Most of us are likely familiar with the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

While the origin and author of the phrase is disputed, the meaning behind it is quite clear. When trying to convey complex information, the use of images or an illustration may be more effective than a written description.

The Oregon School District has a proud tradition of relevant and empowering learning experiences being central to the educational experience of our kids. This intentionality of purpose was reaffirmed over the last year through a series of open and meaningful conversations with large groups of students, families, and community members.

The product is a richly painted “Portrait of a Graduate,” which encapsulates the knowledge, skills, aptitudes and characteristics important in helping our kids reach their goals, pursue their dreams, and lead rewarding lives within their communities.

Imagine for a moment laying back on the green grass beneath the shade of a mature oak tree. As you gaze upward, you see four robust branches from which grow the smaller branches, twigs, leaves and flowers as the tree rises toward the bright blue sky. While each element may vary in size, shape, color and stage of development, these four branches are vital to the health and stability of the tree.

Applying this metaphor, our school district’s four branches are the Portrait of a Graduate’s 4C’s.

The first and strongest branch is Competency. Our students, by the time they graduate, must achieve learning standards in the subjects of English, social studies, math, science, physical education and health, and also pass a civics exam.

The second branch is Character & Culture. The goal is that our students understand the value of respecting one another, celebrating diversity, exhibiting empathy, advocating for themselves and others, pursuing meaningful goals, being a lifelong learner and having the skills necessary to be self-sufficient and financially literate.

The third branch is Critical & Creative Thinking, which is helping our students cultivate the ability to gather, analyze and evaluate information and the source from which it comes, identify and solve problems, think creatively and innovatively, and work both collaboratively and independently.

The fourth and final branch is Community. Throughout their experience and by the time they graduate, we want our students to understand and appreciate the importance of being contributors in their communities who value input and ideas from others, engage civically, participate in service activities, and are able to communicate effectively and use technology responsibly.

Much like the oak tree that requires nourishment from rich soil, nutrients and warm sunlight, our educators are vital in providing a nutrient-rich environment that enables our kids to learn and grow. Using the 4C’s to guide their work in teaching, counseling, coaching and caring, our educators continue to cultivate varied learning experiences for our kids. The fruits of their labor are prolific throughout our schools:

Netherwood Knoll Elementary students are learning science and an appreciation of the environment by planting, tending and harvesting the vegetable gardens in their outdoor arboretum.

High school students are getting a head start in the construction trade as they build a new home with our construction company partner in the Autumn Woods neighborhood beginning this week.

An OHS senior, through our School-To-Career program, spends part of her school day conducting scientific research in a UW-Madison laboratory.

As young as fourth grade, our students have the opportunity to learn how to read music, play an instrument of their choice and participate in an orchestra.

Taking a break from practice, the boys cross country team had a scheduled activity to do highway clean-up.

The OHS Equity Book Club, open to students, families and staff, is beginning their fourth reading cycle.

More than 101 classes were offered at summer school this year, and more than 1,600 students (40 percent of our student body) participated in at least one class.

I could keep writing about what our kids are accomplishing given the care and nourishment of our educators, yet I’ll close as I began with the concept that the use of images or an illustration, plus personal experience, is more effective.

Visit, follow the Oregon School District Facebook page, be a mentor at one of our schools, go to a school district concert, game, play or art exhibit. See for yourself the portraits our kids are painting throughout their public school experience in the Oregon School District.

It’s worth well more than a thousand words.

Krista Flanagan is a long-time Oregon resident and a board member of FOSD and the Oregon School District. The views expressed in this column are her own, and not expressly endorsed or sponsored by the Oregon School Board.

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