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"Catlin Gabel teacher to give school's lecture," about Susan Sowles

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Oregonian article, February 08

"Ivy removers work for food," about the school's goats

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Portland Tribune article, February 08

Tuition and affordability survey results

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by Lark P. Palma, head of school

The response rate to our online survey about tuition affordability, which we conducted in November and early December, was overwhelming, with 481 people replying. Catlin Gabel has approximately 540 families enrolled, so this census-level return is a significant sampling. Clearly, rising tuition rates and school expenses are topics that matter deeply to parents. Thank you to all of you who completed the survey.

We will study the results, compare with our benchmark schools, and review PNAIS recommendations before taking action. In the meantime, I want to share our findings, which are quite interesting.

Responses were equally divided between families who have been at Catlin Gabel for five or more years and fewer than five years. Slightly more than one-third of respondents have more than one child at Catlin Gabel.

Public perception that Catlin Gabel is a school of the super-rich is off the mark. The data reveals that more than one-quarter of our families earn less than $100,000 per year, and nearly two-thirds earn less than $200,000, with only 19 percent of our families earning more than $300,000. Within our community, there is wider income distribution than we expected. Relative to the Portland metropolitan area, however, where 84 percent of households earn under $100,000 per year, our school community is affluent. While the definition of Catlin Gabel’s middle class may be in the $100,000 to $250,000 range, Portland’s 2007 median household income for a family of four was $42,800 (PDC website).

For those who prefer statistics in visual form, scroll to the bottom of the page.

The survey results disclose the financial challenges of paying tuition, even for people many would consider high-income earners. The upshot is that the majority of Catlin Gabel families – all the way up to the $300,000 income level – say they make financial trade-offs to afford our tuition. While we expect pressure to afford tuition in lower-income families, the level of pressure felt by families in the $200,000 to $300,000 range is a bit surprising.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicate that they have considered leaving Catlin Gabel due to the cost. The financial pressures that people feel cannot be minimized. Each respondent’s perception of sacrifice must be heard and considered. Given Portland metropolitan area income demographics, housing prices, the cost of living, our tuition rate, and our current limited ability to award financial aid, we must ask: Who will be able to attend Catlin Gabel in the future?

Even though a considerable majority says paying tuition is a challenge, 86 percent feel Catlin Gabel is worth the expense.

Most – 84 percent – Catlin Gabel families pay tuition out of their annual income. One-quarter of respondents say grandparents or trust funds provide a portion of their tuition payments. In families with income less than $200,000, nearly one-fourth receive assistance from grandparents. Families in the $200,000 to $300,000 range rely most heavily on annual income, with the least amount of support from grandparents and trusts. About 7 percent of respondents rely on debt, such as home equity loans, to pay for tuition.

As a community we value economic diversity: 80 percent of respondents indicated that attending a school with an economically diverse community is important to their family.

Comments about how to cut expenses were interesting and inconclusive. We did not expect conclusive results from the open-ended questions, and there was no consensus about specific ways to decrease tuition. Suggestions ranged from increasing class sizes to decreasing programs and reducing maintenance costs. Our community knows that excellent education is an expensive proposition. But the passion parents showed in their comments indicate a need for us to get serious about cost control.

We constantly seek ways to provide the best teachers and programs for our children, and to ensure that our teachers are paid appropriately. The financial sustainability committee is analyzing data, raising questions, and developing principles of good practice for making financially sustainable decisions. The results of this survey will most certainly inform their work as they assess trends and make recommendations to improve the school’s financial position and to attract and retain students.

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. We will be equally thoughtful in our deliberations about Catlin Gabel’s tuition and affordability.

Fire Lookout Nordic Ski Trip, January 2008

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Trip Report By Nick Norge

Greg and I arrived to Catlin at the same time on Thursday morning. As we exchanged manly nods of approval and threw our packs into the back of the bus, Ian, Zanny, Paul, and Rocky pulled up and we were ready to go. We rolled out of the theater parking lot at 8 a.m. The dirty ice that skirted around the parking lot gave us only a small preview of the slippery trails we would ski later that day.

On the way up to the fire lookout, we made the customary stop at Government Camp, where Rocky hid in the snack shop. “Stop!” Ian yelled as the bus started, thinking we were going to leave him. Moments later, Rocky emerged with a couple cans of energy drink, bags of hard candy, and a smile stretched across his face.

At around 10:00 we reached the trail head where we would start our climb up to the lookout. Only with the help of Lily and Drew “John” Derrick’s GPS did we decide which direction to go. Skiing started like a horse race would, with Peter, Paul, and Greg (no, not the 1960s folk band), taking to the front as we started off down the gently sloping trail. After a half-hour of skiing, we were struck with a disheartening sight: The lookout, perched atop a towering slope, distantly peered down at us.

I guess skiing the trails got boring, because soon before I knew it, we slipped off the groomed path into the woods, maneuvering our long skis between tree wells and little icy hills. For most of the way up to camp we hiked through thick woods, balancing and pulling with our poles as we drove our skis through the snow. Walking probably would have been faster, and some “pragmatists” finished the journey by foot.

The lookout stood by itself on a small clearing, making for a 360 degree view that in one part extended all the way out to Mt. Jefferson. After settling in, we skied around the lookout for a couple of hours, falling mostly as we flew on our skis off little jumps and raced between bushes and small trees.

After uncountable wipe-outs, we finally returned to the lookout. It got dark pretty quickly and after dinner we undertook what was possibly the most metaphorically unified game of Caca ever. No, seriously, ever. While Zanny was quick to crack jokes at the other players’ intensity, she soon learned her lesson. Glancing down from his high stool in line with the stove, El Presidente Peter chuckled at Zanny, la caca, crouched in the dark corner between the bed and the wall, far away from the fire.

We woke up the next day only to continue our experiments of physical strength. Rocky took the first medal when he suffered through the prime-rib of all pancakes, a 12 ounce beauty that took up his whole plate. After applauding him and cleaning up, we cruised back down to the bus, taking another “short cut” off the main road. Ian suffered through a couple nasty falls, having to twist and contort his body only to fall down again. Paul silently stole the show, probably showing the best form of any of us.

By the time we returned to the bus, we were all thirsty. Snow water does not taste great when melted in a frying pain full of SPAM grease, and toward the end of our stay the survivalist was definitely beginning to show in some of us: “Nicholas!” Greg shouted as he shook my quarter-full water bottle. “You’ve been holding out on us!” His eyes widened as he took a swig from my now empty bottle.

Peter suggested we stop for water on our way back, but only under one condition: We weren’t allowed to buy drinks from the snack shop. This trip may have helped us learn to navigate skis between trees and holes, but it still couldn’t keep us from getting lost in a convenience store. Darn.

Imagine sleeping in a fire lookout forty feet in the air on top of the highest paek for miles around. To the north Mt. Hood takes up three windows of the 360 degree view of the surrounding wilderness. Mount Jefferson is close enough to touch. Surrounding your hill top pearch are endless slopes of untracked powder and forest. Hard to imagine, yes. But its true - thats where nine Catlin students and leaders spent their semester break. All would have been perfect had we only known how to ski! But that didnt stop us. No. It didnt.

Mount Jefferson

Alumnus David Bragdon a TV star

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Oregonian article, January 08

Global citizenship is good for business

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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

Recently, I enjoyed speaking to the Oregon Forum, a group of local entrepreneurs interested in social change. They asked me to reflect on global citizenship.

I considered several questions: What is global citizenship? How do we teach it in schools? How could businesses that must have employees with global understanding partner with us to ensure that students graduate from secondary schools and colleges with these competencies?

In order to move forward we must redefine citizenship beyond our own borders; adopt positive dispositions toward cultural differences; speak, understand, and think in languages other than our native tongues; gain deep knowledge of world history and geography; grasp the global implications of health care, climate change, and economic policies; and understand the process of globalization itself.

How are we doing nationally? Things are changing slowly, but as a nation we fail to foster global citizens. A thorough study from the Committee for Economic Development on Global Leadership cites alarming gaps in children’s learning. The No Child Left Behind Act, adopted in 2002, holds states accountable for student achievement in reading, science, and math. Unfortunately, as schools devote more time to these subjects we see a reduction in foreign language classes and social studies classes where global issues are explored. Only one-third of 7th to 12th grade students, and fewer than one in ten college students, study a foreign language. Seventy percent of students in secondary schools who are enrolled in a language class study Spanish, and only a small percentage go beyond two years of study. Few students in high school or college gain proficiency in any second language, and very few students learn the lan-guages that the State Department believes crucial to national security—Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Farsi, Russian, and Turkish.

State high school graduation requirements call for minimal coursework, if any, in international studies, world history, geography, political science, or area studies. Only one percent of college undergraduates study abroad. Teacher educa-tion programs provide few classes in teaching global topics. The media’s coverage of international affairs, trends, and issues is minimal. During her trial, over fifty minutes daily was devoted to Martha Stewart on most networks, and less than three minutes to the conflict in Darfur. We ought to worry about where students gain information about their world.

From a business and economic perspective, the challenges to our economy are enormous. The international workforce needs language competencies beyond English because most United States growth potential lies in overseas markets. In 2004, 58 percent of our growth earnings were from overseas. For example, 70 percent of Coca Cola’s profits are generated outside the United States. Studying languages and acquiring cultural competency are clearly eco-nomic necessities if Americans hope to compete on the international stage. A European business executive speaks an average of 3.9 languages, and an American executive speaks an average of only 1.5. Business decisions are made quickly, and the number of people involved in making wise business decisions must include teams of people who are multinational and multilingual.

American businesses lose an average of $2 billion per year because their employees are provided with inadequate cross-cultural guidance. For example, Microsoft Windows 95 displayed Kashmir outside the boundaries of India. Mi-crosoft had to recall 200,000 copies of the product. In a software package marketed in Turkey, Kurdistan is listed as a Turkish state, although it is a crime to even talk about Kurdistan in Turkey. An American-made video game mar-keted to Saudis included violent scenes accompanied by chanting from the Koran. Business loss is a direct result of these cultural gaffes. Moreover, America’s reputation is damaged when we are perceived as negligent and indifferent to other cultures.

The Rand Corporation surveyed 16 global corporations, which rated job applicants from American universities as the graduates with the least developed international skills. An executive from a top global corporation told Rand that American graduates are, “Strong technically, but short-changed in cross-cultural experience and linguistically de-prived. If I wanted to recruit people who are both technically skilled and culturally aware, I would not waste time looking for them on U.S. college campuses.”

The statistics about our students’ and work force’s global citizenship are discouraging, but there are many things schools and businesses can do to improve the situation by working together. Here are several suggestions:

  • Harness the expertise of bilingual and non-English speaking employees currently in our work force. Non-English speakers and multinational people hold 48 percent of both management and professional service jobs in the United States. Let’s learn from their experience about how to become competent in other cultures.
  • Business leaders need to pressure school boards to include international content at all levels of curriculum. The No Child Left Behind requirements can be addressed by incorporating cultural topics into reading pro-grams.
  • Press colleges and universities to form partnerships with elementary and secondary schools to provide teacher professional development in global education. Colleges and universities could tap their international students and professors to work in elementary and secondary schools.
  • Business leaders should insist that teacher education programs, as well as college programs, have strong inter-national components.
  • Corporations should play an active role in supporting educational initiatives that will produce graduates with cross-cultural competencies.
  • Expand the training pipeline at every level to increase the number of Americans fluent in foreign languages, especially Arabic and Chinese.

Catlin Gabel is working to foster global citizenship, and we are excited to be part of the local, national, and interna-tional dialogue on creating global citizens.

"History lives at Lelooska," about Mariah Stoll-Smith Reese '93

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Portland Tribune article, December 07

Bagby Backpacking: Dec. 2007

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Bagby Hot Springs Backpacking: December 8-9, 2007

The Catlin gravel parking lot looks different at 6:30am; it’s darker, frostier, more sinister, and I loose my footing on an icy log trying to haul my backpack to the bus. I pray it’s not a premonition of the Bagby backpacking trip that will unfold in the next two days.

Leaving Catlin, the sun rises into the clear blue sky against the Mount Hood-bound backdrop of Targets and car sales lots, a last glimpse at our modern consumerist culture before a weekend in the forest.

As we exit the highway to snake along narrower roads, Aiyana spots a bald eagle perched above the river, and its sharp profile is awe-inspiring. Once we arrive at the trailhead, we set off the two miles to the Hot Springs, following a relatively flat path through old growth trees and across a wooden plank bridge suspended above churning turquoise waters.

On the promise that we will return to the Hot Springs later, we hike another half mile to a beautiful riverside campsite, accessible by scrambling down a steep snow-tinged hill. After setting up camp and eating lunch, we explore the river by inching across ice-covered beaver dams and snowy fallen logs. Murphy, Max, and Luke lead us to their discovered island, home to frozen mossy boulders and branches with ice droplets gleaming in the afternoon sunshine.

Hiking up to the trail again, we travel into the Bull of the Woods Wilderness for about two hours, stopping only to hear stories of Snortle-pigs and Snaffle-hounds and to eat string cheese.

Suddenly we round the corner and a breathtaking vista greets us, a view of snowy mountains and deep valleys, all shrouded in steam with the sunlight and snow. We devour sugar bombs (candy coated peanuts) before heading back to camp for our elaborate feast of stuffing, ramen, macaroni and cheese and hot cocoa.

Finally it’s time for the hot springs, and we crunch through the snow lead by the light of our headlamps and the stars, arriving only to leap too quickly into the near-boiling water. There’s a trail below the wooden half-roofed hot springs building that leads to an icy stream, and we fill buckets to cool the tubs and hollowed logs.

After a few hours, our fingers and toes are pruney and we’re utterly at bliss. Our towels have frozen in wrinkled forms, and we fill our Nalgene’s with the hot water to keep at the foot of our sleeping bags. Back at camp, we make another round of mac n’ cheese and drink lots more hot apple cider, before bundling up for bed.

The next morning we sleep in, awaking to find anything once damp now frozen solid, and we pack up after a quick oatmeal breakfast. Returning to the hot springs, the daylight illuminates the graffiti of tourists across the wooden walls contrasted with the delicately suspended icicles.

During our lunch of semi-frozen pita bread with mustard and canned salmon, I smile at the bonds created between our group in the 30-some hours we’ve been away from Portland. Soaking away the sores of our hike, perfecting the ratio for mass hot-apple-cider (lots and lots of packets), and scooting across ice-covered logs suspended above a freezing river, it’s been the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure, and as we return along the trail, I’m half hoping the bus will have disappeared, and we’ll just have to stay a bit longer at Bagby Hot Springs.


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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

Traditions connect us to each other in ways that last forever. Common experiences bond our current students to generations of students that came before, and those who will follow. Celebrating our 50th anniversary as Catlin Gabel School invites a look into where some of our school traditions originated.

When the Gabel Country Day and Catlin Hillside Schools became one, many traditions and educational values were preserved. In some ways it was easy to combine the schools because of their many shared qualities. For example, shop class (formerly called manual training) was an important component of both schools. It was unusual to find girls in shop classes in most schools, but both the Gabel and the Catlin Hillside Schools taught shop without regard to gender.

Theater, music, and drama were also prominent programs in both schools. Holiday pageants and tableaux hold important memories for alumni of the Gabel School. Similarly, the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas evoke nostalgia for Catlin Hillside alumni. Community service was an essential aspect of school life on both campuses -- as true today as it was in the war-torn 1940s.

Some traditions unique to each school were brought to the newly merged school and continue today. Pet Day, carried on by the Lower School, and Campus Day are Gabel traditions that are important today. The annual production of St. George and the Dragon, now performed by eighth graders, and the Maypole dance, a first grade rite of passage, are rituals we inherited from Catlin Hillside School. New customs have been added to the old, giving Catlin Gabel School a culture of its own, a culture rich in tradition.

Catlin Gabel people bring alive those traditions as we live them. Alumni tell me that their warmest memories are most often about people – teachers and classmates – and adventures and traditions such as school trips, performances, and Rummage contests. Everyone who has ever worked or shopped at the Rummage Sale, for example, has a favorite story about a kooky customer, a great purchase, or finding a long-lost favorite tie among the bargains.

Mention of the annual 8th grade Gilbert and Sullivan musical provokes comparisons of which Modern Major General in Pirates of Penzance sang the fastest, or which Katisha in The Mikado generated the most revulsion. Likewise, current students look forward to finding out which first grader is Wee Willie Winkie in the winter Revels concert, whose dog will win the funniest prize on Pet Day. It is fun to imagine which first, third, or sixth grader will play St. George in eigth grade, or which of the freshmen will read the school chapter when they graduate.

This time of year makes us think about the people in our lives. When I think about my mom, I’m awed by what a great person she is and what an influential parent she was, organizing softball teams, and Girl Scouts, and many parts of our lives. Now that I’m a grandmother I think about what kind of mother she is, and what kind of grandmother she is, and now about her role as a great-grandmother.

Our school represents that sort of multigenerational resonance. We can still hear stories about how somebody’s mother ran Rummage, or their father helped build the Barn, or they lived in the Dant House before we moved here. These are deep connections. Our school traditions serve as a reminder of the power of a school community that is larger than any one of us. They humble and inspire us with an understanding that Catlin Gabel will continue to be a vibrant part of children’s lives long after we leave.


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By Pam McComas, beginning school head and associate head of school

The following PamNote appeared in the December 2007 Beginning School Buzz.

Blessings -- that’s what I think about at this time of year. We enjoy so many: healthy children, warm homes, and a school that cares deeply about the well-being of each child. For a long time I have counted Catlin among my blessings.

My connection to Catlin Gabel started long before I came to work here. My son entered kindergarten in 1984, eleven years before I started as Beginning School Head. Like many of you, I was a little rattled by the admissions process. After the visit I remember wincing when he told me that he had drawn the cartoon figure He-Man even though the teacher had asked him to draw a person. Oh dear. Not only did he not follow directions, but now teachers in a fine private school knew that I allowed my son to watch déclassé TV shows! Not the impression I had hoped to make. Happily, he was admitted anyway.

Betsy McCormick was my son’s first teacher and what a great year he had. She helped that rough-and-tumble little boy love school. Later, as an interim kindergarten teacher, I worked alongside Allen Schauffler, a wise colleague. In my professional life, I moved on to do other things. But as a parent, I knew that this school provided something special for children: flexibility and understanding. Peggy McDonnell, lower school music teacher, was stalwart in the face of resistance. My son complained vigorously about having to learn to play the recorder, only to earn a college degree, many years later in – you guessed it – music. (Just goes to show that making predictions about a growing child is iffy at best.) My son Chris was an intense, funny, endearing, hard-to-shift little knucklehead. But he was my little knucklehead. I was crazy about him and yet, even so, I still sometimes felt humbled as a parent. At those times, his teachers offered much needed, much appreciated perspective.

Parenting is challenging and none of us do it perfectly. We all feel confounded and a little guilty from time to time. We start out with idealized images of how we will be as parents, images that bump up against the realities of the children we live with every day -- children who present their own unique personalities, independent ideas, and daily reminders that we are hardly perfect.

One educator put it this way: “We are rescued again and again by love and forgiveness, and by the capacity to laugh at our imperfections, and by the pleasures that come with growth. Thankfully, parents can partner with teachers along the way. Who better to share our parental joy, understand our concerns, and believe wholeheartedly that our children will flourish, each in their unique and surprising ways, and grow into fine people.”

I was buoyed by knowing that teachers saw my son as a delightful, developing person with more than enough plusses to balance out the trickier parts. They saw the best in him and that made all the difference to him and to me. It is my hope that you and your child experience that kind of partnership, care and understanding, just as we did.

I wish the same for every child, everywhere, in the imperfect year ahead.

Smith Rock and Watershed Restoration, Nov. 2007

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Catlin Gabel students arrive at an empty Smith Rock State Park for some climbing


Trip Report

By Abby

My brother drove both of us to meet the bus Saturday morning, me yawning and trying to remember if I’d packed my rain jacket… My father had warned us there might be showers. It drizzled throughout the bus ride to Central Oregon, but had stopped by the time we pulled over to the side of the road to eat our lunch. It was a large group: 18 students and four leaders. We spread a tarp to eat on, and everyone pulled out his or her own sack lunches. I ate my cream cheese bagel, decided I was still hungry, and tried to take some of my brother’s while he wandered behind a tree to commune with nature. He noticed when he got back.

Our next stop was the BLM station, where a friendly woman described our community service duties: cut down junipers. To most of us true Catlin students, the thought of cutting down a tree seemed absurd. Aren’t we the kids who plant trees? Aren’t we worried about global warming? The woman explained the details to us: junipers are a native but encroaching species, meaning although they grow in the desert natively, they are invading new areas because humans and cows have altered the ecological balance. So we thought we might try to alter it back. We followed her to a good spot, divided into two groups, and began chopping junipers. This first day was tough; despite the creative names Chris Potts came up with (example: loptomus prime), most of us were tired from the drive and would’ve rather been sleeping than working. After 4 hours, we were finally allowed to retire.

We camped our first night in a deserted campground along a dry riverbed. It was dark as we set up our tents, and we failed to see the slope we pitched our tents on or the small gullies made by water in the dirt, which I’ll get back to when I discuss bedtime.

Dinner came after camp set-up and ran smoothly after Brian and Peter dumped half of the spaghetti on the ground. Somebody mentioned this happens every time. I wouldn’t know, though the spaghetti was very good.

After a campfire, everyone went to bed. It was only about 8:30, but it had been a long day. The boys in the tent next door blessed us with a rowdy rendition of “JJJJJJJJJ,” and the next thing I knew I was waking up to the same song. It was accompanied by the steady drizzle of rain and an occasional complaint of “Gosh it’s wet in here!” Climbing outside, I saw Michal hanging his down jacket on a tree, where it dripped water and got even wetter in the rain. He looked at me and smiled. “There was a small river running through our tent,” he explained. “And we didn’t secure the rain fly correctly. Everything’s soaked.” Through the laughter coming from their tent I heard that they named the river the Rio San Gervais.

After a soggy breakfast, we packed our tents and climbed back on the bus, headed for another day in the juniper forest. I anticipated another boring day, but it turned out magnificently. We split into two groups again, and decided to work until lunch. It stopped raining after about 20 minutes, and the rest of the day was spent in sunshine. My group ended the day having cut down about 700 junipers, which was many more than we’d imagined possible (we’d predicted about 250). The chopping increased in fun as the day progressed; by the end we would stumble upon an area with a lot of small trees and act like we had arrived at the Promised Land. We were all disappointed to be leaving the junipers, since the next day we would not be coming back, but the tree tied to the front of the bus, named Alfredo, reminded us of our encounter with the “chosen trees.”

Leaving juniper land meant leaving the only sunny part of Central Oregon. As soon as we had arrived in Prineville, a mere 6 miles away, it was raining again.

We drove to a campsite near Smith, where we would stay for the next two nights. We set up the tents lightning fast, hoping to keep as much rain out of the tents as possible. Michal took special care with his rain fly.

Dinner was warm burritos around a crackling campfire. We had a group meeting where we discussed the highs and lows of the day. A man named Joel joined us, who had been at Smith for the last couple of weeks and was planning to stay until his school started in January. He said he’d seen the fire and decided to come over… fires were always welcome. I wanted to say that maybe a house would be more welcome, but decided not to make a comment. The mood around the campfire had been peaceful and alert, and Joel killed it by asking impolite questions like: “Who are you guys,” “Why are you here,” and “Why were you cutting down trees? Isn’t that bad for the environment?”

I was excited to climb, but hadn’t really admitted to myself yet that besides the fact that I had never climbed before, I was afraid of heights. I didn’t want to let it bother me, but as soon as I was on that rock I decided that maybe next time I should consider the lows before signing up for the trip.

I had joined the beginner’s class, so while everyone else went off to climb high, tough routes, a select 6 of us went to learn how to belay, tie knots, and communicate with the climber. They didn’t teach us how to climb. I think maybe that part’s supposed to come naturally.

Each of us 6 climbed 2 routes in the morning, then ate lunch with the larger group and spent the rest of the day climbing with them. Two climbs didn’t seem like enough to be thrown in with the professionals, but I succeeded in one climb in the afternoon. I had someone helping me, pointing out helpful hand holds and such, I was passed by Peter who started at least 10 minutes after me, and multiple times I considered asking to come down, but when I reached the top I felt more accomplished than I ever have before in my life. I don’t know why. I’ve done cool and challenging things before. But the feeling of “Wow I actually climbed that?” was pretty cool.

After dinner out at a Mexican restaurant, as tradition called for, we made another campfire and discussed the high and low points of the day again. Everything people said about climbing I seemed to understand now; the screaming, the mental exhaustion, the triumph. Disappointingly, Joel didn’t join us.

A rousing chorus of “Kum-By-Ah” served as our lullaby, and we fell asleep dreaming of a clean, dry bed.

I heard rain in the middle of the night and thought to myself “oh god, tomorrow is going to suck if it’s wet,” but when we woke the ground wasn’t wet; instead, it was white. The snow set the mood for the day: amazing. It was warm in the sun, good climbing weather, the park was empty, and everyone climbed successfully. My fear rose up again when I was climbing, but I wanted to feel like I had the day before when I reached the top of the route, so I kept going. I am pretty sure rock climbing is a drug if it really made me do that.

"Goats make a meal (or two) out of ivy"

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Beaverton Valley Times article, November 07

Rummage Sale featured on AM NW

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KATU TV video clip, Novermber 07

Continual Improvement

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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

“Flexible, adaptive, and productive organizations will excel in a rapidly changing world.”

—Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and senior lecturer at MIT

Building a shared vision for change is an important aspect of Catlin Gabel’s organizational growth and continuing relevance. How do we make decisions about change? How do we inform our practice?


We constantly rethink what it means to be educated because we never believe we have achieved the apex of perfection. It is imperative for us to continue to grow and change and make sure Catlin Gabel provides a 21st century education for every student, every year. Each class, with its different character, depends on our careful scrutiny of what we teach, how we teach, and how we allocate our resources.

As a progressive school, we look for ways to enhance learning for our students. We continually assess how we’re doing based on student and faculty evaluations, and parent feedback. We look to current research, educational innovators, other schools, national standards, and professional councils to guide decisions about changing and improving our curriculum. The independent school accreditation process calls for reflection and requires that we ask ourselves if we are truly serving our students the way we intend. Through these multiple evaluative processes, decisions to change curriculum or add programs are born out of sound philosophical and pedagogical principles.

The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, for example, has standards of good practice. We made sure we considered those standards when adjusting our math curriculum not long ago. When we examined our program, we recognized that math teaching could be improved to reach a wider span of student interests and abilities. We asked a consultant to work with us on what is termed extensions. The consultant worked specifically with third and fifth grade teachers to help us better reach the wide range of mathematical abilities in a given classroom. The teachers learned techniques for going deeper with students who are grasping mathematical concepts quickly, while serving students who require a slower pace to fully understand complex concepts.

Our global education initiative, born out of the Imagine 2020 conference in 2006, is another area where we are improving on what we do. We determined that to best serve students in the 21st century, Catlin Gabel should expand global experiences for our students through travel, exchange programs, and curriculum. We formed a leadership committee composed of teachers from across divisions, staff members, and trustees, evaluated our current program, researched what other schools do, and invited Peter Tacy to campus to work with us. Peter is an educator and author of Ideals at Work: Education for Stewardship in the Round Square Schools. (Round Square is an international network of high schools that shares values of leadership, environmental stewardship, service and global education.) Currently, we are in the early stages of evolving into a more comprehensive program. The Upper School trip to Turkey last summer is an example of our moving beyond our language-based trips, to a more multidisciplinary exploration of culture, politics, archaeology, and history.

“Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs.” —Peter Senge

Conferences and workshops provide a steady source of information about current pedagogy and innovations. Teacher growth depends on constant learning and exposure to ideas from breakthroughs in brain research and learning styles to integrating technology. We also gain a great deal from sharing what we do with others. Throughout the year we host visitors from other schools who are interested in seeing Catlin Gabel in action. In mid-October, two school heads visited to explore how we teach math and writing. When we explain how we do what we do, and why, we further our own understanding of teaching and learning. I am delighted that 21 Catlin Gabel teachers and staff members presented at the October All Schools Conference. Sharing ideas sprouts new and better ideas. (Five audio presentations from the All Schools Conference are available on the website's Campus Life section.)

Operating Practices

Decisions about our operating practices such as tuition rates, class sizes, fundraising goals, salaries, and numbers of staff members are made by comparing Catlin Gabel to similar schools.

Catlin Gabel is a member of the Mid-Sized School Benchmark Project along with 26 schools nationwide that enroll approximately 700 students in preschool through high school day programs. Among the member schools are Bush School in Seattle, Wilmington Friends School in Delaware, Friends Academy in New York, and the Wheeler School in Providence.

We look at our peer schools to gain as much information as we can to see how we fit into the big picture. The information is adjusted to the cost of living in each school’s community, and the numbers are calibrated for an accurate comparison. The comparative analyses examine everything from SAT scores, to student grades, admission inquiries, development expenses, faculty workload, and endowment. We look at the results of the Mid-Sized School Benchmark Project as data points that inform our decisions about operations. Beyond our benchmark schools, we look to local public schools for salary benchmarking and to other NAIS and PNAIS schools with national reputations for excellence for additional information.

Our core decisions about managing resources, adjusting curriculum, and introducing change are carefully considered. We hold ourselves accountable through the accreditation process, continually educating ourselves, benchmarking, surveying parents, students, and alumni, and looking to other exceptional educators.

I hope our founder, Ruth Catlin, would have been pleased to know that we maintain her progressive vision 80 years after she described her philosophy: “To maintain a school with the most enlightened ideals of education . . . To contribute to the community and its schools an educational laboratory, free to utilize the knowledge and wisdom of leading educators.” Catlin Gabel will continue to be a leader in progressive education as we change for the better and for the future.

"Hired goats tackle weed problem"

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Oregonian multimedia, October 07

From Rescue to Resilience

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by Pam McComas, beginning school head and associate head of school

The following PamNote appeared in the November 2007 Beginning School Buzz.

As you may know, I am a grandmother. My granddaughter Rita is a joy. It is also a joy -- fascinating really -- watching my son become a parent. Christopher is a musician, married to a writer, and lives in Los Angeles. We talk a couple of times a week about all sorts of things, but Rita and parenting are often topics of discussion. He is, I should mention, a guy with strong opinions. He was born with strong reactions and his Catlin Gabel education strengthened his penchant for speaking his mind.

One conversation last August went like this: Christopher, sighing deeply: "Mom, you know how annoying it is when people act like their kid is the center of the universe? And they go on and on and on about how their child is the smartest child ever.

I nod in silence on the other end of the phone.

Christopher pauses for a time, then: "But, you know, I think Rita IS really smart!" Ah, the irony. I love that. (By the way, Rita was not yet 6 months old.)

But isn't that great? Just the way it ought to be, really. Every child should have at least one adult in their lives who thinks they are the most wonderful being ever. It ought to be a birthright. Here you go: one grown-up, completely smitten with you.

One day Rita will go off to school and I hope her dad still thinks she is an adorable genius. When that day comes, both Rita and her dad will have some adapting to do. Because you see, Rita will join a class that will be full of children whose parents are equally crazy about them. And, one of the most important things for a child to learn is how to be – not only a member of a group – but also how to make that group work better because they are a part of it.

This is such an important thing for people to know, because interpersonal and social intelligence is the single biggest predictor of leading a satisfying, successful life. Teachers know this. Throughout the school, at every level, teachers create classroom situations that call on students to develop these skills. It starts here, in the Beginning School where there is a big emphasis on becoming a classroom community member. Teachers in the Beginning School do a great job. But they can’t do it alone. They need your help, and so do your children. You are the coach, the interpreter, the model for you child. You bridge home, where your child’s needs are central to everything -- and school, where she is one in a group. You help guide your child’s shift from her individual sphere to a collective one in the official world of School. This represents a big shift -- for both of you.

What can you do to help? Make the internal shift yourself. This is not unlike the airline asking you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting your child. Be mindful of the new demands that school requires. Classroom expectations are fundamentally different than those you have for your child at home. So, consider your child in this new school context and use this new mindset as you parent. Then try the following.

First, shift your parenting from Rescue to Resilience. What does that mean? It makes perfect sense for parents of very young children to shield them from disappointment, difficulty, and hurt because they are vulnerable and your role is to protect. As a child begins school, however, it is time to begin to expand your repertoire so that she can develop her own ‘muscles’ for dealing with those rough patches herself. At school you are not there to buffer them, much as you might like to. The good news is that she is maturing and getting sturdier every day, growing more capable of handling childhood difficulties herself. Your challenge is to stop thinking about your child’s frailties, but instead to see her emerging capabilities and resilience. Then, parent from this re-centered perspective and begin to move from “I protect and rescue you” to “You can handle it.” You will, of course, coach and support, but convey confidence in your child’s growing capacity to manage more and more on her own.

Secondly, broaden your parenting focus from simply You and Me (individuals in a special relationship) to All of Us (an inclusive, collective perspective). Of course your child will always be at the center of your world, but your perspective as a parent broadens now that she is a part of a collective, her class. Ask yourself, “How can I help my child learn about boundaries and responsibilities in community?” Model this awareness yourself. You too find yourself in a new collective – with other parents of children in your child’s class. Let your child know that you are both part of a new situation – school – and that the rules of the road are a bit different when you are here at school.

When children come to School in the Beehive -- with a capital ‘S’ -- life changes for children and their parents. There is a new consciousness about your place in the world and your impact on the group. These are big, important lessons -- lessons that my brilliant granddaughter Rita will make one day with the help of her doting dad. Lucky girl.

Your children are lucky too. They have all of you to help them understand their place in the larger, more official world of School.

Lucky us, because we get to participate in this awakening.

Tonight you will hear from your child’s teachers. As you do, be thinking about how you can support your child in light of these new demands. Expand your parenting repertoire from Rescue to Resilience and from ‘You and Me’ to ‘All of Us.’

George Wolfe Ettelson ’42: 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

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Annually the alumni board selects from nominations an alumnus or alumna who demonstrates, through his or her contributions to the community, “qualities of character, intelligence, responsibility, and purpose” fostered at Catlin Gabel and its predecessor schools.

On June 9, the Catlin Gabel alumni board presented the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award to George Wolfe Ettelson ’42. His wife of 43 years, Helene, accepted the award on his behalf. George died in January 2007 at age 81 after a struggle with leukemia. The following article about George appeared in the spring 2007 issue of the Caller.

To those who knew George well he was, in the words of his lifelong friend and Gabel schoolmate Phillip Hawley ’43, “a special, special human being.”

“He was the finest person I ever knew,” Helene Ettelson says simply.

Those who did not know him so well, or even at all, often felt the same. As a Catlin Gabel student, a recipient of one of the three endowed scholarships George supported, wrote to George and Helene last year, “You’ve enabled me to reach my full potential, and for that, I cannot thank you enough.”

Helping others to reach their full potential was George’s passion. His legacy of fully engaged, hands-on philanthropy ultimately compelled the members of the alumni board to honor him with this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Helene says his impulse to give was born out of a profound sense of empathy: “It was important to George to serve communities with special needs and make a difference. He opened his heart to the needs of others and felt a deep connection with them.”

Giving also runs in the family. George’s grandfather, Adolphe Wolfe, provided the model by establishing a fund in memory of his son, Getz Wolfe, and supporting a variety of Portland nonprofits. George’s father, a prominent Portland physician, was also active in the community.

George’s daughter Diane Ettelson Lowenstein says that, in turn, George and Helene guided their children, Diane and her brother William, toward philanthropy as a practice: “Mom and Dad taught us that we have an obligation to give back to the community in a meaningful way and that doing so would be gratifying for us and make us more empathetic individuals, in addition to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. It was as though being an active, engaged member of the community was a way of life in the Ettelson household.”

The Ettelsons’ immediate community was the San Francisco Bay Area, where George settled after graduating from Yale and Harvard Business School, and serving in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II. He became manager of the Macy’s store in Hillsdale and went on to a vital career in business before retiring as president of Dyno Industries, an office supply company.

In San Francisco, George served on a variety of corporate and nonprofit boards, including that of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Helene, whom he met in 1952 and married in 1964, volunteers at the Information Desk and Emergency Room of the California Pacific Medical Center, where she serves on the Guild Board.

Yet, as his daughter Diane points out, Portland – and Portland people – remained central to George’s thoughts throughout his 50 or so years in San Francisco.

“One truism with Dad is that ‘You can take the boy out of Oregon, but you can’t take Oregon out of the boy.’ Even though he left Portland at a relatively young age, he never forgot his roots and always maintained a true affinity for the community and organizations, such as Catlin, that influenced him so profoundly as a boy and prepared him for the rigors of Andover, Yale, Harvard Business School, and the Navy.”

In Portland, the Ettelsons support St. Vincent’s Hospital, Oregon Health and Science University, and Reed College. George served on the Catlin Gabel board and co-chaired the Endowment Committee with Nani Warren ’42. For him, education was an essential right and an important goal.

Diane says, “He used to tell me, ‘Get a good education. It’s the one thing no one can ever take away from you.’ My education is one of the greatest gifts he could ever give me.”

It is telling that the best birthday gift Helene could give George was to establish an endowed scholarship in his name at Catlin Gabel.

“I created [the George Ettelson Endowed Scholarship Fund] as a surprise for George’s 80th birthday in 2005,” Helene says. “The look on George’s face of joy and disbelief when Lark Palma announced this at an alumni gathering in San Francisco was pure delight! It gave him great pleasure.”

With the establishment of that fund, George became the first donor in Catlin Gabel history with three separate endowed scholarships to his credit. He and his sister Ruth established the Jean Ettelson Salz scholarship fund in memory of their sister, and then George endowed the Ruth Ettelson Wurzweiler scholarship in Ruth’s name when she died. Both Ruth and Jean had attended Miss Catlin’s. His aim with each of the funds was to expand access to Catlin Gabel for a more economically and socially diverse group of students. The funds exemplified his commitment to Catlin Gabel, Helene says. “He wanted to give something back to the school, and what better way that with a scholarship for a youngster who couldn’t afford it but was certainly qualified to attend Catlin Gabel.”

Each year, George looked forward to meeting the recipients of his family’s scholarships in person or by letter. “It meant a lot to him to get those letters,” Helene says. In reading the letters, one gets the sense that George was deeply interested in the students as people; he wanted to know what they were studying, what their families were like, what their personal interests were.

Personal connection was vital to George. “He always remembered to call on our anniversary and on Roger’s birthday,” says Laura Meier, whose late husband Roger Meier ’43, a fellow Distinguished Alumni Award honoree, was a longtime friend of George’s (George was an usher in the Meiers’ wedding).

Catlin Gabel was vital to him as well. Phil Hawley describes a conversation he and George had last fall, in what would turn out to be their last visit together. “We began reminiscing, swapping stories,” Phil says, “and George spent a substantial amount of time talking about Gabel.”

According to Phil, Catlin Gabel was “one of the center points of George’s mind” throughout his life. This Alumni Weekend, George will be the center point of our minds, as he so often has been. We are proud and honored to be able to call him a Distinguished Alumnus of this school.

Caving in SW Washington

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Exploring the caves of SW Washington

A group of nineteen Middle School students and leaders set off from Catlin Gabel School on October 20 to explore the lava tubes near Trout Lake, Washington. We drove the two hours in a fine yellow bus before stopping at Cheese Cave. The students explored this complex lava tube both north and south from the entrance. The cave had been used to store cheese in past years. From here the group spent the rest of the day looking for the elusive "Jug Cave".

A group of nineteen Middle School students and leaders set off from Catlin Gabel School on October 20 to explore the lava tubes near Trout Lake, Washington. We drove the two hours in a fine yellow bus before stopping at Cheese Cave. The students explored this complex lava tube both north and south from the entrance. The cave had been used to store cheese in past years. From here the group spent the rest of the day looking for the elusive "Jug Cave". Although we never found our quarry, we did come across some lava bridges and a long cave that took us deep into the woods. That night was spent in the Klickitat County Park in Trout Lake where we feasted on burritoes.

The next day we made a leisurely break from camp and went off to explore New Cave. Although we found the cave easily, we were surprised and pleased to discover some unexpected caves and sinks to the west. One of these was half a mile long and took us through some unexpected challenges. It was mid afternoon when we again saw daylight. After a lunch that included orange cupcakes we set off for home.

Biking the Deschutes Canyon: October, 2007

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On a beautiful fall day 10 Catlin Gabel students and three leaders made a 27 mile loop around the farmlands of north - central Oregon and up the canyon of the Deschutes River.

The group left school at 7:45 on Saturday the 6th and drove for several hours to the river community of Maupin. We unloaded the bikes and gear and after the requisite pre-trip photo began the tough pump up the hill to the high ground above the breaks of the Deschutes River. Once at the top we could see that good weather was coming, though it was still mostly cloudy. we headed north for a quick visit to the rural community that is Tygh Valley. Not seeing much to keep us there we turned east and followed rolling hills to a rendezvous with the dramatic White River Falls. We lounged in the sun on the grass provided by the Oregon State Department of Parks and Recreation. Below the picnic site we found an abandoned power generating station and did some exploration there.

From the park we travelled down a spectacular canyon that dumped us right out at Sherars Bridge. There were Indian fishing platforms clinging to the shear rock walls, and lots of non-Indian fishermen. And to our great surprise and delight we saw the yellow ball (!) that we had lost off the raft just two weeks earlier. It was stuck in an endless back eddy right next to the falls. What a fate for the ball who had been so loyal to us. The stduents immediately began thinking of ways to rescue the ball.

From here we biked nine miles into a stiff headwind back to the pleasant twon of Maupin. we stopped a few times to check out the rapids and to rest. Bob let us stay down by the river to recuperate while he rode up the long hill to retrieve the bus.

That night we had a huge and enjoyable dinner at Calamity Janes restaurant in Sandy. We arrived back at school fat and happy.

The Descent of Elkhorn Creek, October 2007

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Elkhorn Creek - a beautiful stream with hundreds of obstacles to overcome


Complete immersion into a wholly untramelled and untravelled wilderness. The Elkhorn Creek watershed has no roads, no trails and has never been logged. It is one of the wildest, maybe the wildest, low elevation forest in Oregon. Very few people have ever traversed the length of the Creek.

Looking down the Canyon of Elkhorn Creek

The Descent of Elkhorn Creek


Elkhorn Creek is one of the most pristine and undisturbed natural ecosystems in the state. Adjacent to Opal Creek, the Elkhorn Creek valley has never been logged, no roads have ever been built and no trails created. The area is only accessible by foot, and involves full-on bushwacking for its entire length..

Our group left Portland Friday afternoon, stopping at the Swiss Miss restaurant for burgers and shakes. After leaving our second car near our exit point, a small bridge over the creek servicing some private logging grounds, we drove up and along a steep ridge, cliffs rising into the darkness to our right and dropping away steeply to our left. A small gravel cul-de-sac served as the end of the road, here we pitched camp and fell asleep under as many stars that can be seen anywhere in the state. We woke up early the next morning, broke camp and prepared ourselves for the day ahead. We set off down the mountainside around 7:30 in the morning, slowly making our way down the steep slope towards the valley floor. We soon reached the creek 2000 feet below our camp. At first, surrounded by the serene beauty of the forest, we hopped from rock to rock trying to keep our boots dry. This soon became foolish and we waded right in the creek. We made our way along the riverbed, sometimes scrambling over logjams, other navigating rocky chutes. At times we ventured into the forest on either side of the creek to avoid a few rather difficult spots. At one point we had to climb high above the river, which plunged into a narrow gorge, filled with deep rapids. We traversed a steep slope, holding on to sword ferns and small trees, looking down the sheer incline towards the river far below. Later we encountered one of our leaders, who when trying to pick his way through the gorge had fallen into the creek and had to swim through the remainder of the rapids – wearing a back pack. Every hour or two we stopped and emptied our boots of water and squeezed the water from our socks. Though we could not have been more fortunate with the weather, (there wasn’t a cloud in the sky from the point we arrived at camp to the time left the valley) we saw very little of the sun itself, the massive hill and the looming trees cast a near perpetual shadow.

One thing you would not imagine in such a vast forest is that other than the sound of rushing water, there is almost no visible animal life. I saw only a couple birds, but never saw any sign of life other than ourselves. Soon the sky began to adopt a deeper shade of blue, and dusk began to approach. We very much wanted to make it out before dark, as temperatures began to drop and we were becoming very tired. Gradually we began to don our headlamps, ever more carefully climbing over rocks and placing our feet when crossing the stream. Not long after it became fully dark, we reached a point were we could not continue along the river. Our headlamps couldn’t tell us how deep a pool of water was and it was too risky to just make the jump. We chose to follow an overland route, climbing above the river, and then traversing the steep hillside above in the darkness. We stumbled through the woods, singing and picturing a warm vehicle. I personally thought of having waffles the next morning. Neither of the GPSs worked in the shadow of the forest, but we could estimate or position referring to topographic features and the map. Around 8:30, we stopped a final time, having reached the border of the protected forest (this was made visible by the gross inequality in the size of the trees). Tired and cold, some of us were troubled by the fact that we did not have a specific idea of our location; little did we know the road was less than 50 ft away. Once (with great rejoicing) we reached the bridge, we sent two of our number to retrieve our larger car. The remaining party set off for the main road, walking along a dark road lined with the ghostly shapes of birches. Soon a thick fog fell, but we came to the main road after an hour of wlaking in the ethereal darkness. After 14 hours of hiking, climbing and exploration we were reunited with our two vehicles. Around midnight we finally reached Catlin.

Knee deep in the creek for many hours


A true old growth forest

An early breakfast before the hike