Welcome to Oregon Connections Academy Parent's Association's (much easier to say ORCAPA)! This simple site is the result of a lot of work! It is still in its embryonic stages, but I am sure it will grow just as ORCA has grown.
So let me introduce myself and give you a little history on myself, and how I have come this junction in my life as an ORCAPA board member. (I am convincing our other board members to post a similar post as well.)
Way back in 2008, our family was at a crossroads as to what to do for our family education. I live in Portland. I have two children, then a 7 year old and a 3 year old. My husband is a college professor and I am a work-at-home mom and own a home-based business. When I am not running kids around, I am usually on the phone putting together business deals and contacts.
A few years ago when it became apparent we needed an "outside of the box" kind of choice for schools for our kids, I started researching. Education is extremely important to my husband and myself. We take our kids' education very seriously and are sometimes daunted by the idea that there are no "do overs" with our kids. Once they graduate from high school and go on to college or the workforce, there is no going back and "doing over" something missed. As we looked around our public schools, we were absolutely discouraged and afraid of the academic performance of the schools our kids would be required to attend. The performance would not do for us what we take so seriously: preparing our K-12 kids for their future.
We started researching homeschooling. I was getting myself psychologically prepared for the undertaking that it would be for me, especially keeping a home-based business running AND adding all the responsibilites of ensuring my kids were academically on track. It made my heart flip. In all my researching, I came across a web banner/ad that advertised online schools at home with teacher support, or something like that. I checked it out, and was completely excited. It was ORCA. This was it! And not only that, it was allowed in Oregon! Yahoo!
Halfway through our first year, in the Spring of 2009, I got an email from ORCA's principal letting us know about some crazy legislation that was coming through the legislature. If passed, we would need to find other school arrangements for the fall of 2009, and if I wanted to get involved in fighting this I could consider joining a parent Yahoo! chat group to get involved.
Oh it's a whole other history book to tell you the adventures we endured that spring as a parent group to keep ORCA on the map. Lessons I learned:
* The state of Oregon is not necessarily on board with online education. It depends on who you talk to. For sure in the spring of 2009, it was frightening how many decision makers were not.
* There is a huge voice of opposition to online virtual schooling, and they were seated close to the head of the table. We were at the kids table. No one listens to kids at the kids table.
* I learned one huge lesson. Just because I sit in hearings and meetings, and tell my story, doesn't mean anyone will listen to me, or care for that matter. We sat in hearing after hearing, telling the truth, giving logical and reasonable arguments and counter arguments to the scary legislation we were fighting, yet it kept passing and moving. Why?
* I learned the hardest lesson: education policy in the state of Oregon, or any other state for that matter, is not always made in the best interest of K-12 students. It is made based upon state and federal tax dollars earmarked for education......and who wants a chunk of those dollars. Money.
Jump ahead a few weeks and we won our battle by a string and a prayer. No kidding. It was a crazy miracle and our school was not shut down. Now, jump ahead to the legislative session of 2011. Now that I had learned some hard lessons, my kids were now older, and we, as a parent group......we were wiser and smarter. We weren't starting the session reading the rule book and wondering how the game was played. We knew the game, how to play it, and were now looking at how to strategize.
In that time, a small internal dream of mine came true......in February 2011 I was invited to be on the ORCAPA board, and I jumped on it! I was a hungry dog waiting to jump into this legislative session ready to take on our opponents. Historically, ever since ORCA had been in existence, they had used every single legislative session to introduce legislation to shut down virtual schools, and 2011 was no different.
We had two bills we were watching closely this time. The first one was introduced by our opponents, would have done exactly what they have intended all along: shackled and eventually shut down current online virtual schools in Oregon. No surprise, and we were there, right on it. That one concerned me a few times. By the end of the session, it had died in committee. That was huge!! Our opponents are not used to having their legislation die in committee.
The second piece of legislation is the one you hear about the most in the media. It was HB 2301, which essentially removed a lot of the rules and sanctions we endured from 2009. While we weren't shut down in 2009, we got a "time out". That phrase was used a lot, even in testimony on the floors of the House and Senate. Our goal for 2011 was for us to be released from "time out". Our bill passed. Governor Kitzhaber has signed it. The clouds parted for even more students who can benefit from virtual public charter schools.
Again, our naysayers were dealt a blow.
And here I am. I am so proud of our parent group. I get chills up my arms and tears in my eyes when I think of all we have accomplished! We have allowed future generations of Oregonian students to access online schools. Students and families who don't even know it's an option for them, will discover it, use it, and flourish! Long after our own kids are out of high school, the students coming into ORCA will not know the nailbiting done on their behalf a generation prior. Goose bumps on my arms thinking of that accomplishment!
I am so proud of our board! We are a bunch of online parents, who have jobs on top of our online parental duties, and took on the responsibilities of keeping families and students' voices heard in the legislature.
We have a lot to be proud of, and we have a lot to look forward to. The next session is just around the corner in spring of 2012 since Oregon has now gone to annual sessions since 2009.
1) Are you an online virtual school family and love this option for your family?
2) Do you think others should be able to freely choose this for their family?
3) Maybe you're not an online virtual school family, but you believe there should be choices offered to families for their students. You believe there should be different choices for schools other than just traditional schools.
4) You might not even have K-12 aged kids. Guess what? You still have a voice. You believe your tax dollars should be spent on more than just traditional schools. You know there are a lot of amazing innovations for education out there and want our state to explore them and invest in those that deliver rock solid education.
If you answered yes to any of those, you have found the right place. Join us, comment on this page, come to the state capital when hearing and meetings start up, "like" our Facebook fanpage, write an email to a legislator when we put out a call, send a fax, come meet us at an event. Believe it or not, small little efforts like that make the difference! All five of us board members can't do it all.
But if each of us put in a little effort....I can attest to this.....we can move mountains, and we have and we will continue. Come join the ride!