walk through,” he said. “So we just need to make sure and provide as many services and classes and opportunities.”

RELATED | Madison School District superintendent stepping down after 37-year career

Dr. Thomas

Thomas began his 37-year career in schooling in Price, Utah as a teacher. He received a master’s degree from Utah State Universtiy in political science before teaching in Brigham City, Utah, and getting a second master’s degree in K-12 Education.

Afterward, Thomas moved to the Gem State, a place that would be his home for the next 30 years. His first Idaho job was as the assistant principal at Taylorview Junior High School in Idaho Falls during its first year. Four years later, he accepted the assistant principal position at Bonneville High School in Bonneville Joint School District 93 while also working on his K-12 education doctorate degree. Thomas then became the assistant superintendent of the Bonneville School District before taking the position of superintendent of Madison School District 321, a job he would have for the next 20 years before announcing retirement.

His time in education won’t end in Madison though. Thomas has also accepted a position as an assistant professor in the College of Education at Idaho State University, working with graduate students seeking to become principals and superintendents.

Throughout his career, Thomas loved working with, teaching, and helping students. He came to realize that through administration, he could affect a larger number of students’ lives.

“I was only able to reach x amount of students (as a teacher),” he told, “I thought, I can do something on a larger scale to positively impact more students.”

Each one of the nearly 5,400 students in Madison is different, and Thomas said he loves that their district has a place for everyone.

“That’s the beauty of public education,” he said. “Our doors are open to every child.”

In his career, Thomas attended as many concerts, plays, sporting events or vocational events as was possible. His theme throughout his career was to provide “A World of Opportunity” for his students, and he loved watching them take advantage of it.

“I want students involved in the arts. I want them involved in vocational programs. I want them involved in athletics. I just want kids involved,” Thomas said. “And when students are involved in something, generally the academics improve.”

It’s the memories that Thomas will keep with him for a long time. Whether it was hosting a graduation ceremony in the rain, breaking ground on a new Madison High School and especially seeing struggling students graduate, Thomas has loved the moments in his career that connected him with the students.

Dr. Thomas

He held his position through the building of the current Madison High School, South Fork Elementary, Burton Elementary, Madison Academy (an alternative middle school) and Madison Online.

While others may refer to him as “Doctor” or “Superintendent,” many of his students have chosen to call him more personal titles like “Doughnut Dude.”

Some of Thomas’ favorite days were when he could go meet students in the elementary classes and ask their permission to return with doughnuts. Responses were typically positive.

“I’ve done it to dozens and dozens of classes over the years,” he said. “I always believe in world peace through baked goods.”

Dr. Thomas

Since he has been able to work in the district for two decades, Thomas has seen many students go from kindergarten to graduation. Even in their high school days, many of these students still know Thomas as the Doughnut Dude.

One of the most important lessons of Thomas’ career was to always put people first.

“If you do what’s right for students and you try to do what’s right for staff, good things are going to happen,” he said.

In 2007, the Great Recession forced legislation to cut the budget of the district by 18% overnight without warning. However, this time of trial ended up being one of Thomas’ proudest accomplishments. He and his team were able to address the situation and not lay off a single employee. That was the same year that their students were able to win the state basketball championship, the state academic championship and the sportsmanship award.

Dr. Thomas

Through the bittersweet feelings of leaving the district, Thomas’s legacy will continue to stand for a long time, as every administrator in the district was hired by him. He has full confidence in them because he always had the mindset of not micromanaging them but letting them bring their own expertise to the table.

“I’m not going to tell you everything that you need to do, or I don’t need you. I’ll fire you and just do your job and take the money,” he said he told them.

This includes Randy Lords, who will take over the mantle of superintendent in August. Thomas hired Lords as an assistant principal, then principal, and most recently, Lords has worked alongside Thomas as assistant superintendent for six years.

“He’s going to be great,” Thomas said. “I’ve had people say, ‘Will he do things differently than you?’ and I say, ‘I hope so!’

RELATED:Madison School District appoints new superintendent

Thomas’ advice to his students is to always embrace the challenge in their life and grow through adversity. He stressed the importance of reading because “leaders are readers.”

“It has been a wonderful experience, and I’ve really cherished every day,” he said.

dr. thomas

Echo Hall 5K fundraiser May 1

April 09, 2021

AUGUSTA — An upcoming 5K event is being held to raise funds for the restoration of Echo Hall in Bracken County.

The 5K will take place on May 1, beginning at 9 a.m. The race will start and end at the Echo Hall building, located on Frankfort Street in Augusta.

The cost for the race is $25 per person. Every registrant will receive a t-shirt.

“With COVID, we haven’t been able to do any in-person events or fund-raisers for Echo Hall,” Jackie McMurrin, Augusta College Echo Hall Association board member, said. “This was something we thought would be nice to hold. It gives people a chance to be outdoors and get some exercise while spending time with their families.”

According to McMurrin, all of the proceeds will go toward the restoration of Echo Hall.

Echo Hall was one of two dormitories built circa 1830 to offer students a competitive housing alternative. Originally called the “Eastern Boarding House,” it was situated directly across from the main college building on Frankfort Street. Students paid $2.50 per week to live at Echo Hall. This sum included meals, laundry, lodging, candles, fuel and attendance, including a College Purser who would help students manage their money.

In 1829, the institution boasted students from 11 states – the bulk of them originating from the South.

By the 1840s, Augusta College was facing declining enrollment and severe financial difficulties. On 26 February 1849, the Kentucky legislature revoked Augusta College’s charter and closed its doors for good.

After the college closed, Echo Hall became a private residence. It was slated to be demolished in 2017 before a group of citizens formed the Augusta College Echo Hall Association and bought the building.

The structure is currently undergoing rehabilitation and plans are to open it for community meetings, social events and a museum once completed.

According to Echo Hall Association President Dave Laskey, the association is currently waiting on final construction permits and approval from the state before proceeding with heating, plumbing and electrical systems work.

“Upon approval, the various mechanical contractors will complete the behind the walls work leading to the dramatic stages of drywall and finishing work,” he said. “Echo Hall has raised much of the money needed to complete the very expensive mechanical phase, but will need continued support to finish the job.”

Augusta College Echo Hall Association (EIN: 82-1302499) is a public charity eligible for tax-deductible donations under IRC Section 501(c)(3).

For more information on ACEHA or Echo Hall or to make a donation, visit

Echo Hall 5K fundraiser May 1

April 09, 2021

AUGUSTA — An upcoming 5K event is being held to raise funds for the restoration of Echo Hall in Bracken County.

The 5K will take place on May 1, beginning at 9 a.m. The race will start and end at the Echo Hall building, located on Frankfort Street in Augusta.

The cost for the race is $25 per person. Every registrant will receive a t-shirt.

“With COVID, we haven’t been able to do any in-person events or fund-raisers for Echo Hall,” Jackie McMurrin, Augusta College Echo Hall Association board member, said. “This was something we thought would be nice to hold. It gives people a chance to be outdoors and get some exercise while spending time with their families.”

According to McMurrin, all of the proceeds will go toward the restoration of Echo Hall.

Echo Hall was one of two dormitories built circa 1830 to offer students a competitive housing alternative. Originally called the “Eastern Boarding House,” it was situated directly across from the main college building on Frankfort Street. Students paid $2.50 per week to live at Echo Hall. This sum included meals, laundry, lodging, candles, fuel and attendance, including a College Purser who would help students manage their money.

In 1829, the institution boasted students from 11 states – the bulk of them originating from the South.

By the 1840s, Augusta College was facing declining enrollment and severe financial difficulties. On 26 February 1849, the Kentucky legislature revoked Augusta College’s charter and closed its doors for good.

After the college closed, Echo Hall became a private residence. It was slated to be demolished in 2017 before a group of citizens formed the Augusta College Echo Hall Association and bought the building.

The structure is currently undergoing rehabilitation and plans are to open it for community meetings, social events and a museum once completed.

According to Echo Hall Association President Dave Laskey, the association is currently waiting on final construction permits and approval from the state before proceeding with heating, plumbing and electrical systems work.

“Upon approval, the various mechanical contractors will complete the behind the walls work leading to the dramatic stages of drywall and finishing work,” he said. “Echo Hall has raised much of the money needed to complete the very expensive mechanical phase, but will need continued support to finish the job.”

Augusta College Echo Hall Association (EIN: 82-1302499) is a public charity eligible for tax-deductible donations under IRC Section 501(c)(3).

For more information on ACEHA or Echo Hall or to make a donation, visit

In the May 18 election, three Black candidates have filed to run for a seat on either the Portland Public School Board or the Board of Directors at Portland Community College.

Each position is a four-year term that ends June 30, 2025. School board positions are unpaid but notoriously time-consuming, with previous board members comparing them to full-time jobs, often with overtime.

The Skanner spoke with the three candidates about their visions for providing Black students with better education outcomes in kindergarten through 12th grade and beyond.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Herman Greene

Portland School District, Zone 4, to replace Rita Moore

herman greene introHerman Greene (Shawnte Simms photography)Herman Greene serves as senior pastor at Abundant Life PDX Church. He spent 20 years ministering to inmates in correctional settings, including Columbia River, Coffee Creek, and Oregon State Prison, and holds a master's in organizational leadership and in nonprofit development, both from Warner Pacific University.

Greene is running for a seat on the school board against Margo Logan, former investigator for child protective services and owner of Child Care Consulting LLC, and Brooklyn Sherman, a student at Portland State University. Previous candidates Erin Michele Brown, Anna Metnick, Tammy Correa, and Brett Duesing filed but have since withdrawn from the race.

Social Worker Jaime Cale, who identifies as Black and Indigenous, is running for the same seat as a write-in candidate.


The Skanner News: What in your background has compelled you to run for a seat on the school board?

Herman Greene: I have four children, and all of my kids went through Portland public schools. We’ve always lived in the same six-mile radius in North Portland.

My kids went to John Ball before it was Rosa Parks, they went to Peninsula, then they went to Roosevelt. All my kids graduated from Roosevelt, they all got academic scholarships and went on to college. My oldest daughter is now a teacher at Roosevelt High School, and my wife is the girls’ basketball head coach.

I’ve always believed in the kids in this community, I’ve always believed they needed someone to really just set the dominoes up for them so they can knock them down. Our kids need the opportunities, they need to have a voice at the table, they need a seat at the table. And every single time you give our kids an opportunity to be their best selves, they always show up.

I’m running because I want to give them that opportunity in the policy and the procedures when we start looking at the budgets. Every decision that we make, when we start talking about the money we’re spending, if it’s not impacting our kids, then why are we talking about it? When we start talking about who we’re going to give contracts to, we need to be talking about that from the perspective of how it’s going to benefit and uplift our kids.


TSN: What do you see as the greatest obstacles to BIPOC students receiving equitable education experiences and opportunities in PPS?

HG: I would say our desire to say we want equality, to make sure that all kids have the same thing. Right now, that’s just not working out so well for students of color. If we’re really going to focus on equity, we need to throw away the idea, I think, of equality, and start really focusing on equity, which means that sometimes you have to take a little bit more from those that have more so that we can make sure that those that don’t have enough have as much.

From a political perspective, that don’t sit well.

From the school board, when we start looking at our budget, we need to be looking at the budget with the (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students in mind. We need to start looking at the budget from the perspective of saying, how are we going to address the disparities that we’re seeing in our lower-income schools? Let’s start there. And then how are we making sure that the teachers that are in these low-income schools, the schools that have seen the most disparity, how are we making sure that we’re creating an environment where they want to be there? That we’re paying them enough to do the work that needs to be done, that they’re not going into their pockets to buy resources.

We look at our budget from the perspective of the BIPOC students first -- not what’s left over, not a trickle-down -- and then we’re going to go from there.


TSN: How do you feel schools could better prepare students for education and career after high school?

HG: If we really want to do it, we have to do a lot more work downstream. My question is, how are we getting the kids ready for middle school? You’ve got kids that are going into middle school that aren’t ready to be there because they’re not reading at the right levels...And then when they get to high school, instead of waiting until they’re juniors to start talking to them about what it’s going to be like in college and different careers, why don’t we position them as freshman?

We tell them “Everybody should go to college.” That’s a lie. Everybody should have the ability to go to college. Not everybody is going to be successful in college. Some people work with their hands, that’s just the way that they’re wired. What we need to do is start working with trades and different career (pathways) so that as freshman, we can introduce them to apprenticeship programs and different things, so that by the time they get out of high school, they’ve already done an apprenticeship program and they can jump right into a career.

We do a great job getting kids to college. We do a horrible job positioning kids to stay in college and graduate from college.

So as a school board member, I want us to look at the expectations that we’re putting on our students and stop believing that our students can’t be successful if we set a bar. Our kids will rise to the occasion every single time. They just need to know that this is the bar. It’s our job to make sure they reach the bar.

I can’t go into a school and tell the schools what to do. But I can start looking at the dollars that we’re spending and saying, how is this dollar getting this child ready for a career once they leave high school?


TSN: How would you have liked to see the return to in-person instruction handled?

HG: I’d like to see that we have made sure that it’s going to be safe for our kids to go back to school. I want to make sure we’ve got enough staff, that we’ve got enough custodians to keep it clean. We’ve done a lot of improvements on our schools, and we’ve got more space to clean. Do we have enough staff on hand right now to ensure that the buildings our kids are going to be going back into are clean? And that they’re going to be ready for our students to not just learn, but learn safely. If we’re still requiring six feet of social distancing when we go in most businesses in the state, why would we change it for a school to say now we can have three feet in school? What have we done with our ventilation? It’s not good enough to just pass.

If we want to open our doors back up, let’s do it the right way. For every parent that wants their kid to go back to school, not one of them will say, ‘I’m willing for my child to die so that we can get our kids back to school so that I can go back to work.’

Going back to school has gotten political, and it’s gotten financial. If we can work, then we need to work. But at what cost? We need to weigh out every possibility, every scenario. You can’t learn if you’re not around.


The Skanner Job Listings

Gary Hollands

Portland School District, Zone 5, to replace board vice chair Scott Bailey

gary hollands introGary HollandsGary Hollands owns Interstate Trucking Academy and serves as executive director of the Albina Sports Program. He studied electronic engineering at Fort Valley State University and business administration at Portland State University.

Hollands is running against physician Daniel Rodgers. Previous candidate Chris Hero filed but has since withdrawn from the race.


The Skanner News: What in your background has compelled you to run for a seat on the school board?

Gary Hollands: I always had a passion for our youth, and I think that stems from my background growing up, moving around a lot. My mother was on drugs at the time, and I think because I never got that sense of family growing up, when I became of age, I wanted to make sure all my little cousins had what I didn’t have. That just culminated as I started my family, joining the PTA, doing field trips, all the way up through now. I’m executive director of Albina Sports Program, which deals with youth and their abilities to participate in organized sports without the financial burdens that come along with organized sports.

We have four kids, three girls, one boy. When my kids were going to school, it was a lot different from when I was going to PPS. A lot of the offerings that they’d have, they didn’t have anymore. There was no more shop class, there was no more home ec. classes. The combination of all those things is what prompted me to say, let me see how I can move the needle a little bit while I’m on the school board.


TSN: What do you see as the greatest obstacles to BIPOC students receiving equitable education experiences and opportunities in PPS?

GH: There’s been historical barriers that have always been ahead of our Black and brown and indigenous kids. A lot of people have said it’s systemic racism, and I tell everybody, whether it’s popular or not, look at it as systemic terrorism, because it’s something that has been intentionally done by our government, our society, to us all the way back to the time when they weren’t allowing us to read or write or go to school, all the way to integration. It’s a sad thing when you have to have the National Guard come in and escort a five- or six-year-old girl to school. That’s not just racism to me, that’s terrorism because that was intentionally done to us.

One, I think we have to recognize what happened, that this was systemic terrorism, and just like America, we should not negotiate with terrorism.

There should be no barriers to what we need to do to bring our kids up.

There should be no barriers to making sure they’ve got the resources they need to succeed. I think by having that viewpoint, and looking at that, now you can really look at what we need to do to get our kids an equitable education moving forward.

You have to talk to the teachers. I’ve been talking to teachers since before I decided to run, and ask them, what things can we actually do from the teacher level to help our kids? You have to look at even the families, there’s a lot of social and economic issues that they deal with. I’m not saying the school district is to try to fix all that, but just recognizing that they do have these issues, and then you teach to the child, not to the test. You don’t teach to graduation rates and records. You teach to the child. If you know a child didn’t eat, or maybe they had an argument with mom about the lights not being on, those things you just have to be aware of.

To get those obstacles out of the way, I think we have to be as intentional to give them education as the government was to deny them education.


TSN: How do you feel schools could better prepare students for education and career after high school?

GH: There is a constant squeeze of programs to go towards the four-year college track, and with that, 30% of our kids don’t go to college. And then of the ones that do go, 43% of those end up getting jobs that don’t require a college degree anyway. We have to look at that and ask whether we’re educating the whole kid.

We have to give those kids at least some tools to be able to function out here as an adult.

One of my priorities is to increase the career and technical education (CTE) vocational offerings that the schools have. I think that it’s so important, because those jobs that are out there are great jobs to have. I’m also the owner of Interstate Trucking Academy, and we run a trucking company as well. The goal was to be able to look at how we get PPS to expose kids to something like the trucking industry, the electrician industry, the carpentry industry, construction industry.

Being exposed to that in school will definitely help those who are not looking to go to college, and at the very minimum, give them other options to at least look at, as opposed to having the mindset ‘I have to go to college to make it.’ Exposing kids to more options is always going to be best because you never know what a kid is going to gravitate towards.


TSN: How would you have liked to see the return to in-person instruction handled at PPS?

GH: I think we look at the science one way, and I also think parents have to be comfortable. That’s one thing that is lacking: what the parents’ and students' comfortability is.

I think a lot of things are not being communicated effectively. The district could’ve said, ‘You know what? This is not going to be perfect. We’re going to try and see what happens. Those that are comfortable with this, let’s try to do it as safe as possible. Those that are not, we understand, and let’s try this again in the fall.’

I think that communication is going to be key and crucial so everybody can really understand where we’re at. Whether they agree with it or not, if you’re communicating, at least they have that information and they can make the choices that’s best for them.

You might want to do some listening sessions, or communication sessions. Once I’m on the board, I plan to have listening sessions every month. I want to do them with administration, with teachers, with parents. And even our unions. One listening session every month for those four groups. Two things can happen: One, they feel they’re being heard, and two, now we can communicate, saying ‘Hey, this is what’s happening at the board level, and this is why we’re doing it.’ If you’re going to govern effectively, you listen to what the request is, you listen to what some of those issues are, and the ones you take note of are the ones that are common things among groups. That’s what you should tackle.

The communication piece is really huge. And let people know, things change, this is not a fluid issue. Communicating that with parents and teachers, letting them know, being ok with saying, we’re trying stuff out. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything, but I want them to have that knowledge.

Reiko Mia Williams

Portland Community College, Zone 7, to replace Alexander Diaz Ros

reiko mia williams introReiko Mia WilliamsReiko Williams is the principal of Sabin Elementary School and founder of Young, Gifted, and Black.

Williams holds a master's of social work from Howard University, a master's of education policy and leadership from PSU, and is close to completing her doctorate in education policy and leadership at PSU.

She is running against Kristi Wilson, workforce development manager for the city of Hillsboro.


The Skanner News: What in your background has compelled you to run for a seat on the board of directors?

Reiko Williams: I got a graduate degree in social work a long time ago. My first job was investigating child abuse and neglect on the outskirts of (Washington DC) for the Department of Social Services.

I’ve worked in child welfare and in nonprofit social work kind of roles, and then I transitioned into education. I worked for a foundation, KC Family Programs, here in Portland. I worked for probably four years in social work, and then transitioned to PSU, where I was the assistant director of minority recruitment.

I think the throughline for me has always been working to support marginalized communities, especially communities of color. I absolutely loved going to high schools and reservations and community-based organizations and doing financial aid, admissions, and scholarship essay-writing workshops for students and inviting them to the campus, just expanding access for students, because I believe strongly in education.

I took advantage of the benefits of working at the university, and began a doctoral program in education, and then I started working at PCC on a part-time basis. I helped students at PCC enroll in upper division courses on the campus of PCC so they never had to go to PSU to get a degree.

And then from there, I did advising and counseling. I got an administrator’s license, became assistant principal at Rosa Parks in Portland, and then this principalship opened up. All the while I’ve worked in nonprofits and championed social justice and racial equity efforts in my personal and professional life.

As a board member, I will definitely champion opportunities for K-12 students to have greater access to PCC and vice versa, because I think there are a lot of opportunities the school districts can provide for students, and I think there are more early opportunities and information. And more broadly beyond students, I think about their families, and the lack of access to the benefits of community college.

And that’s the lens that I bring that is not currently represented on the board. You have a lot of industry people, or workforce people, but you don’t have K-12, and you don’t have people with the social work direct service background that I have.

My mom had my brother when she was 18, she had me at 19, and she dropped out of school and got her GED. And it was a community college in Baltimore that provided access to opportunity. She did a program at the community college to get her license as a licensed practical nurse and then continued her education. These were opportunities that shaped me as a little girl. When I was sick from school, she would take me to her college classes with her. She was the first of her mother’s children to go to college, and I think it opened doors for her siblings to consider other opportunities. And my uncles worked in the trades industry, but apprenticeship programs and all those kinds of things were ways in which my family gained access to livable wage, professional opportunities.

So I don’t just know intellectually the benefits, I know it personally because I’ve seen within my own family the benefits of those opportunities.

My life was shaped by my own mother’s experience as a single mom. And I am the single mother of three daughters. Or, I’m a mother who is single. People have certain biases about what that means, that it’s rooted in deficit. I don’t see my role as a mother who happens to be single and unmarried in any deficit-oriented way.


TSN: What do you feel are the greatest obstacles to BIPOC students receiving equitable education experiences and opportunities?

RW: I think representation. Just like in the K-12 system, there's a lack of representation in staffing and at all levels of the organization. Including the board. So I feel that you have to build a critical mass of diverse instructors, administrators, support staff, at all levels of the organization for folks to feel like they have a place and that their experience is valued. And I think without that, there are messages that you get when you are in a place that’s not diverse, that’s homogenous, about whose perspectives are valued and whose voices are important.

A lot of these institutions say ‘We have this workforce diversity development person, and we have this initiative, and we struggle to find qualified candidates of color.’ I think it’s really not about the struggle as much as it is the will. If you really have the will, where you allocate resources will reflect that it’s a priority. But I think we still have a lot of gatekeepers in different roles, and a lot of people who are unwilling to challenge the status quo.

One of the challenges I’ve had is that in schools that are largely White, the perspective at the leadership level is, ‘Well, if our student population should be mirrored in the staff population, and we have an all-White population, we don’t have any work to do.’

It’s even more important, because white students benefit from seeing a diversity of people in leadership roles as well.


TSN: How do you feel community college could better prepare students of color for the workforce?

RW: I think that there’s a connection between PCC and K-12, and I don’t think the opportunity has materialized. PCC has 60,000 students. The school district employs 12,000 people in a variety of roles. And we have relationships with the universities to do internships or teaching practicums.

And then we have people who languish in these paraprofessional roles who, if they had access to continuing educational opportunities like the Portland Teachers Program, would grow. I just think there’s so many opportunities for this connective tissue that are not that difficult.

We have parents of students who struggle financially. We have a food pantry and we give out gift cards and we do a lot of band-aiding. What if we provided access and support for families to continue their education? I think a lot of families are not having access because their own K-12 experience was problematic, because they didn’t see someone who connected or inspired them. They felt like outsiders in their schooling experience.


SANTA FE — Twenty-five highly-qualified New Mexicans have been nominated by Gov. Lujan Grisham and confirmed by the State Senate to serve on Boards of Regents at public colleges, universities, and special schools across the state.

“This year’s cadre of regents includes individuals with a high level of experience and enthusiasm for higher education, which will be key for guiding our state institutions forward in the coming years,” Higher Education Department Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said. “We look forward to collaborating with them and all higher education leadership to ensure that New Mexico’s students and schools succeed.”

Public four-year colleges, universities, and special schools are governed by boards of regents consisting of members who serve six-year terms and student members who serve two-year terms. The Board of Regents is responsible for governance of the school, including establishment of goals and policies, and overall operation and management. Other functions include approving degrees awarded and appointing the president of the institution.

Eastern New Mexico University

Phillip Bustos was born and raised in Española and graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with degrees in speech communication and psychology. He graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a Master’s of Education degree in Counseling and Consulting Psychology, later returning to New Mexico where he worked for ten years in the field of substance abuse treatment. Bustos previously served as President for Student Services at Central New Mexico Community College. Bustos says he looks forward to serving as regent and using his experience as the university reopens.

Chandlar Head is a Junior at Eastern New Mexico University pursuing a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance. She is eager to work alongside the other members of the board to cultivate a positive, innovative, and equitable learning environment for all. Head says that she looks forward to encouraging a productive and successful learning environment and wants to ensure that students on campus feel heard and fairly represented, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.   

Trish Ruiz has a master’s degree in counseling for the University of the Southwest, a bachelor’s degree in elementary and secondary licensure, and a degree in speech language pathology and communicative disorders from Eastern New Mexico University. She is a counselor and site test coordinator at Hobbs High School’s Harold Murphy Alternative Learning Center, which services at-risk students, and she was an adjunct professor at the University of the Southwest. She has served on the Board of Directors for the New Mexico Public School Finance Authority, and has been named SAT educator of the year and most influential educator.  Ruiz is committed to ensuring an equitable educational system for all, quality learning environments and curriculum designed to meet the needs of post-secondary or vocational education endeavors.

New Mexico Highlands University

Dr. Frank L. Sanchez was born and raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico and is a first-generation college graduate. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from New Mexico Highlands University, and a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Howard University Dental School. He currently serves as a board member for the Las Vegas San Miguel Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Pendaries Village Community Association. He previously served on the New Mexico Highlands University Board of Regents from 1981-1991.  Dr. Sanchez’s priorities include increasing student enrollment and making higher education available to everyone who is interested. He hopes to partner with the business community and to see a resurgence of the student population on campus.

Christopher Ulibarri grew up north of Las Vegas, New Mexico and is pursuing degrees in political science, geology, and history at New Mexico Highlands University. A multigenerational New Mexican, Ulibarri runs a small candy store in Las Vegas with his family. He is currently serving as student body president, has served as a student senator, and was selected as a New Mexico Highlands University Legislative Fellow. He is also Secretary of the Las Vegas Arts Council Board of Directors and Amnesty International’s Legislative Coordinator for New Mexico. Ulibarri is grateful to the communities that raised him. He hopes to give back to them via his education and public service, and to continue the work of representing the students and faculty. 

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Jerry A. Armijo grew up in Socorro, and earned his undergraduate degree at New Mexico State University and his law degree at the University of New Mexico School of Law. He was appointed to the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education in 1997 and has served four successive terms as regent for New Mexico Tech. Armijo says he has a true passion for education, a commitment to public service, and looks forward to continued growth in student enrollment, research activity, and capital improvements at the research university.

Veronica Espinoza is from Sunland Park, holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and is pursuing a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering with a dissertation in intelligent energetic systems. She has worked in New Mexico Tech’s Offices of Latin American Initiatives, traveling to universities in Puebla and Guanajuato, Mexico, to build relationships in academia and research. Espinoza looks forward to having to opportunity to be a voice for the student body, ensuring they are represented on the board, and continuing to work with student leaders, administration, and state legislators to ensure student success at New Mexico Tech.

Dr. David A. Lepre has a bachelor’s degree in teacher education from New Mexico Highlands University, a master’s degree in educational foundations, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of New Mexico. During his 44-year career, he served as a high school teacher, University of New Mexico research assistant, Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) education analyst, Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) principal analyst for higher education, and LFC interim director and deputy director. He was also the first executive director of the New Mexico Council of University Presidents (CUP), where he served for nineteen years until his retirement in 2016. Lepre thanks Governor Lujan Grisham for the privilege of serving as regent and says he will consider every policy and finance decision in terms of maximum benefit to the lives touched by New Mexico Tech.

New Mexico Military Institute

Harold Alan Edmonson grew up in Roswell, holds a bachelor’s degree in history, and is pursuing a master’s degree in educational administration. He has taught history and economics to students in the communities of Socorro, Roswell, and Carlsbad for the past 19 years, and is passionate about helping at-risk and disadvantaged students. He currently works as a teacher and head baseball coach at Carlsbad High School, has led teams to four state championships, and has been previously named as coach of the year by the New Mexico High School Coaches Association and USA Today. Edmonson expresses his sincere appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to serve on the Board of Regents, and looks forward to making connections within the academic community in order to foster an environment that honors traditions and exemplifies academic excellence, character development, and leadership at NMMI.

Maria Christina Montoya is a graduate of the Junior College at the New Mexico Military Institute and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from New Mexico Highlands University. She is a social worker, educator, and government relations specialist, and currently works with Santa Fe Public Schools. Montoya has been recognized as a Behavioral Health Champion by the National Latino Behavioral Health Association, and serves on the New Mexico Public Education Department’s Family Advisory Committee. Montoya says she is deeply honored to have been appointed to the Board, and looks forward to bringing her broad and unique frame of reference in education and behavioral health to the role and engaging with faculty, alumni, parents, and cadets.

New Mexico State University

Neal Lee Bitsie is a fourth-year student at New Mexico State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics. From Nakaibito, Bitsie hails from a long line of Aggies with the first of his family members attending the university in 1972. When Bitsie graduates, he will become the 15th person in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University. Bitsie’s values are inspired by his family’s history with the university. He believes the initiative his grandfather took, years ago, to ensure all his kids would earn a college degree was what paved the way for his own academic opportunity. He believes the Student Regent roll will enable him to fight for higher education access so that other families can benefit in the same way his family benefited. Bitsie passionately believes that far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. 

Arsenio Romero has more than 23 years of leadership, managerial, and executive experience, and a proven track record of leading large-scale initiatives focused on student achievement, financial management, and other significant areas. He currently serves as superintendent of Los Lunas Schools and has previously served as superintendent and CEO of Deming Public Schools, and assistant superintendent for instruction and turnaround for the Roswell Independent School District. Since 2013, Romero has also been a lead performance coach for the New Mexico Public Education Department. He holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a Ph.D. in educational management and development from New Mexico State University, and a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership from the University of New Mexico. 

Christopher T. Saucedo grew up in Doña Ana County, graduated from Gadsden High School, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from New Mexico State University, and obtained his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law. He now practices law throughout New Mexico and West Texas. He considers election law to be his professional hobby and served for two years as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Election Law for the American Bar Association. Mr. Saucedo served for eight years as President of the Board of Directors of the National Hispanic Cultural Center and was President of the Albuquerque Bar Association. Mr. Saucedo is honored to have an opportunity to serve his university. He intends to work with all stakeholders for the benefit of the university. His priorities include increased student opportunities, improved student outcomes, and increased research funding.  

Northern New Mexico College

Ruben Archuleta was born and raised in Española. He attended Española Valley High School and later Northern New Mexico College, where he graduated with a degree in radiological sciences. He is the supervisor of the Radiology Department at Española Hospital and has been employed there for 26 years. He is also currently serving as the Vice President of the Española Public Schools Board of Education. Archuleta is the President for the National Hispanic Council of School Board Members and as a Board Member for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). He looks forward to serving the college that prepared him for a rewarding profession in the healthcare field and is dedicated to the education of all students from cradle to college. 

Maria Evelyn Juarez-Parra was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and raised in Española. She is a first-generation and DACA student attending her senior year at Northern New Mexico College. She is majoring in biology with a concentration in health sciences, on a pre-medical track, and is also currently serving Northern New Mexico College as Student Senate President. Juarez-Parra was recently selected out of 560 nationwide applicants for Georgetown Medical School’s Academy for Research, Clinical, and Health Equity Fellowship. As the first-ever DACA student to serve as a regent in New Mexico, she looks forward to bringing an alternative perspective to the role and supporting initiatives with an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens to make Northern New Mexico College even better. 

New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Catherine Gray is a retired educator with experience in teaching students who are visually impaired in age groups ranging from birth to secondary school. She has taught at the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired residential campus in Alamogordo, the preschool campus in Albuquerque, and as an itinerant mentor and consultant for northern New Mexico school districts and early intervention agencies. Gray is also a Library of Congress-certified Braille Transcriber and has taught Braille to school and staff participants. She enthusiastically embraces the role of regent for the New Mexico School or the Blind and Visually Impaired, and welcomes the opportunity to guide the school and ensure that all students can become independent and productive members of their communities.

Robin Holmes is a lifelong New Mexican, a graduate of Alamogordo High School, and New Mexico State University. Following a career in the banking industry, Holmes has been both an employee and elected leader of Otero County and is in her fourth term as county clerk. She has volunteered for and served on the Board of Directors of the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Foundation and serves as Vice President for the Zia Therapy Endowment Board, supporting the Zia Therapy Center, a charity dedicated to assisting children and youth with disabilities. Holmes’ dedication to helping the blind and visually impaired was inspired by her visually impaired sister. She is honored and privileged to be appointed by Governor Lujan Grisham and looks forward to working and collaborating with the other regents to better the lives of New Mexico’s children. 

Mary Willows is a retired teacher with 27 years of experience. She holds a master’s degree in education and teaching credentials in education and education for blind and visually impaired children. She is pleased and honored to serve as a member of the Board of Regents for the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and feels that the policy decisions made by the board will guide student’s success when they leave the school and ultimately seek employment. As a role model, she knows that the education that students receive at the school will guarantee a life of choices and independence in the future. 

Gary Smethurst has also been confirmed as regent for the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He could not be reached by the time of publication. 

University of New Mexico  

Jack Louis Fortner grew up in Farmington and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a law degree from the University of Michigan. He previously served as regent for the university between 1998 and 2016, and is the only regent to be appointed to four terms. Fortner served as San Juan County Commissioner for four terms, chairman of the Labor Management Relations Board for the City of Farmington, and the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board. He was awarded the Lobo Award by the University of New Mexico’s Alumni Association, the Community Leadership Award by the Hispanic Round Table of New Mexico, and an Honorary Letterman by the University of New Mexico’s Letterman’s Association. 

Randy Fong Geen Ko was born and raised in Albuquerque and holds bachelor’s degrees from the University of New Mexico in biochemistry and East Asian studies and is currently pursuing a combined M.D. and Ph.D in biomedical sciences from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He conducted research with institutions locally and abroad during his undergraduate career, including the University’s Cancer Research Center and the Sandia National Laboratories Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, and was named a Goldwater Scholar in 2017. Ko says he looks forward to expressing his gratitude via public service to the University and the state and looks forward to tackling the pressing issues that face students, faculty, staff, researchers, and the citizens of New Mexico.

William Holland Payne was raised in Albuquerque and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of New Mexico, and a master’s degree in government with a certificate in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. He also holds a law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law. He is a former New Mexico State Senator, and a retired commander of the U.S. Navy and served 11 years on active duty in Underwater Demolition team ELEVEN, SEAL Team One, the U.S. Naval Academy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Naval Special Warfare Unite ONE. He says that his education at the University of New Mexico set the stage for much of the success he has enjoyed in life and is honored to have the opportunity to serve as regent to help shape the important role the university plays in the lives of all New Mexicans.  

Western New Mexico University

Brenda Hernandez Gonzalez is originally from Mexico and is pursuing a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at Western New Mexico University. She completed a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology at the university in 2020 and is a student athlete on the cross-country team. As a student regent, she looks forward to representing the institution and promoting a safe and sustainable future. She intends to uphold her duties as a student advocate to represent the University at large and her community. Hernandez says she is thankful and honored to be a mustang and foresees a strong future for to university.  

Dr. Mary Lyndon Haviland is a globally recognized public health leader, author, strategist, and educator. She holds a master’s degree and doctorate in public health from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and has completed advanced management and leadership training at the Harvard Business School. Haviland has worked in a broad range of professional environments including the World Health Organization, the International Medical Corps, and the United Nations. She is honored to serve as regent at Western New Mexico University and hopes to prioritize student-centered approaches to success to eliminate barriers and improve retention and graduation rates to build a vibrant professional community and a strong foundation for future generations.

Dr. Daniel H. Lopez holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of New Mexico. He currently serves on the board of directors for First Community Bank in Albuquerque. Lopez was president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology between 1993 and 2016 and is a tenured faculty member. He previously served as cabinet secretary for the Department of Finance and Administration and senior staff analyst for the House Appropriations and Finance Committee for the New Mexico Legislature. Lopez is a recipient of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Pete Porter Lifetime Achievement Award and the Barnard S. Rodey Award for Leadership in Higher Education from the University of New Mexico’s Alumni Association, among others.


Submitted byKeysight Technologies

Doug Baney visit with the Hampton University (2019)

Keysight Blog

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) play an essential role in higher education for African American engineering students in the United States. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defined HBCUs and their principal mission for the education of Black Americans. According to the National Center for Education Statistics1, there are approximately 300,000 HBCU students, with African American students comprising 76% of enrollment. Historically, however, HBCUs have been on the sidelines of investment and advancement, which has been particularly detrimental to science and engineering. Additional challenges include recruitment and retention of students within engineering programs. From a nationwide university perspective, 4-year graduation rates are below 30% for students in engineering, rising to 40% for graduation within six years, according to a 2017 study by the American Society for Engineering Education2 (ASEE).

Presently, there are no Carnegie classified R1 HBCU universities. According to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education3, R1 institutions have very high research activity and award at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees and have at least $5 million in total research expenditures. For HBCUs, resources, particularly infrastructure, remain a critical issue. Investment in laboratory tools and instruments is imperative for experiential learning to prepare students for success in industry and for winning research grants. Equipping laboratories to provide access to modern tools and processes is essential for student retention and achievement of successful outcomes in a competitive workforce. It also enhances the university's reputation for providing a quality experiential education as required under Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology Inc. (ABET) guidelines.

Pathways to Engagement

At Keysight, we’ve developed and implemented several measures to help advance engineering programs in partnership with HBCUs. These methods impact across the university ecosystem from students entering the program to graduating and being ready for success in industry:

  • Generating interest at grade and high school levels to get students excited about science, engineering, and technology careers
  • Assisting in infrastructure, including laboratories
  • Increasing visibility on university campuses through guest seminars and competition sponsorship
  • Giving grants and scholarships to advance engineering education and research
  • Providing mentoring and material assistance for design projects and student clubs
  • Offering business mentoring to help develop engineering leadership
  • Hiring students for internships in industry
  • Recruiting students on-campus, or through virtual job fairs
  • Participating in Dean or Department level Industrial Advisory Boards

Persistent and Sustainable Engagement

When assisting universities and paving a path forward for meaningful advancement, a sustainable financial and organizational support framework is crucial. Making significant investments to drive equitable opportunity is measured in years, not in financial quarters. Universities prefer partnerships with industry which translates to maintaining an ongoing engagement beyond participation in autumn job fairs.

Connecting through Engineering Organizations

We take pride as an early engager with HBCUs offering teaching and other resources available through our education program4. For example, Keysight is a founding industrial sponsor of the Inclusive Engineering Consortium5 (IEC). This organization brings together many HBCU resources into a super-department and has a growing industrial sponsors list. The aim is to prepare HBCU graduating engineers for success in the technology industry. The IEC is a great place to get started and connected with HBCUs and minority-serving institutions of higher learning, particularly in the areas of electrical engineering, computer engineering, and related disciplines. Student and professional engineering development societies, such as the National Society of Black Engineers6 (NSBE) and the ASEE, are great resources and excellent forums for engagement.

In future blogs, we'll provide more insights on Keysight's education contributions in the engagement areas described above. We're on this journey together as we drive towards an equitable and inclusive engineering education system and the advantages it brings to our society.


1. National Center for Education Statistics
2. American Society for Engineering Education
3. Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education
4. Keysight Education Resources
5. Inclusive Engineering Consortium
6. National Society of Black Engineers

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Keysight Technologies

Keysight Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: KEYS) is a leading technology company that helps enterprises, service providers and governments accelerate innovation to connect and secure the world. Keysight's solutions optimize networks and bring electronic products to market faster and at a lower cost with offerings from design simulation, to prototype validation, to manufacturing test, to optimization in networks and cloud environments.

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Emily Peck is the Principal’s Award Winner for the Onteora High School Class of 2021. (Photos courtesy of Ulster BOCES)

Onteora High School (OHS) has announced that Simon Rands is valedictorian, Archie Lewis-Harris is salutatorian, and Emily Peck is the principal’s award winner for the Class of 2021.  OHS Principal Lance Edelman is  proud of these three honorees. “They possess all of the qualities that we hope for in our students,” he said. “They are exemplary students who have positive attitudes, thrive when challenged, have optimistic perspectives and are strong student ambassadors.”

Valedictorian Simon Rands

Simon, the son of Rachel Remler and Tim Rands of Woodstock, leads his class with a weighted grade point average (GPA) of 100.45.1. He achieved this feat while maintaining a rigorous academic schedule that included eight advanced placement (AP) classes during the course of his high school career.


Outside of the classroom, Rand’s activities included volunteering with the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network. He also served as copy editor of The Talon (the High school newspaper), vice president of the National Honor Society, and captain of the varsity soccer team (since 10th grade). Rand, the recipient of a MHAL (Mid-Hudson Athletic League) Senior Scholar Athlete Award, has thoroughly enjoyed this year’s soccer season, despite the fact that the team is low on numbers and the players are all required to wear masks on the playing field. “We haven’t won yet, but it’s been fun!” he said.

Rand, who is still waiting to hear from a number of colleges and universities, is unsure about his future major, though he is particularly interested in science, environmental justice and climate change.

Rands looks back with fondness at his Onteora education. “The best thing for me about Onteora was how small the classes were,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of classes with the same kids since 10th grade. We really know each other and we feel comfortable learning from each other.”

The small class sizes also allow students to develop personal relationships with their teachers, he said, which in turn makes it easier to learn. Among his favorite teachers, he said, were math teacher Jessica Morra and chemistry teacher Bryan Keenan. “Ms. Morra makes it easy to learn and love math,” he said, “and Mr. Keenan just loves chemistry and science so much that you can’t not also like it. He makes it fun!”

Archie Lewis-Harris is Salutatorian for the Onteora High School Class of 2021.

Salutatorian Archie Lewis-Harris

Archie, the son of Donna Lewis-Harris and Martin Harris of Bearsville, achieved a weighted GPA of 99.968 while juggling a challenging course load (including numerous AP classes) and extracurricular activities like varsity tennis, National Honor Society, Science Olympiad and jazz band.

Lewis-Harris, who has a passion for music, also played in the pit orchestra for three OHS musicals. Among his many musical honors are being selected to perform on clarinet with the All-State Symphonic Band and the All-Eastern Concert Band. He also co-wrote a song, “Touch,” that received an Honorable Mention in the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Student Songwriters Competition.

Lewis-Harris, who will be attending the Steinhardt School of Arts & Science at New York University (NYU) in the fall, plans to major in Screen Scoring. “I want to be a professional composer,” he explained.

Musically, Lewis-Harris has been busy during the past year. “I did a film score for a short film called Hurly Burly, music for a Covid-19 PSA [public service announcement] that was selected as one of the top three in NYU’s Art for Health Campaign contest, and music for a virtual production of Macbeth,” he said. He also composed a piece called “Turning Point” that explores some of the feelings that he and his friends have had during the pandemic. On two of these projects, the film and the PSA, he collaborated with filmmaker Benny Rendell, a friend who will also be attending NYU.

Lewis-Harris, who is full of praise for Onteora teachers, mentions math teacher Jessica Morra and chemistry teacher Bryan Keenan as being among his favorites. “I loved my time here at Onteora,” he said. “I am very thankful I had the opportunity to be educated in such a wonderful environment, with such amazing teachers and peers,” he said.

Principal’s award winner Emily Peck

Emily, the daughter of Kelly and Tim Peck of Boiceville, was selected by OHS Principal Lance Edelman for this year’s Principal’s Award. The annual award is given as part of a scholastic achievement awards program sponsored by the Ulster County Superintendents’ Council.

Peck, who is fourth in her class, has an affinity for history and related subjects. “I really love history and all the electives that have to do with history and social sciences,” she said. Among her favorite teachers is Alicia Curlew, who taught her AP human geography and AP United States government and politics classes, and who also served as her advisor for Harvard Model Congress.

Peck also expressed her appreciation for Paul Colevas, who taught her favorite electives (sociology, mythology, cultural anthropology and philosophy) while overseeing the school’s Philosophy Club. “It’s really fun,” she said of her participation in the club. “We debate, and talk about, a different topic every week. We may talk about our lives, for example, or the merits of a public college, or whether utilitarianism is a worthy moral philosophy.”

Peck’s other extracurricular activities include serving as class president since ninth grade and as co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Talon. She was also a member of the varsity tennis team.

Peck appreciates the education she received at Onteora. “I’m really glad that I went to Onteora High School,” she said. “The students here are really listened to. My experiences in student government have taught me that whenever students have a problem that needs to be addressed, there are a lot of other caring students and staff who will work hard to solve that problem.”

Peck, who is still waiting for her college acceptance letters, plans to major in International Studies or international relations and to minor in Spanish or economics. “My goal is to work in diplomacy or for a non-profit or non-governmental organization, perhaps doing something related to immigration or human rights issues,” she said.

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