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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

Trout Lake Caves, Oct. 2007

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The Lava Tubes of Trout Lake, Washington


October 2007

Caving Trip Summary

By Hannah

We met in the gravel parking lot at Catlin at 8 am. After loading the bus with all our gear and claiming our seats, we set off for two days of caving in the Mount Adams area in southern Washington. Six seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, two freshmen, four adult guides, and one adorable first grader had plenty of room to stretch out on the large yellow school bus. Talking, laughing, sleeping, snacking, listening to music, and taking pictures kept us occupied on the three-hour drive to our destination.

Len, our bus driver, let us out at our first caving spot; Cheese Cave, named for the dairy product that used to be made and kept cool in the natural underground refrigerator. At the entrance, our trip leader, Jeff, gave us some pointers on caving etiquette. Number one: stay together. Number two: repeat number one. This was a high-ceilinged cave, only requiring some navigation of the steep slope at the entrance and some stepping around boulders and the remains of wooden shelves. At the end of the cave, a metal staircase led up to the basement of a Forest Service cabin. We left the cave and walked back towards the bus, where the aboveground part of the cabin stood. We ate lunch around the cabin, and then boarded the bus to our next cave site.

New Cave was narrower and shorter in some parts, requiring more ducking and navigation of sharp lava rock. Then we geared up for our next challenge; Ice Cave. Back in the day, Ice Cave provided ice to the surrounding pioneer communities. We were looking forward to seeing some interesting ice formations, so we bundled up and strapped on our kneepads and helmets. Two of the adults, Len and Jessica, disliking the idea of small cramped spaces, stayed behind. In places, ice lined the cave wall and floor. This cave was considerably more technical, because not only were there sharp lava rocks, low ceilings, and narrower, twisting passageways, but the ice underfoot added the extra hazard of slippage. Soon, the lava tube became much smaller, and we began crawling on our hands and knees or bear walking. Sam led us around pillars, over boulders, and under low ceilings. At one point, we were flattened to our bellies as we negotiated a particularly low spot. Quinn, Kathy’s 6-year-old son, scampered in between the sharp rocks like a monkey in a tree. “Come on, you guys are slow,” he told us. Well, Quinn certainly had the advantage of small size; he is about half the height of Trevor and Eric, the tallest guys on our trip. We all managed to squeeze through the tight spot, and soon the cave opened up so we could at least walk bent over. Once we reached the end, some of the group had a short rave party with the strobe light setting on a headlamp and some techno music from a cell phone. Then we got back down to business; crawling, crouching, stooping, and walking back to the cave entrance. We trekked on a roundabout way through the woods, eventually finding the bus and driving off to our campsite.

At the large group site, everyone pitched in to set up their sleeping areas and to get a nice fire going. As darkness fell, so did the temperature, and a hot meal was warmly welcomed. We sat around the fire playing Taboo. Jeremy was able to make us guess the mystery word with ease, while Chris kept using the taboo words to describe the mystery word. Skyler eventually helped him out. Soon, people began drifting away from the fire to the tents; Mary and Linnea to theirs; Torin, Nathan, and the rest of the boys to Jessica’s five-person tent; and the seniors to their cluster of tents. We stayed up talking, playing cards, telling stories, gossiping, and laughing. But eventually it was time for some well-deserved rest. Sometime in the night, seemingly every coyote in the surrounding area began howling, waking up some of the group while the rest slept through it all.

"Eatery puts a big spin on recycling," about Ali Jepson-Dohrmann '01

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Portland Tribune article, October 07

"Student wins a poetic victory," about Erica Berry '10

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Beaverton Valley Times article, October '07

"Catlin Gabel's classy rummage sale"

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Oregonian blog, October 07

Fifty years of fun facts

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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

This year marks Catlin Gabel’s golden anniversary. Fifty years ago Catlin Hillside and Gabel Country Day schools merged to become Catlin Gabel School. Our wonderful history, combined with today’s outstanding program, provides a deep reservoir of fun facts. Here are just a few:

When Catlin Hillside and Gabel Country Day Schools merged in 1957, grades one through five were housed on the former Gabel campus in Raleigh Hills, and grades six through twelve used the Catlin Hillside campus on Culpepper Terrace in Northwest Portland.

The student body numbered around 300 at the time of the merger.

The merged school was named Portland Country Day, but that lasted only a few months. An outcry from alumni and students convinced the trustees to adopt Catlin Gabel instead.

The Barnes Road campus, which the school acquired from Jack and Mary Dant in 1958, was surrounded by dirt roads and open spaces. The property was called Honey Hollow Farm, and the Barn housed sheep and horses.

Before Jack and Mary Dant, Marvelle and Tom Autzen owned the property. Architect Ernest Tucker, father of woodshop teacher Tom Tucker ’66, built the farmhouse for the Autzens. We call the house the Dant House.

Upper School science students will dissect 17 sheep eyes this year.

A rare yellowwood tree (Cladrastis lutea), native to Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee, was planted near the present-day track and field about 80 years ago.

There have been 10 heads of the combined Catlin Gabel School: Esther Dayman Strong, E. Kimbark MacColl, Ed-ward Blair, Manvel “Schauff” Schauffler, Steven Prigohzy, Clint Darling (interim) John Whatley, Jim Scott, Andrew Beyer (interim), and Lark Palma.

Approximately 40 percent of all students during the early 1960s received financial aid, which attracted qualified stu-dents to the relatively new school. The Rummage Sale helped to underwrite the financial aid program, just as it does today.

The Rummage Sale, now in its 62nd year, attracts 12,000 shoppers during the four-day sale.

Teacher salaries in the mid-1950s reportedly averaged $2,200 per year. Adjusting for inflation that is $17,400. Teacher salaries average $54,800 per year in 2007-08.

Former Portland Mayor Vera Katz taught modern dance in the Barn before becoming a state legislator.

Today, 730 students attend Catlin Gabel. The annual budget is $16 million, and our endowment is $22 million.

Number of computers including laptops: 600

The Middle School robotics lab has about 40,000 Lego pieces.

Preschool and kindergarten students, teachers, and parents have come together for 777 Beehive Sings since 1978.

Number of field trips and overnights Lower School students spend away from campus in one year: 60-plus

Lower School students have identified 43 bird species on campus.

The Upper School Chamber Choir has sung in 13 languages in the last 10 years including Latin, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Estonian, Latvian, Russian, Afrikaans, Hebrew, Korean, and Japanese.

64 Middle School students in the past four years have traveled to Costa Rica.

Approximately 8,000 crickets are fed to two bearded dragon lizards in the sixth grade science classroom each year.

Upper School students organized 37 clubs this year, focusing on pursuits that include chess, community service, in-ternational affairs, and mock trial.

We have six international students in the Upper School from Botswana, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Spain, and South Korea.

184 Upper School and 115 Middle School students participated in 32 athletic teams last year.

Catlin Gabel, including our predecessor schools, has 4,787 living alumni representing 44 countries.

The barn served 24,750 meals last year.

Catlin Gabel community members made 2,319 financial contributions last fiscal year.

As we go to press, the Beginning and Lower School library has 1,147 books in circulation.

There is much more to discover about Catlin Gabel. I invite everyone to tour the campus and visit classes. Check in with the division administrative assistant for directions and schedules. If your son or daughter entered the school af-ter sixth grade you will really enjoy peering in on the Beginning and Lower Schools. If you are looking ahead to your child’s Middle or Upper School years you will benefit from knowing what’s ahead. Checking out buildings and seeing classes in action will further your education about what makes our Catlin Gabel remarkable, beyond these amazing numbers.

Rafting the Deschutes River: September 2007

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Deschutes Rafting Trip September 2007

A box of Fuzzy kittens

By Zanny

All rudely awakened before some believed to be humanly possible, our group consisting of three freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors, and three seniors all met around our bus and packed up our gear. The bus headed east and before we knew it we were at our put-in place along the Deschutes River.

We learned some very critical things including: how to effectively pack a dry-bag, swimming position, and potential signals to sea-fated crew members. The river was calm the first day; leaving ample opportunities to consume energy drinks and converse with unfamiliar boat members. Ornithology and geology sprung to life as we drifted down the river sighting herons and columnar basalt.

That night, just before sunset, we all took a hike up to “white cliff” where we enjoyed spectacular views and also preformed some tests on the true durability of Nalgene bottles. After a delicious dinner of spaghetti, the group engaged in a spectacular new game. Involving a circle of flashing flashlights and someone spinning around in the middle, this game provided several hours of true fun while the person in the middle stumbled around or made other ridiculous movements.

The next morning all of the “Spam virgins” were welcomed into the glorious world contained in the cube-shaped can with a peel back lid. Sizzling in the hot frying pan, the delectable scent of spam wafted teasingly through the brisk morning air. Several of the group members’ lives were greatly influenced by their initiation into the “spam fam”, and I think we would all agree it was for the better.

The next two days were filled with big waves, rushing rapids, and extreme splashing, not one of them failed to thrill us. We crossed rapids such as “Whitehorse”, “Buckskin Mary”, “Oak Springs”, and “Elevator Shaft”. One raft even had the feat of naming their very own rapid, by the deceiving name of, “Box of Fuzzy Kittens”.

The final thrilling moment in the trip occurred at the intersection of the Deschutes River and a smaller river, the White river. About a quarter of a mile walk up the White River, natural water slides can be seen. Three of us rode down them. Beyond the shocking frigidness of the water, the water slides were some of the coolest things I’ve done. The final drop at the end was literally breathtaking, and we were left very satisfied.

Finally, at the take-out, we all stripped ourselves of our wet clothes, and loaded up the bus. As we trundled back to Portland, all warm and content, fond memories filled our minds of a weekend well spent.

Trip report coming soon

Plans for 2007-08 and beyond

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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

Every September I have the same thought – I am privileged to be the head of this school. This is the beginning of my 13th year as head of Catlin Gabel, and I know I will be here for at least five more years, thanks to a vote of confidence from the board of trustees. As I buy my school supplies and outfit for the first day of school (a tradition since I was in first grade) I think, too, of the next five years and what I hope to accomplish. Here are six areas of focus.

Global education

Our students deserve programs that are consistent with our mission as a progressive laboratory school, and speak to their needs as 21st-century global citizens. I traveled to Turkey this summer with 25 inquisitive and bold students and three enthusiastic teachers. The trip confirmed for me the vital importance of international experiences for our older students, as well as a continually broadened curriculum that links younger students with the wide world. As I watched our students in Turkey dance, draw, and converse with their host students at school and in Turkish homes, I saw perceptions change and views of Islamic culture recalibrated. Indelible images of an elderly rag-clad woman foraging in a dumpster strengthened our resolve to work toward ending poverty and disparity at home and abroad. We grew to understand that Turkey is much like the United States — a melting pot democracy composed of people from many ethnic groups who are fiercely proud to be Turks.

We will strive for providing all Upper School students and some Middle School students with global education experiences like the Turkey trip, which moved beyond language immersion. Paul Andrichuk, Middle School head, leads our global education work. Paul and others will work to define what makes Catlin Gabel’s global education program distinct. I am certain if you asked any one of the students who met with members of the Turkish parliament, had tea in Muslim homes, played with local children in the park, and enjoyed homestays in Istanbul, they would tell you the trip was life-changing and powerful.

All Kinds of Minds

All Kinds of Minds refers to the work of renowned pediatrician Dr. Mel Levine, who translates current brain research on how children learn into practical teaching methods. Roughly half of our teachers have completed the weeklong All Kinds of Minds workshop and many are engaged in the yearlong follow-up practicum. Our goal is for all Catlin Gabel teachers to take the All Kinds of Minds course. The training elevates our teaching by strengthening our understanding of diverse learning styles. We want our students to evaluate their own balance sheet of strengths and weaknesses so they advocate for their individual learning styles and needs. Pam McComas, Beginning School head, leads the effort. Each division will form a committee of teachers to customize and guide the work in their division. Our plan is to incorporate the exciting research results into our own brand of progressive education.

Urban leadership

We are continuing to explore the concept of an urban leadership program for Upper School students, which is an idea that emerged during the Imagine 2020 conference in spring 2006. A small group of faculty and staff members met throughout last year to consider options for this new idea. This year, the entire Upper School faculty will advance the conversation about how our program can be enriched by using Portland as a learning laboratory. We want students to benefit from Portland’s traditions of environmental awareness, participatory government, social responsibility, enlightened public transportation, and civic and arts activism. Michael Heath, Upper School head, will pick up where former Upper School head Emily Jones left off in leading this discussion of how to involve our students in Portland’s civic life. The urban leadership concept is an exciting and creative approach to renewing the Upper School’s experiential and progressive traditions.


Our sustainability efforts relate to the schoolwide culture, curriculum, and campus operations. Vicki Swartz Roscoe, Lower School head, leads the curriculum component, which is designed to teach students, preschool through grade 12, to be leaders in sustainability and stewards of the environment. Eric Shawn, facilities director, leads the operations side of our sustainability program. Our short-term goal is to integrate environmental considerations into Catlin Gabel’s decisions and daily operations. Our ultimate goal is zero waste by the year 2012. Community commitment to reducing our use of paper and plastics is already paying off. By shifting to reusable and away from disposable products, we have already seen a 7 percent reduction in waste between last year and the previous year. Education efforts are under way to help all of us distinguish recyclables and compost from waste. We appreciate everyone’s willingness to read newsletters like this online, forgo bottled drinking water, wrap lunches and snacks in reusable tubs, carpool, and ride the TriMet or Catlin Gabel buses. Forty-five community members, including staff members, faculty, students, parents, and alumni have been trained in the Natural Step process, which guides and inspires organizations to work together to build a sustainable society.

Financial sustainability

With increased emphasis on deepening our program, we must manage costs and plan prudently. Several board and staff members have sharpened their pencils and adopted a financial planning process created by the National Association of Independent Schools. The financial sustainability group will analyze data, raise questions, and develop principles of good practice for making financially sustainable decisions. We are benchmarking Catlin Gabel’s income and expenses, fundraising levels, costs per student, and employee workload against those of comparable schools. Assessing trends and making policy choices to improve the school’s financial position assures that we can reasonably fund our important initiatives well into the future.

Learning spaces

Our extraordinary curriculum benefits from attractive classroom facilities. Students learn best with proper ventilation, lighting, room to collaborate, and appealing classrooms. Construction crews and facilities staff members worked steadily to make certain the Upper School renovations were completed for the start of the school year. I am delighted and grateful that students and teachers can start the year in the gorgeously refurbished Dant House and Jean Vollum Humanities Center. You are most welcome to walk around the Upper School and visit the remodeled buildings. Students and teachers can tell you all about the before-and-after contrasts. Additionally, the Barn kitchen was remodeled to ease congestion during lunchtime and to better accommodate the daily meal, beverage, and snack service. The board’s buildings and grounds committee and key staff members are focusing their attention on the deteriorating and limited space for the Middle and Upper School visual and performing arts. We are making plans to improve the conditions for programs that are central to our mission.

I will further expand on each of our initiatives as the school year progresses. As I begin my 13th year as head of school, I remain inspired by our dedicated and creative teachers and staff members, delighted by our intelligent and imaginative students, and appreciative of our involved and generous parents. I hope you have a terrific 2007-08 year at Catlin Gabel.

"Coloring Our Maps: Professional Development and Global Vision"

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Article by Lark Palma in Independent Schools magazine

White Salmon Valley: July 2007

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White Salmon Valley: July 19-21, 2007

Through the July mist and drizzle, 12 triumphant middle schoolers explored the White Salmon Valleys whitewater, wilderness trails and basalt caves. We rafted down Class III-IV whitewater, including the 10 foot Husum Falls, hiked into Lake Wapiki in Indian Heaven wilderness, and explored the depths of Ice Cave and New Cave near Trout Lake.

A student report on the trip will be posted here soon!

North Umpqua Rafting: July 26-28, 2007

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Each morning dawned clear and bright, each day was filled with the clear green water and intense rocky rapids of the North Umpqua River. Twelve students banded together to make their way down the river, camping under a lush evergreen forest alongside the rushing water.

A student shall tell the tale.

packing up, heading home
until next time...

Climb of the Middle Sister, July 2007

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Swimming after the climb

Students from Catlin Gabel made a successful ascent of the Middle Sister, a 10,060 foot peak in the Oregon Csacades. The team hiked in from the Pole Creek trailhead and set up base camp at 6700 feet. The climb itself was made up the Hayden Glacier, with students doing much of the leading.

A detailed trip report is below- please have a read!

Middle Sister Trip Report

Love Comes From Below

We met at 7:00 am in the gravel parking lot, a motley crew of three adults, one sophomore, two juniors and two seniors. We loaded our things on to bus number 9 and departed from Portland, heading south through Salem, to Sisters, Oregon. We drove a little ways out of sisters on a bumpy gravel road to the “Pole Creek” trailhead near the three sisters. At the trailhead we parked the bus and unloaded backpacks and food, cooking and climbing supplies. We divided up the group gear, lathered up with sunscreen, got our packs on and started the hike in. The hike was mild at first slight - ups and downs, not strenuous. We hiked for about an hour and reached a stream. How pleasant… I thought at first as I slapped a mosquito on my leg, but then I slapped another, and another. I crossed the stream quickly, threw down my pack and dug through it for the bug repellent my mother had so kindly got for me for the trip. I covered myself with it and was left alone for quite a while. From the stream the trail became steeper. We told stories to keep ourselves entertained as we trudged along in the warm early afternoon. Eventually we hit another stream, at which we decided to begin heading uphill. We missed a somewhat clearly marked path, so we traveled cross-country, occasionally encountering a patch of snow or a clearing with a beautiful view of the three sisters. After what seemed like more time than I was expecting, we reached what would be our base camp.

That evening we relaxed, and had a very nice dinner of salad and sausage macaroni. Mosquitoes ate us alive as we played cards, set up our tents and divided up gear for the climb the following day. However, the mosquitoes were only a mild nuisance at this point as our bites hadn’t really started itching yet. The next morning we awoke at about 5:30. A quick breakfast of oatmeal was consumed, and we began climbing. We stuck to snow as much as we could, since it felt better than rock. After climbing for a while we stopped on a steep slope to hold snow-school. We practiced self-arresting in case of a fall and learned how best to walk in the snow. From there we got harnesses on and divided into two rope teams of four and continued up. We saw crevasses to our left and right, but nothing too close. We continued up the mountain breaking occasionally for water and pictures. Eventually we began to draw near the saddle, which we would climb to the center of and then head up the ridge to the summit. “Greg,” Peter called to our fearless leader, “Head up by that slope on the left instead of up the saddle.” We stayed left and instead of ascending the gentle slope to the ridge we climbed a steep snow face, moving slowly along as Greg kicked in steps. We reached the top of the snow only to find a small rock hill. Greg started up it, dislodging rocks in the process, that had we not been careful, could have sent us home early. The rest of the group gathered at the end of the snow and then one by one climbed the gravelly, dusty slope. We stopped and rested a while, snacking on power bars, energy gel and trail mix. We had a rocky hike ahead of us. The sun shone as we started trudging up the loose rocks in our heavy boots. We still had the rope on, but carried it in coils so as not to get it dirty. We reached another snowfield, which we crossed horizontally, and then on to some more rocks. We left our ropes and began hiking up the rocks that were turning into more and more secure boulders. Finally we reached the summit. Strangely enough it was covered in butterflies. We ate Poptarts and lunch and talked about skin cancer and rested. We were not eager to return to the mosquito-ridden camp. The view from the summit was amazing. We could see all over Oregon, Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood, even as far as Mt Adams in Washington. Eventually we packed up our things and headed down. This time we descended all the way to the saddle instead of going back down the steep snowy slope. At the saddle we put on gaiters and started down, to the north of where we came up, along a cliff that became a ridge. From where we were walking we could see our trail on the way up and all the crevasses from where we were walking. The idea was proposed that instead of returning to the campsite, we head to a lake of collected glacial runoff. The group was split, so we flipped an ice axe and decided to head to the lake. At the lake we washed our feet in the freezing water, swam, and ate, enjoying the sunshine and the serenity of the spot. We named the lake “Little Heaven” on the GPS. We stayed at the sun-soaked, mosquito-less lake for three hours before reluctantly returning to camp and not before I had skipped a rock about fifteen times, throwing it behind me and backwards. At camp there were far fewer mosquitoes than in the morning. Cheesy enchiladas were cooked, and spilled, and cooked some more, but came out alright. That night we celebrated the 4th with a fire, sharing stories of past adventures. Some slept like rocks that night while little circles of fire covering our bodies kept others awake. The next morning we woke up at about 6:30, packed up our camp and had hit the trail by 7:30. The hike out took us about 2 hours less than coming in. On the way back to Portland we stopped for a couple hours at the beautiful home of Peter’s friend, Stan Biles, on the McKenzie River. There we skipped rocks, watched rafts tumble through the rapids and ate a delicious lunch. Another three hours on the road and we were home. Here we saw what we had only felt on the summit: Love comes from below.

City of Rocks: July 10-16, 2007

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Catlin Gabel students traveled east to the high desert of southern Idaho for a week in the wonderland of the City of Rocks. There they spent sunny days climbing the glorious granite slabs and cracks of Elephant Rock, the Breadloaves and Castle Rock. Star-studded nights brought cooler temperatures, fantastical culinary creations, and a talent show to rule them all.

The trip report below was written by one of the students on the adventure.

City of Rocks Excursion

“It’s 6 AM Tuesday morning,” a cheap sounding radio DJ chirped onto my radio-alarm. I rose somewhat automatically considering the 5 hours of sleep I scrapped together the night before. By 6:30 Im out the door, and driving towards Catlin Gabel, on route for sunny, Northern Idaho. Or so I thought.

I arrive at 7:00 AM on the button, and converse with fellow students as pre-trip kinks are worked out by the Peter, Aiyana, and Chris "C-Potts" Potts, such as the fact that neither of our rental vans are waiting for us as promised. When they arrive eventually theres a Mexican hat dance around our faithful, and a little too small vehicles, as we load them up.

By the end of one day of driving, I learned several things: First of all, that there is a Sunday crossword puzzle. Second of all, that the puzzle is harder still than Saturday, which I had previously categorized in my mind as, "reserved for bigger men," and named a, "mind-hurt." I also learned how much can be pulled out of the supple brains of teenage youths, for by the end of the day, wed conquered Sunday.

Upon looking at the Idaho-Montana map during my short-lived stint as navigator, I learned the final lesson for Tuesday: The City of Rocks is isnt in northern Idaho. In fact its quite the opposite, kissing the Utah border. Touché, geography.

We B-lined it to Boise, Burley, and finally through the lovable Almo, turning right part way through town towards the City of Rocks.

Luckily for me, I can see perfectly well. We drove down a gravel, dusty road transitioning from cow fields to hills blanketed with sage brush, cheat-grass, and juniper- not to mention the enormous loaves of granite peppering the hillsides, and valley. As we pressed on, we saw more and more rock, in complex configurations - such that I remember thinking, "theres no way anyone climb everything here." And I was right. Though we climbed from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM or later each day, we climbed only at only 5 crags - Elephant Rock, The Bread Loaves, Bath Rock, Castle Rock, and The King and Throne - the rock within touching distance of our campsite.

The next four days were filled with laughter, exploration, memories, friendship, and blistering, sweltering, unending heat. We climbed thought provoking 5.10s and 5.11s. We spent hours on delightful multi-pitch climbs, clipping bolts on beautiful clean granite. One day we decided to cut climbing short and went in to town to spend the afternoon and evening at “Ranchfest”, a local annual celebration. We played horseshoes, listened to country music, ate home cooked food, and won several raffle drawings. It was fun and relaxing.

Even though we spent the great majority of our time climbing, the trip ended up not being about climbing so much. We returned from the trip slightly different people. Climbing brought new experiences, honed old skills, and instilled new trust. Each night, as temperatures cooled, and the brilliant stars lit up the dark sky, wed have some sort of structured conversation as a group. Our talks ranged from sharing our favorite and least favorite aspects of the day, to an open forum discussion about rural communities, to a talent show finale on Sunday night whose winner received a weeks supply of pop tarts.

Our final conversation occurred after the talent show on Sunday night. Peter asked us, "What memory of the City of Rocks will stay with you for your whole life?"

Each of us retold a story, and explained its significance. The conversation rang true for me at the time, as I know how memories run together as time goes on. But while reflecting on the trip, I realized the lessons learned from experience cant fade. And by the time our memories of the trip are gone, they will have worn away the banks of our minds, leaving in their place knowledge, reverence, and most of all personality.