HOOD RIVER — Superintendent Rich Polkinghorn presented a draft of the 2026 Strategic Plan to the Hood River County School Board during the June 23 meeting.
Work on the strategic plan began in October, and Polkinghorn expects to have the final draft to present to the board during its July 14 meeting, to be held at Parkdale Elementary.
Polkinghorn said there are seven goals in the plan: Identify, target and close opportunity and access gaps; graduate students from high school ready for college, career and community success; implement relevant, rigorous and engaging learning opportunities; establish high expectations for academic and personal growth for every student; strengthen partnerships with families and the community; prioritize health and safety as a critical component of school success; and develop a highlight qualified, diverse and culturally proficient workforce.
“These are the strategies we’ll tackle in the next five years,” Polkinghorn said. Each goal has several steps that have been identified to aid in implementation.
Polkinghorn said steps include expanding and implementing AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination — in all schools, expanding career pathways for high school students, fostering inclusiveness and engage the district’s diverse community, expanding work in STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics — and implementing a K-12 Spanish immersion programming.
Details of the 2026 Strategic Plan can be found starting on page 30 of the June 23 board meeting packet at www.hoodriver.k12.or.us (select “School Board” and click “Board Meeting Packets).
“So much of this is spot on,” said Dr. David Russo. “I’m really happy to see the building upon past successes and the continuous, incremental innovation and progression of things we’ve been doing in our district … It’s very transformative for a district to dig into the idea of asking students, ‘Beyond passing this class, what are your goals around learning?’”
Vice Chair Julia Garcia-Ramirez said, “This will only help strengthen those partnerships with families and the community, and other stakeholders and members — I appreciate all of the work put into this strategic plan. One thing sparked for me is the support that you are putting in there for staff that is highly qualified and diverse and culturally proficient, to continue with our equity work. I thank you for that.”
The board also approved the three-year employment contract between the district and classified staff.
“We spent a lot of time to get the salary schedule in line with market rates,” Polkinghorn said. The motion was unanimously passed.
Wendy Herman, OSEA union president, and Debbie Gallagher, vice president, thanked those on the negotiation team.
“You really listened to us and we appreciate how negotiations went — it was us together, working to make it better for our classified staff … to uplift our classified staff to be helpful to teachers, students and the administration,” Herman said.
She also thanked the board “for everything you did getting us through one of the oddest, craziest, unprecedented times of our lives.”
Hood River Options Academy Principal Kelly Running and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Bill Newton also shared what was learned during the pandemic and plans going forward for the 2021-22 school year. Due to the pandemic, some details, such as K-5 and 6-12 reading intervention, were still being determined at the time of the presentation.
“We had 870 students in the program this year and got a lot of feedback,” said Running. Next year, she expects 200-250 students to be enrolled. “Some families are waiting until August to make the decision,” she said.
Off screen options are being planned for all age groups, including selected kits for younger learners and campus-based electives and expanded college learning options for older students. Running is also looking to better support and serve homeschool families who want to partner with the district.