BATTLE GROUND — As September draws to a close, Mark Ross has served three months as the superintendent of Battle Ground Public Schools. Ross became the district superintendent at the beginning of July after former Superintendent Mark Hottowe retired.
Ross began his educational career as a teacher and coach at Camas High School in 1982. He later taught and served as a coach in the Issaquah and Renton school districts. Ross worked as an assistant principal at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. He then worked for the Evergreen, Vancouver and Washougal school districts.
Ross said that he came to Battle Ground Public Schools three years ago when he was hired by Hottowe to be the assistant superintendent.
“I knew I wanted to work with kids,” Ross said. While in college, he worked as a parks and recreation director, and that job helped him determine he wanted to be a teacher. He began working as a history teacher, but several years into the job began to look at other professions.
However, Ross stayed in education. “There wasn’t anything I felt that gave me the satisfaction of working with kids and really making a difference in their lives.” Ross said that he is entering his 35th year of educational work.
When he was hired by Hottowe, Ross said that Hottowe realized “our visions were pretty similar, that it was about kids and how we can help kids be successful.”
Hottowe recommended Ross as his replacement to the school board. Ross said that the similar visions of him and Hottowe made the board comfortable with him being hired as the new district superintendent.
In a column written in July for The Reflector, and available on the Battle Ground Public Schools website, Ross outlined several focus areas for his time as the district superintendent. Ross elaborated on those focus areas in an interview with ClarkCountyToday.com.
Ross said that he wants to make sure all students in the district are prepared to be successful after graduation, whether they pursue a college education or not. Ross said that the district is working to facilitate a variety of options for students, especially those in high school programs. To that end, Ross said that the school district not only continues to offer college classes in high school, but also offers hands-on vocational courses to prepare students for other careers after graduation.
One area that Ross said Battle Ground Public Schools has done well in over the past several years is in fostering social-emotional learning. Ross said that the district helps meet student’s basic needs such as food and emotional and mental support.
By “providing supports for students,” Ross said that students are able to focus and succeed in the classroom. According to Ross, all schools in Battle Ground Public Schools have counselors, mental health professionals and resources available to continue to provide for the social-emotional learning of students.
Ross also wants to help facilitate early learning by reaching out to local private preschool providers to help prepare students for all-day kindergarten. Last year, Battle Ground Public Schools began offering all-day kindergarten district-wide, and Ross said that some of the students were not ready for the transition.
Part of Ross’ plan for the district is to ensure that the district facilities are equitable environments for all students and staff. This means making sure that all facilities are “safe, 21st century ready,” Ross said.
“We have some great facilities but we also have some very old facilities,” Ross said, “and it’s kind of a perfect storm that our oldest schools are some of our most crowded.”
Battle Ground Public Schools is being affected by the rate of development in the region, Ross said. One of his goals is to ensure that the school district is in communication with agencies and developers in Clark County to ensure that Battle Ground’s needs are met. To help facilitate this goal, Ross sits on the Chamber of Commerce Board and on the County Quality Schools Advisory Council.
Ross said that his overarching vision for the school year is to “continue helping students be successful at all levels,” and noted that “different students have different needs.”
He said that Battle Ground Public Schools is unique among some districts for the “diversity of neighborhoods and cities that make up Battle Ground.” The district encompasses not just the city of Battle Ground, but the communities of Yacolt, Amboy, Brush Prairie and others.
Recognizing the wide range of communities in the district, Ross said part of successfully serving the district means “drawing all of those distinct areas together and realizing that we need to come together for the benefit of all of the kids in the Battle Ground School District.”
The regional diversity of the district can provide challenges. The district cannot be successful if some area needs are met, but others are neglected, Ross said.
Ross recognizes challenges facing the district, including regional diversity and growth. However, he said that the community “has really wrapped themselves around the kids.” Battle Ground Public Schools has a caring staff and community, and this has helped address some of the challenges the district faces, Ross said.
Because he was hired as one who shared the vision of Hottowe, Ross said “I don’t see any really huge, big changes yet. I think we’re going down a pretty good path.”
According to Ross, one of the initiatives currently being undertaken by the district and school board is to place a bond measure on the February election ballot. He noted that a bond will help address new development in the district and help to improve some of the district facilities.
Ross said that overall, his transition to superintendent has been smooth, and initial concerns about the beginning of the year have largely subsided.
“I think we’ve had a pretty smooth start to the year,” Ross said.