Getting the most out of our Mondays *and every day* at River

On September 4, instructional faculty at Columbia River High School designed graphic representations of what our “Academic Intervention Period” is designed to support.


This particular format is often called the Frayer Model.  The product generated by small groups reflects the intentional focus on Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading (WICOR).


In a faculty meeting designed for teachers to review mutual expectations for school-wide “tutorial”, we collaborated to make our thinking visible for students.  Our products were then posted our work in our busiest hallways.


In the Fall of 2018-2019, River spent significant of time and resources discussing what the Professional Learning Communities at River should look, sound and feel like.  Faculty focused on PLC Question #3:  “What do we do when students aren’t learning?”  Our theory of action was that with more dedicated time and targeted interventions we would be able to address the needs of students in a more personalized manner.

With the schedule set for Semester 1 Intervention Periods on Mondays, followed by a 40 minute early release for students, instructional staff will have time to ensure that students are receiving more services and achieving at higher levels.

Link to our thinking posted on PhotoCircle

Link to our schedule for Mondays and rotations through periods 1-6

Back to School – August 2019

Greetings River Community!

It is almost Monday, August 5th which marks the official return to work for Vancouver Public Schools Principals.  With the start of a new year, I could not be more thrilled to welcome you to 2019-2020!   I am certain this will be our best year yet!

We have had a very busy summer on campus and in the neighborhood around River.  As many of you know, NW 99th Street – our south entrance to campus- received a face-lift.  The road has been replaced in large patches and smoothed out.  Motorists must always exercise extra caution around school zones.  All too often, bicyclists and community members traveling on foot, inevitably get tangled with cars and this leads to safety concerns and often results in injury accidents.  Please be safe.

As we prepare for our remodel and the resurfacing of campus parking, we will all need to be extra careful and plan for delays as parking is re-assigned for River Faculty and student parking spaces are temporarily reduced.  We will continue to rely on our Faith Based Partners at Columbia Christian Church to assist with our parking overflow to our southwestern corner.

On any given day this summer, we have had roughly 100 students, coaches, teachers and office staff plugging away and preparing for the fall. These groups have been working in the weight room, on the artificial surface in the stadium, on the gym floor and in the Media Center making up coursework.  It has been a summer of grinding and growth.  For me personally and professionally, these groups’ efforts have been an inspiration on a daily basis.  This work will pay off in the fall as we compete and strive to be out best on the field and in the classrooms.

A handful of River Faculty are making transitions this summer — here is a list of new faces / new places this fall:

As announced in June, Tony Liberatore (Associate Principal/Athletic Director) will be moving to Fort Vancouver High School.  Nick Davies will be joining our administrative team.  Previously a math teacher and track/ football coach at Jesuit High School in Portland, Mr. Davies will oversee Athletics, Safety/ Facilities and math as Associate Principal at River.

In July, it was determined that Dave Bennett (College and Career Specialist and Career Related Pathway Coordinator) will be moving to the central office and will serve as Vancouver School District Director of Safety and Athletics.  A replacement for the position at River is yet to be determined.

Richard Taylor (Building Operator) will be moving to the central office as well to serve as Building and Grounds Assistant Crew Leader.  In the short term, Kerry “Hollywood” Grant will be our interim until we determine replacement.

District Resource Officer Parker Ikert (Security) was activated by the National Guard this summer and will be with his unit in the Middle East for the next several months.  We are so grateful for his sacrifice, his bravery and his commitment to the service of our country!  We wish him a safe and speedy return.  We will know the replacement for Parker in mid-August as well.

As you think about and prepare for returning to school, please follow this link to a very general list of school supplies for incoming students.  Some coursework will require specialized supplies and materials. We are committed to ensuring that there is no extra burden on families. We have resources to assist ranging from school clothes, food, and hygiene supplies to pencils and pens. Please let us know your needs and we will connect you with our share closet through our Counseling Center. Special thanks and shout out to our Faith Based Partner Messiah Lutheran for all they give our students and families!

You will recall that VPS high schools will be migrating from the 1:1 iPad experience to the Chromebook this fall.  Faculty will be training and preparing for the transition. Many of you know my mantra:  “It is not the tool; it is the learning”.  Throughout June and July,  I worked with teachers and principals from all over the country through our partners at AVID and The Dynamic Learning Project on the many aspects of digital learning.  I am nearly bursting with excitement about what the future holds for our community of learners at River.

Some reminders for incoming 9th graders and LINK Crew/ Frosh Orientation…. All 9th graders please report to J Hoover Gym at noon on Monday, August 26th.

For those participating in athletics, be sure to register through Family ID.

Please continue to look for more updates from our team at River in the next few weeks. Have a great wrap up to your summer.   I can’t wait to see you on the first day of school  on August 27th!


Alex Otoupal – Principal

Alex Otoupal 2019 CR

The Class of 2019

We have celebrated student and staff milestones this week!

It has been an unforgettable year with the Columbia River Class of 2019! Here is a snap shot of some of the work these wonderful graduates have accomplished over the years …”by the numbers

These students are not alone in the celebration. A handful of River Staffulty are celebrating 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years of service in VPS!

  • Photo Credits: KR 6/10/2019

Important dates: Spring 2019 at Columbia River High School

April 1-5: Spring Break

April 8: Regular Monday Early Release schedule. We will not hold an intervention period on April 8. Intervention will resume on April 15 (5th period intervention focus).

April 18 (two hour early release) and April 19 (no classes) Parent/Student/Teacher Conferences

April 20: Junior/Senior Prom at Gray Gables in Portland, Oregon 8-11 pm. Tickets go on sale after spring break.

April 27: Plant Sale 9 am- 5pm brought to you by River’s Horticulture Science program. The sale continues April 29-May 3  from 9 am- 2pm

May 6- May 24: IB Exams

May 21: Class of 2023 Welcome Night at 6pm in J. Hoover Gym. This event is for incoming 9th graders and new students. Athletics and activities tables will be available for sign up as you begin your four year plan.

May 31: Class of 2019 International Baccalaureate Senior Celebration (by invitation) 6:45 pm in the Lower Commons hosted by CRIB

June 9: Class of 2019 Baccalaureate Celebration (nondenominational). Seniors should wear graduation gowns. All students in the Class of 2019 are invited to attend and participate.    This celebration will be at 5:00 pm at Salmon Creek Grange, 1900 NE 154th Street, Vancouver, WA 98686 This event is put on by Senior Boosters.

June 10, June 11 & June 12: Senior Exams regular bell schedule

June 10: Class of 2019 Senior Awards Night at 7 pm in J. Hoover Gymnasium. Award recipients will be sent invitations prior. Seniors should wear graduation gowns.

June 11: Class of 2019 Senior Send Off Assembly, commencement practice and walk through in J.Hoover Gymnasium. PM bell schedule for River. Seniors should wear graduation gowns to the Send Off.

June 12: Class of 2019 Senior Luncheon in the Small Gym. Yearbook signing and ASB awards. 1 pm buses depart for mandatory rehearsal at the Clark County Amphitheater. Buses will return to River before 3 pm.

June 12: Seniors report to J. Hoover Gym at 6 pm. Buses depart at 6:30 pm from Columbia River High School. Seniors must wear graduation caps and gowns to participate in Commencement. Class of 2019 Commencement at 8 pm at Clark County Amphitheater – no tickets required for friends and family attending

June 17: PB Social for incoming students for the fall of 2019-2020 school year. The social will take place in the Commons from 7-8 pm.

June 18 & 19: Final Exams for grades 9-11 – Two Hour Early Release Schedule

***Subject to change — please continue to look for updates throughout the month of April and May ***

Curriculum Fair and Forecasting

Students at Columbia River will soon begin planning for their next year coursework.

On Tuesday, March 12, students will have the opportunity to gather information about possible course choices in the annual Curriculum Fair. Students will be able visit short informational sessions about three different courses. Seniors will participate in a Financial Reality Fair during this time as well. Both the Curriculum Fair and Financial Reality Fair will take place on Tuesday afternoon during a special schedule.

During the last two weeks of March, counselors will be visiting English and History classrooms to work with students on schedule forecasting for next year. Students will be asked to bring home a forecasting planning form, to share their plans with parents and guardians. Please take a moment to go over student choices.

Forecasting is an important step in building the master schedule of classes for the 2019-20 school year, as we use this information to determine what courses and how many are offered.

Questions about forecasting or course options can be directed to your student’s counselor.

February 2019

This morning we faced inclement weather and Vancouver Public Schools determined the best course of action was to keep students and staff home to avoid the slick roads. Nevertheless, a morning like this leads to a productive day in the office for River’s Administrative Team and our office staff. A dozen or so teachers have made it in and are diligently planning and getting caught up on grading. A couple hours at my desk gives me a chance to write up the February Newsletter and Blog.

We have great news to share about students accomplishments over the recent weeks. As we are wrapping up the winter athletic season and I encourage you to take a look at our student’s achievements. Please take a look at our website to get the all the updates.

A wide variety of accolades were earned in music, Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Video Productions (CRTV) and multiple athletic teams and athletes earned post season opportunities. River’s first state title of the year was earned by our Bowling Team who won the Academic State Championship last week. Congratulations to all who participated and have given us so much to celebrate so far this year.

High School & Beyond

Our second semester started last Friday, and this means we have begun our eighth and final semester with the Class of 2019. As these Seniors make their plans for next steps, I want to highlight the abundance of post-secondary planning tools Vancouver Public Schools has put together for students and families. This is coming in the form of the VPS Family Newsletter. In the attempt to simplify and streamline critical information for students regarding high school and beyond, these newsletters are further broken down by high school grade level. I encourage you all to take a look and click the links to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( and research the cost of attendance resource calculator from the US Department of Education (

Updates on Attendance

In the coming months we will continue our school -wide effort to improve on time daily attendance. You have seen the “25” signs around the building, encouraging students to “arrive at 25”. (Arriving and 7:25 would be five minutes early for period 1). student leaders have been at the doors greeting our students early and we will be celebrating on time, improved and perfect attendance over the next several weeks. Columbia River’s Annual Performance Score Card category of “Climate and Culture” shows students at or above the goal of 90% attendance rate increasing 7% from the 2015-16 school year to the 2017-18 school year.

We still have lots of work to do. In June, 2018 we ended at 75%. This means we have room for improvement and there is no better time than right now.

Thank you for your support and have a great start to the semester!

Arrive at 25

As we begin 2019, I have been reflecting on the work we accomplished last year.  This is an important and rewarding exercise.  And the time is now to think about how these efforts can push us to reach even higher in the months ahead.

Last summer, I was invited to participate in the Clark County Truancy Project.   Additionally, River was invited to participate in Vancouver Public School’s Attendance Project Initiative.  The aim for both is to become more strategic about relaying the importance to regular school attendance.  It is not terribly complicated:  success in school and graduating on time is connected to regular attendance.  The work of both groups is to engage students and families who have been referred numerous times for school attendance issues. Typically, the focus is on those students who attend less than 80% of the year.  

It seems these numbers sneak up quickly on students and families.  If you are only missing a day here or a period there, you may not see the larger picture.  Missing two classes per month in the course of a September – June school year does indeed add up to 20 absences.  Keeping in mind that we have 180 school days in the typical year, our systems consider this level chronic.  

As I have stated in River’s School Improvement Plan:  Our goal is 90/90 by 2020.  This means that 90% of our students are on time and in class 90% of the school year in 2020.  Although we are not there yet, we are getting close.  Our team believes that if we begin by addressing morning tardies (e.g. when large numbers of students arrive late in the morning).  

At Columbia River High School, we do fairly well with daily attendance.  Below we have some data to share and to celebrate (September to December attendance rates): 

  • Class of 2019:  215 Seniors have a daily attendance rate of 85% or better.
  • Class of 2020: 203 Juniors have a daily attendance rate of 85% or better.
  • Class of 2021: 217 Sophomores  have a daily attendance rate of 90% or better There are 291 students in grade 10 at River this year.
  • Class of 2022: 207 Freshmen have a daily attendance rate 95% or better; add 60 more students with 90% or better and our 9th grade is off to a terrific start.  

We are beginning January, 2019 with our “Arrive at 25” campaign.  Very simply, all students have to do is arrive for first period at 7:25 AM.  The theory of action is that if students make the effort to arrive 5 minutes before period 1, we will reduce and perhaps eliminate the “tardy bell entrance” for those students who are running late.  Class will begin at 7:30, but won’t it be great to arrive early and eager!

We acknowledge that students are not always in control of their morning schedules.  Some students rely on carpools.  Some students have siblings or other family to care for and to help get prepared for the day.  We also acknowledge those who are late because of coffee run and made choices along the way to school that allowed precious morning moments to escape.  (Lattes and mochas and specialty coffees are available in the Upper Commons by the way, and for a half the cost of our local shops!)  

With a concerted effort, we believe we can improve and get to 90/90.  I hope everyone is enjoying the Winter Break.  I look forward to seeing you at 7:25 on January 7, 2019!

Arrive at 25

Varsity Academic Awards 2018

Yesterday we honored the achievements of 27 Juniors and 43 Seniors at our Varsity Academic Awards Ceremony.  The picture below captures a few dozen of those recognized individuals.

2018 Varsity Academic Awards

The Varsity Academic Awards Program was started 18 years ago by a group of Columbia River High School students.  The program recognizes students who have consistently shown a high regard for academics, citizenship and involvement in our school community.

Students must meet the following criteria:

  • Junior or Senior in good standing at Columbia River High School with no truancies or disciplinary referrals
  • Hold a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher based on four semesters of high school
  • Participated in a Columbia River High School Associated Student Body club or organization for at least one semester or compete in at least one sport for at least one full season

We are so proud of these and all of our River students who work so hard and represent our community so well.

It is a pure joy to work with the students and Faculty at River.  As we enter the season of gratitude, I wish you joy and encourage you to reflect on how amazing our River students truly are.


Systems of Support

Academic Interventions

Columbia River High School has dedicated time to Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for more than 10 years. Because the Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) and the greater community agree to spend the time and have made the financial commitment to continue PLC work on a weekly basis, it makes sense to provide evidence of training, promising practices and an outline for the future of the PLC work at River.  Most specifically, we want to show how we will help our students within their academic day.

Start with the experts:

In higher performing school systems, “teachers identify struggling students as early as possible, and direct them towards a variety of proven interventions strategies, developed at both the school and district level, that assist all students in mastering grade-level academic objectives.” National Center for Educational Achievement, 2009, p. 34)

“One of the most productive ways for districts to facilitate continual improvement is to develop teacher’s capacity to use formative assessments of student progress aligned with district expectations for student learning, and to use formative data in devising and implementing interventions during the school year.” (Louis et al., 2010, p. 214)

“If a school can make both teaching and time variables… and target them to meet each student’s individual learning and developmental needs, the school is more likely to achieve high levels of learning for every student” (Mattos & Buffum, 2015, p. 2)

“One of the most important things leaders can do is to create the conditions that allow people to experience progress in their work and then recognize and celebrate their accomplishments, even small accomplishments” (Amabile & Kramer, 2011)

What is River doing to remain high performing and to address student needs?

River faculty recently reviewed data sets from the first quarter of the 2018-2019 academic year in addition to reviewing the overall credit accrual for the Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021. (Note the class of 2022 will be awarded earned credits for semester 1 at the conclusion of the semester in January 2019.)  We know the work to be done.

We have designed systems of tiered support by grade level to address attendance and behavior concerns. The next, bold step for us is to focus on our academic interventions.  This means we must become more strategic in supporting students academically within the classroom by teachers who know their learners best.

If you were at River last year, you may remember our January work on study skills, organization and preparation for finals in “J-Term” Sessions.  We received very positive feedback and have built upon that effort by connecting to PLCs.

Last week, River teachers coalesced and designed a schedule that will take place on Mondays that will drive the Monday afternoon PLC work. Students will have a rotating block of time designated by period allowing for an additional 41 minutes of contact time.

These precise support systems in each class and will take place every week students as progress {with the extended time} through their current schedule.  November 5, for example, is focused on academic intervention for period 2. Students will stay in their period 2 class for 41 additional minutes. If students are invited by a different teacher to work on a re-take, re-do or re-assessment activity, we expect students to take full advantage of the opportunity.

What it is for River students

  • Opportunity to check progress using Skyward
  • Opportunity for personal academic organization
  • Opportunity for checking understanding in targeted academic areas
  • Opportunity for re-take, re-do, make up course work

What it is not for River students

  • This is not… a time to leave campus
  • This is not… a time to be social
  • This is not… a time to be on the phone/social media
  • This is not… a time to waste on non-academic activities

What it is for River Faculty

  • Opportunity to check student’s progress and execute targeted academic interventions for struggling students.
  • Opportunity to provide academic extensions for students.
  • Opportunity for modeling academic organization.
  • Opportunity for checking understanding in targeted academic areas.
  • Opportunity to re-teach, re-view, re- assess students who need additional time.

What it is not for River Faculty

  • There is no expectation of additional classroom and lesson preparation by teachers.
  • There is not additional duty/ responsibilities to be assigned to teachers.

River’s graduation rate has exceeded the district average and the state average and our like peers for decades.  River is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School with an exceptional pass and success rate on the IB Exams.  River has been recognized by Newsweek, US News & World Report and achieved numerous local, state, national and international awards.  Most recently, River was awarded the IB Excellence & Equity Grant (2018) and is an active participant in the IB E2 Initiative.

Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns:


Parent/Teacher Fall Conferences 2018

Greetings River,

Cool temperatures are setting and we are experiencing the beginning of a gorgeous autumn season. Today, October 15th marks the 25th instructional day of the 2018-2019 school year and we are eager to review progress with your student.
Columbia River High School will hold parent/teacher conferences during the following sessions:

• Thursday, October 18th from 2:30 pm – 5:00 pm
• Thursday, October 18th from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
• Friday, October 19th from 7:30 am- 10:30 am

Parents, you have the choice to attend one of the sessions listed above. Teachers will be available at tables in the commons. After you enter the Main Hall, you will be able to locate your child’s teachers by assigned table. This format is often called “arena style”. This format appeals to us because we are all in essentially the same space for conversations about academic progress.
The design of the parent/ teacher conference is to be a short (roughly 10 minutes) discussion on your students’ progress and performance over the first six weeks of school. This is a great time for you, as a partner in the learning, to ask your own clarifying questions about the larger objectives of the course, details about the standards and ask questions you may have about the subtle nuance of a teacher’s delivery or approach to learning.

We always approach the conference as an opportunity to learn more about your student’s progress and about your student as a person. Please take advantage of this terrific opportunity!


Alex Otoupal – Principal