NKN opens the school year with new and familiar faces

Courtesy Photo Former Neah-Kah-Nie student Kristina Burdick returns to the school district as a teacher at the Nehalem Elementary School (NES).

Summer has come and gone. But as the inevitable school year has started, there is much to be excited about at Neah-Kah-Nie.
By Max Kirkendall
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Neah-Kah-Nie (NKN) School District is wrapping up a project-filled summer and is ready for the 2018-19 school year. With classes underway, NKN students have noticed a few new, yet familiar, faces roaming the halls of the school.
Superintendent Paul Erlebach hired nine new staff members for the upcoming year; three of which are NKN graduates. Among the former Pirate students – now teachers – are Selena Clifton (Garibaldi Grade School [GGS]), Kristina Burdick (Nehalem Elementary [NES]) and Mark McLaughlin (Neah-Kah-Nie High School [NKNHS]).
Erlebach said the entire school district is pleased to have these three back to teach future NKN grads.
“The school district is very proud of these individuals and there is definitely a great honor in having some of your own grads come back to teach the next generation,” Erlebach said. “It’s hard to find quality teachers and I feel like that’s exactly what we got with all our new hires.”
Among the other new staff throughout the school district is: Sarah Christensen (GGS), Theresa Manzer (GGS), Susan St. John (NES), Breanna Uptegrove (NES), Jay Blake (NKNMS), Thomas Nugent (NKNMS) and Jenni Smith (NKNHS).
Although it may seem to most as a lot of new staff member for the size of school, Erlebach said it is actually a lower number as compared to past years.
“The number of new teachers is lower this year than our average,” Erlebach said. “It is actually one of our lowest since I’ve been here.”
Despite the lower number, Erlebach and NKN Middle School Principle Leo Lawyer feel it may be due to the high quality of teachers they already have at their school.
“The teachers at this school have a really strong idea of teaching and pedagogy,” Lawyer said. “The clichés of bell to bell instruction and strong student management aren’t clichés here. It’s a badge of honor for us. They are really proud of the work they do and students can feel that.”
Lawyer said there is a tremendous amount of growth taking place at NKNMS. In fact, the 220 middle school students enrolled this year is the largest Lawyer has had.
“The word is out about how strong of a school we are,” Lawyer said. “Our student achievement is really strong and we are at the highest level of academic growth that you can be identified through Oregon Department of Education.”
Erlebach said enrollment numbers for the high school are not up from last year but they have remained steady. This year, the NKN School District has more than 850 students throughout its five schools.

Facility Upgrades

The school district has been quite busy with their many summer projects, the biggest coming from the $1.5 million seismic improvement at the NES gym. According to Erlebach, the interior of the gym received a total overhaul with new supports and an interior wall around the whole entire gym.
It was a project that lasted most of the summer but Erlebach said it was well worth it.
“You don’t notice much of a difference from the outside, but on the inside you definitely get that ‘wow’ factor,” Erlebach said.
GGS will be next up for a $1.5 million seismic upgrade in summer 2019. Another summer project was the NKNHS grandstand renovation, which entailed all new siding and a fresh coat of paint.
Another NKNHS project has been upgrading the welding lab for its students.
“We’ve started our welding lab project that will add eight new welding stations,” Erlebach said. “We’re thinking the project should be done sometime around Thanksgiving break.”
Erlebach said they also plan to redo the high school chemistry lab but they are still seeking approval.
As the NKN School District appears to be on the rise, there seems to be a growing sense of excitement surrounding the 2018-19 school year and beyond.
“Our facilities are looking really nice and you can tell there was a lot of work put in on them,” Erlebach said. “Everyone from the students to the teachers seems to be really excited for the upcoming year.”