River’s Class of 2018

IMG_0854It has been a really exciting ride with this group of high school students.  2018 has faced incredible challenges and responded with amazing poise and purpose.  I have never been more proud of my students.  I have never been more hopeful for the future.

This is because of their brilliance, persistence and acknowledgment that “we can do more” that I hold this hope.  I believe this because I know these students and they have beautifully sent their message tonight (Ellie & Ridge’s commencement address.)

This is a group of students who have grown up watching war.  They have seen nations rise and crumble on social media.  They have seen cities across our nation turn on themselves.  Our students know the faces of hatred and bigotry all too well.  They have ubiquitous access to the vile, disturbing and destructive.  They choose to look for the beauty, hope and inspiration.  I have total confidence that our Columbia River High School Class of 2018 will work for a better, more peaceful world.

2018, your leadership is needed more than ever.

2018, By The Numbers:

285 total graduates in the Class of 2018

99 Honors Students – these students earned 3.3 or better cumulative GPA

68 students have reported $8.3 in scholarships and awards

58 Instructional Faculty

26 River graduates simultaneously earned an Associate of Arts Degree from Clark College

24 AVID Elective Seniors will graduate June 13 – All 24 have been accepted to college

23 wins for River’s Men’s Soccer State Championship Team

22 Outstanding Seniors were recognized on June 11 at Senior Awards

21 Full IB Diploma Candidates

15 years of Mr./Miss CR {Doernbecher #forthekids} reached $1 million total this year.  Sophie Landers and Reilly Burke were 2018 pageant winners

13 Greater St. Helen’s League Team Champions

6 Players of the Year:

  • Sophie Landers – Soccer – Defensive Player of the Year
  • Koben Jamison – football – Defensive Player of the Year
  • Kara Noftsker – Girls Swim
  • Jacob Hjort – Boys Basketball
  • Josh Bottleberghe – Boys Swim, Regional, State swimmer of the Year,  All-American
  • Sarah Ellis – Gymnastics

5 Associated Student Body Executive Council Members & 2 Senior Class Council Members

  • Katie Colson, Ella Osterwiel, & Emilia Gorecki: Senior Class Council
  • Sarah Ellis: Treasurer
  • Rachel Ferina: Secretary
  • Julie Hays: Community Outreach
  • Julie Fergus: Vice President
  • Tyler Troelsen: President

4 International Baccalaureate Recognitions:

  • Outstanding CAS: Cece Rathburn
  • Outstanding TOK: Ellie Firth
  • Outstanding EE: Rachel Ferina
  • Student of the Year:  Michelle Kinney

3 spring performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

3 Individual State Championships for Josh Bottelberghe {includes the 200 Freestyle Relay Team:  Josh Bottelberghe, Simon Parish, Ben Phelps & Rob Mead}

3 Staffulty retirements:  Barbara Edwards, Carole Gibson and Barbara Moore

2 Columbia River High School Citizenship Awards: Katie Colson & Jennifer Verduzco

1 SkillsUSA State Champion: Broadcast News, Director, Mitchell Chipman

1 Megaband and dozens of amazing concerts, games, parades, pep assemblies, and performances by our River Musicians

1 Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Grant (Media Literacy Curriculum Development) to Ms. Shana Ferguson

1 Stanford University Faculty Recognition for Excellence:  Mrs. Kelly Cameron

Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2018!  Go.  Do.  More!

Tuesday, May 22 and it’s great to be at River!

It is an eventful Tuesday evening here at Columbia River High School.  I am in between events and pausing to soak up the energy and excitement on our campus and in our community.

Last week, we completed the IB Exams.  Three.  Consecutive. Weeks.  Our goal is 95% passing.  We have achieved this goal in each of the past five years.

This morning we set up SBA testing for all Juniors and Sophomores. One more day of state testing will take place tomorrow.   Our goal is 90% participation.  The SBA is required for the school and graduation requirements for students and classes are slightly different each year.  The cleanest, easiest to read version of graduation requirements can be found here.

It will be fun to be on a regular schedule with max teacher contact until final exams in mid-June.  Here’s the link to our schedule for finals.

Tomorrow, we will begin our process of preparation for commencement, first with River Faculty.  The beginning of the end.  Seniors will be selecting speakers and diploma presenters this week.  Follow this link to our list of very important dates for the Class of 2018.  It never ceases to amaze me at how fast the time goes!

In our co-curricular programs, athletic teams are making history this weekend at the WIAA Finals in track, golf, soccer and tennis.  This spring’s production of A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream will debut tomorrow and continue through Friday.  This evening, the Annual Picnic Concert will be hosted by Columbia River Music Students in the courtyard.

We are about to open Hoover Gymnasium and welcome the incoming 9th graders – the Class of 2022 – to the family.

As I write this, the VPS Elementary Track meet is winding down inside Chieftain Stadium.  This is the final week of a grass surface on our infield and turf.  Dirt will start moving soon and an artificial surface is scheduled to be ready after August 1.  This begins the face-lift for our campus.  While we look forward to the future, we celebrate a tradition unmatched.

My message to the Class of 2022 tonight will be to enjoy the opportunity of joining our community as a student.  I will emplor students to take healthy, intellectual risks and push to be “the best you” that you can possibly be.

We refer to the IB Learner Profile and the vision we have for each member of our learning community:  demonstrate respect, act with integrity, value the time and place we share, be excellent and take responsibility.

As we bring one year to close and celebrate our accomplishments; we look forward to our future together.

I believe, for each of us here in our community, that this best is yet come.  It’s great to be at River!

Never Doubt: Our schools and our democratic process unite us in possibility

Two quotations have swirled around in my mind over the last weeks:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  – Margaret Mead

“From Parkland, Florida….to Los Angeles, California…. so far in just two months, six communities have been impacted by school shootings with injuries or deaths. Sixty-three casualties, twenty people dead in or at schools —16 students and four adults—just 45 days into 2018….”    – #Neveragain statement from Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Webb from February 26, 2018.

March 14 has been determined by many groups locally and nationally as a “Day of Action”.  For some organizations, this means a “walk out”.

At River, our aim is to engage students in dialogue and sustain this movement to a better, more peaceful world.  We have established guidelines that we have developed with our Associated Student Body Leadership and with the Principal’s Advisory Council in meetings on February 16th, 20th and  March 2nd and 6th.  We will share the options with our student body and our community before the end of this week.

We will publish an assembly schedule that will allow for students to engage in organized, and supervised activities.  We are a closed campus.  Planned activities will take place in our regular meeting spaces such as the gym, commons and Media Center.  There will be no outside speaker presentations.  We will adjust instructional time to accommodate some activities and a “moment of quiet reflection”.   If students choose not to participate, we will accommodate those wishes.

  1.  Activities planned for the morning will enable all students to participate or to option-out.  Students will be provided time and space to participate in a meaningful way.  (This may be sitting quietly, registering to vote, or drafting a letter.)
  2. Activities planned for the morning will be inclusive and facilitated with every effort made to recognize divergent points of view and to provide opportunity for exploration into all sides of the issues that arise.

Public schools and our democratic process unite us in possibility.  Never doubt.

More:  Founding Fathers and the Washington Legislature 


Equity & Excellence Grant Award

Columbia River High School has been Selected to Participate in New Initiative to Bring International Baccalaureate Programmes to More Students


Vancouver, WA – January 18,2018  – Columbia River High School has been selected to participate in a new national initiative created to promote the inclusion and success of under-represented students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) and the Career-related Programme (CP).


Columbia River High School has been selected to participate in the IB’s Excellence and Equity Initiative (E2).  Over the next two years, secondary school leaders from all over the nation and the Columbia River High School faculty will work to remove barriers to IB participation.  The focus of E2 is to increase participation for under-represented students, create pathways to the DP or CP, and incorporate strategies that are designed to positively impact the success of under-represented students enrolled in the programmes.  These efforts will empower more students to graduate with the skills and tools needed for post-secondary education and lifelong learning.


Research indicates that less than 1% of diverse schools nationwide have advanced programmes in which their students reflect the diversity of the overall school population. Research has also shown that the DP and CP can empower underrepresented groups for college entrance, persistence and success. One of the most compelling studies found that IB Diploma candidates in Chicago Public Schools — low income, minority, first generation college goers — have not internalized the negative stereotype effect of similar non-IB students. In fact, the study concluded that, “the IB program in Chicago appears to have accomplished something very rare in urban education: it took economically and socially disadvantaged students and radically changed their long-term educational prospects by making them world-class learners with an arsenal of academic skills.” To read more about this study, visit http://ibo.org/globalassets/publications/ib-research/dp/cps-summary-en.pdf.


“We look forward to adding even more depth to our DP and beginning the CP.  Our goal is to increase participation rates in order to prepare more students to find success as life-long learners,” said Alex Otoupal, Principal/Head of School. “Our teachers and leaders are excited to increase the impact of an international curriculum in our school community.  The E2 Award and subsequent work will bolster and expand opportunities for River students.  It is a great privilege to be considered leaders in these efforts.”


To learn more about E2 and the International Baccalaureate, visit http://www.ibo.org/excellence-and-equity/.


About Columbia River High School

Columbia River High School is a comprehensive public high school in the Vancouver Public Schools District.  Columbia River High School serves over 1,200 students.  Currently, more than 40% of Columbia River High School students participate in the IB Programme.  The on time graduation rate for the Class of 2017 was 95.5%.


About the International Baccalaureate

In 2018, the International Baccalaureate (IB) celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Pioneering a movement of international education in 1968, the non-profit foundation now offers four high quality and challenging educational programmes to students aged 3-19 years old. Through a unique curriculum with high academic standards, we champion critical thinking and a flexibility for learning by crossing disciplinary,

Magnet Night at Columbia River High School

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Columbia River High School’s Magnet Night will be Wednesday, January 17.  Our doors will be open at 6 pm.

Our intended outcome for the first 30 minutes of the evening is to provide a preview of some of our athletic, activity and club organizations. These programs make us a comprehensive high school and we have a great deal to share.  Student and staff representatives from a variety of our teams, clubs and groups will be spread out in the Upper and Lower Commons.  We hope you make personal connections during this time.  We encourage incoming students to interact with current students and staff so that we can keep you informed over the spring and summer of upcoming events.

At 6:30 pm, Our Associated Student Body President and I will provide a welcome and some brief comments as “The State of The School”.

At 7:00 pm we will move to J. Hoover Gym to present our International Diploma Magnet Program.  This meeting is for those students and families interested in learning more about the IB at Columbia River . During this presentation, you will hear from Julie Nygaard, River’s IB Magnet Coordinator, some of our teachers and our current students.

International Baccalaureate Magnet Program application checklist – applications submitted before February 5, 2018 are considered on-time.

In order to be ready for the IB diploma program, students must complete a first year algebra course (or its equivalent) with a grade of A or B by the end of their 8th grade year.  Please note, in order to complete the requirements for the Full Diploma, 9th grade math is PreB Geometry or higher.

Checklist for ALL Applicants

  1.  Thorough completion of the online application (Please use either Google Chrome or Safari as your web browser for the online application.)
  2. Request copies of current 7th & 8th grade transcripts from your current school and submit paper copies to Columbia River High School no later than Monday, February 5, 2018
  3. Schedule and complete an interview and writing sample.  Interview dates are February 1, 3 and 8, 2018.  Use this link to schedule an appointment for an interview SignUpGenius.com/go/10C044EAAAA23AAF94-ibmagnet2

Students who do not currently attend a VPS school will also need to submit their State Assessment (HSPE, MSP and EOC), MAP, SAT, PSAT or other similar scores from standardized tests) to Columbia River High School no later than February 5, 2018.

Students who reside outside of Vancouver School District boundaries…will be able to submit a boundary application after May 1, 2018 from your resident school district. If accepted, this boundary exception will need to be completed before May 15, 2018.

Applicants will be notified about the status of their acceptance by mail and email after March 8, 2018.

2252 in the House

House Bill 2252 is scheduled for public hearing on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm with the House Committee on Higher Education in Olympia, Washington.

River students taking International Baccalaureate Exams (and IB students everywhere) who enroll in Washington State higher education programs will gain with this legislation. HB 2252 is sponsored by Dolan, Harris, Santos, Johnson, Bergquist, Steele, Lovick, Senn, Stokesbary, Kilduff, Ortiz-Self, Valdez, Slater and (our very own – Legislative District 49th’s) Monica Stonier.

HB 2252 will require Washington State universities to award college credit for IB exams at both the HL and SL. The current Bill states credit for a score of 4 or higher. Read more about the bill here.

Because the IB is recognized internationally, the IB Diploma far exceeds state diploma requirements, and many colleges/universities already accept IB exams as equivalent credit in various courses, this will be a win for our students.

With HB 2252 we have another chance to create opportunities at home, here in our Washington Higher Education System. This will improve our partnerships, actualize opportunties for students and assist students/families with the financial burdens of university tuition.

As CR’s Head of School, I am not endorsing politics or politicians. My commitment is to advocate for my students and HB 2252 is legislation that is good for everyone. Join me in recognizing the quality work our IB students do in the classroom and those faculty who support them along the way.