The Big Picture

Thoughts on big issues, challenges, and celebrations of the education work we do....

Sue Hayes receives ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’

Sue Hayes, special programs administrator, received the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Breaking Barriers conference, held on April 24, 2024, where she was recognized for her outstanding contributions in dismantling barriers within the community, particularly for individuals with disabilities in Oregon.

For information on Breaking Barriers, visit


Sara Johnson named next leader of High Desert Education Service District

Sara Johnson

The High Desert Education Service District board of directors announced on Thursday, April 18, 2024, that Sara Johnson will be the organization’s next superintendent. Beginning in July, Johnson will lead the HDESD team in the delivery of Central Oregon’s early childhood education (0-5 years), special education (0-21 years), mental/behavioral health, substitute teachers, driver education and other specialized programs. Johnson, who served as superintendent for Crook County School District from 2018 to 2023, brings more than 25 years of experience as a K-12 educator, and was named Superintendent of the Year in 2023 by the Oregon Association of School Executives and the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators. HDESD’s current superintendent, Paul Andrews, is retiring in July after 25 years with HDESD.

“We were looking for a proven educational leader with a heart for kids,” said Matt McGowan, HDESD’s board chair. “She was Superintendent of the Year for a reason.  Everyone who has worked with and for Dr. Johnson confirmed that she was instrumental in creating an amazing culture.  Her passion for kids and her ability to lead and collaborate, with the main goal of improving student outcomes is exactly what we were looking for in a new superintendent. We couldn’t be more excited to have such a wonderful person with an amazing track record joining our team.”

 According to McGowan, experience as a superintendent and knowledge of the Central Oregon region were key considerations in the search that began in January. Input from HDESD staff, school district partners and community members helped shape the criteria for the selection process.

 “The majority of my 25-year career as a K-12 educator has been rooted on the east side of the Cascade Mountains so this region truly feels like home to me,” said Johnson. “The superintendent role presents an incredible opportunity to apply everything I’ve learned throughout my career. As a former district superintendent, I also have a first-hand understanding of the vital role Education Service Districts play in supporting school districts in their mission to provide equitable, high-quality, cost-effective and locally responsive educational services.”

Prior to leading Crook County School District as superintendent, Johnson served as director of assessment, equity and school improvement for Klamath County School District.

 “I am eager to step into this role and serve as a leader within the ESD. The opportunity to collaborate with diverse stakeholders, leverage innovative educational initiatives, and optimize resources to drive student achievement resonates deeply with my personal and professional mission and values. I am passionate about making a profound impact on the lives of students, educators and systems in the region, and I am fully committed to this endeavor,” said Johnson.

Johnson holds an education administration certification from Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR), a bachelor’s and master’s of teacher education degree from Eastern Oregon University (La Grande, OR), a doctoral degree of education – education leadership from George Fox University (Newberg, OR) and a doctoral degree in school psychology from George Fox University (Portland, OR).

Educators, recreators help students with visual impairment experience the joy of skiing

The High Desert Educational Service District partnered with Oregon Adaptive Sports and Mt. Bachelor to make skiing possible for students with visual impairment. The special VI student ski day, part of a long-standing tradition designed to create equitable outdoor experiences for students with disabilities, took place on Friday, March 15.

“This incredible partnership with OAS and Mt. Bachelor allows us to create richer learning experiences for our students with visual impairment,” said Nancy Abbott, teacher of the visually impaired at HDESD. “We know that students learn best through real-world experiences in which they can have a direct, first-hand understanding of something and not just a verbal explanation. Fun and playful movement activities like skiing help build gross motor and fine motor abilities, and exposure to other kids also helps build the foundation for communication and social development.”

According to Abbott, HDESD offers a number of services for children ages birth to 21 years who experience visual impairment. These services — provided by professional educators who have postgraduate training in education for the visually impaired — include evaluation, assessment, and specialized instruction. She also added that HDESD is recruiting for another teacher of the visually impaired.

“Participating in outdoor recreation delivers an abundance of mental and physical health benefits,” said Pat Addabbo, executive director for Oregon Adaptive Sports. “It provides experiences of joy, satisfaction and meaning, opportunities for fitness, and connects individuals to each other, to their families and their communities. Outdoor recreation is flush with transformative powers and it is critical for all individuals to participate in such healthy activities.”

Addabbo added that experiences like skiing can be difficult to access without the added resources needed to ensure a safe and successful program.

“Mt. Bachelor has partnered with OAS for over two decades to provide adaptive skiing and riding opportunities for guests with disabilities, both locals and visitors alike,” said Lauren Burke, director of marketing and communications for Mt. Bachelor. “OAS provides the expertise, training, volunteer, and other resources to fully accommodate the needs and goals of these athletes and Mt. Bachelor provides operational, in-kind, and financial support to OAS. This partnership allows us to provide increased access to the outdoors for hundreds of adaptive skiers and snowboarders each season.”


Central Oregon Educator Job Fair

Central Oregon school districts are hiring! This is your opportunity to explore an exciting new career. Meet local school districts and learn about current openings! April 4, 1-6pm Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center


January is Board Appreciation Month and we sure appreciate ours!

The nine individuals who serve on the High Desert ESD Board spend countless hours working with staff to ensure we can provide the best service to all of the districts in the region. Their dedication to the High Desert ESD directly impacts the children we have the privilege of serving and supports the amazing programs we provide for them. Without their steadfast leadership, we could not direct so much time and attention to the children and their families.

They are currently focused on the search and hiring process of a new superintendent to take over when Paul Andrews retires at the end of June. The Board is eager to continue its tradition of regional and statewide leadership coupled with strong relations with local school districts. May they be rewarded tenfold for donating their most valuable resource – time.

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless. — Sherry Anderson

Learn more about our Board and the work they do:

Meet Randy James, substitute teacher

What inspired you to become a substitute teacher? 

Career transition and boredom! In January of 2023, I exited a high pace/high stress startup. It felt like a time to step back and look broadly at what the next steps were for me. As a son of an educator family, partner of an educator – I had always avoided the industry. So naturally, if I need to broaden my horizons and explore, what better way than something that I had be avoiding my entire life. I had also seen the stories during the pandemic, on its impact on our educational system and teachers. Once I learned of the Restricted Substitute program, it seemed like a space that I could contribute. 

What do you like best about being a sub?

Honestly, the biggest impact to me personally has been the individual interactions with the students. While definitely not an expert, I have found that almost every student has a desire to learn, while not all the same way or the same interest area. It’s exciting to see the students’ eyes come alive with something they align with, even for the short time that I’m with them. There is something special about recognizing a student by name and then recognizing you in the hallway, when you are guest teaching for another teacher in the building. Every school that I was in this year, I felt genuinely welcome and appreciated for being there. Being a substitute teacher is not a glamorous life, and there are days that are really hard, but the gratitude from the other teachers, that someone has their back if they need to be out, is satisfying.

What do your kids think about you teaching at their school?

I guest taught at my daughters school several times, but never in her classes. She enjoyed carpooling to school and I think engaged in the conversations with her friends who were in my class. She would always ask if I met her favorite teachers. Of course there were always the warnings to not embarrass her! In general I think that she liked having me at the school.

What would you say to other parents who might be thinking about becoming substitute teachers?

First you can do it – can’t tell you how terrified I was on my first day. I sat across a table from CEO’s of multinational corporations that didn’t terrify me as much. I learned about my own capacity to be flexible, go with the flow and engage with the students as fellow humans. Guest Teaching will be a growth opportunity for you, you will learn about yourself and gain a different perspective on students and education. You will be tired, you will feel like you contributed, you will feel appreciated, you will make new relationships with students who feel valued that you saw them and showed up.

Anything else?

Teachers carry a heavy load and are impacting students on a daily basis. However, I feel that in a small way substitute teachers can support that impact and leave their own impression on students’ lives. By being willing to take the time, enter the unknown classroom, see them as learners and the future, and invest in them with a little time, a story about yourself, and a commitment to their safety.

Applications are now being accepted – visit the below QR code for more information.

Meet substitute teacher, Kendra McCamey

What inspired you to become a substitute teacher?

Finding a job that was flexible around my children.  I stayed home for 10 years to raise them so this has been such a great way to get back into the workforce.  My passion is children and teaching them so what better way to still be able to raise my kids while getting the opportunity to make an impact on other children as well.  

 How old are your children (and also share what grade they are in)?

 Reese is eleven going into 6th grade, Connor is eight going into 3rd grade and Kent is six going into 1st grade

 How long have you been working in this role?

 I have been a substitute teacher for a little under two years.  

 What do you like best about being a sub?

 I love the ability to reach a whole school full of kids by being like the loving aunt of the school.  They are so excited to see me and I can make a difference on their learning by making them feel safe, loved and valued when their teacher is absent. As a mother I am able to have a relationship with my children as I work.  I have the flexibility to not work when they are sick or to go on field trips etc. with them when those opportunities arise.  

 What do your kids think about you teaching at their school?

My children love being able to go to work with me each day and seeing me in the halls!  They tell me all the time they are lucky to have their mom as their substitute and love that their friends like me.  They get to establish relationships with the other teachers outside of the school day and really gain a sense of love and community in their school environment.  

What would you say to other parents who might be thinking about becoming substitute teachers?

I would say do it!  It’s a moment in your child’s life when you can still be a part of it and make a difference in our schools.  Substitute teaching is such a great way to be a mother who is involved in their children’s school life.  You get to meet their friends and have a relationship with their teachers.  You get to be on the same schedule as them and have the opportunity to teach and foster a love of learning into so many children.  The pay is very good and it is a very rewarding job.  

Anything else?

This is a career I fell into that I am passionate about and would love to help improve.  These children in our school systems need consistent people they can trust and know when their teachers are absent.  

Meet Cathy Cron, substitute teacher, Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education

What initially inspired you to become a substitute in EI/ECSE?

I recently retired after 30+ years as a classroom teacher, however I wasn’t ready to stop working with young children. I contacted Jenny at the HDESD and asked if I could volunteer at the Manzanita Building in Redmond. After one day, I decided to add the HDESD EI/ECSE to my list of places I’d like to substitute.

What did you like best about being an EI/ECSE sub?

Subbing in an early intervention or early childhood special education classroom has been very rewarding. I truly believe I am making a difference in the lives of these children. Everything is intentional. The classes are very small so you may help each child work on skills to be a successful learner. Children are often supported in the classroom by specialists (Speech and Occupational Therapist). The day is divided into two sessions. The first group attends for two and a half hours. Then there’s time to prepare for the next group and eat lunch. The afternoon group works on the same content/concepts, however, it may be broken down differently to meet the needs of each child. On Wednesdays and Fridays we have school for a half day. These days are dedicated to the three year olds. Substitutes are finished teaching by 10:30. It’s a great way to start your day and still have time to run errands in the afternoon. My favorite thing about subbing here is how we are able to help a child work through an issue without stopping the learning process for the other children. Classrooms have one or two assistants who help prepare snacks, share recess duty, support students at circle time, freeplay, and during the workstations. If a child needs a break, there are enough adults in the room to take a child to the calming corner and help the child cool down enough to return to learning. I love the followthrough and consistency in this program.

What would you say to others who might be thinking about becoming substitutes in SpEd?

If you’re thinking about subbing in SpEd, I would try it for a day. I’d suggest subbing in more than one building for a SpEd teacher or assistant. If you don’t enjoy your day in one setting, try another building before you rule out working with EI/ECSE children. If you enjoy seeing children persevere and work through issues, you will like this job. I was concerned about running a classroom without experience in SpEd. I quickly realized the assistants know the schedule and are able to help make the day run smoothly. There are visual schedules, songs, pictures, and routines the children and assistants are familiar with.

Why are SpEd subs so important?

SpEd subs are crucial to keeping the programs at the HDESD operating smoothly. The goal is to keep classes small and provide as much one on one attention as possible. If the classroom teacher or assistant is absent, we must pull from other classes/programs to cover. Some of the children require one-on-one attention. Occasionally, the speech teacher will fill in and help run small groups or circle time if we are unable to get a sub. This takes the speech teacher away from working individually with children.

What kind of impact can subs have on students with special needs?

Children with special needs come to school ready and eager to learn each day. Without realizing it, substitutes can have a tremendous impact on the lives of these children simply by being a fresh, new face in the classroom. Sometimes classroom teachers/assistants need a break from the classroom for a variety of reasons. When a substitute fills in, they allow learning to continue and often leave feeling as though they’ve made a difference.

Applications are now being accepted – visit the below QR code for more information.

Paul Andrews announces his retirement

High Desert Education Service District Superintendent Paul Andrews has announced his retirement at the end of June 2024. Andrews has been with the region’s Education Service District for 25 years, first teaching, then innovating and growing programs, and ultimately leading the organization as superintendent beginning in 2017.

Andrews was 31 years old when he accepted a job as a Central Oregon autism specialist in 1999. It was the launch of a 25-year career with the ESD, which came to be called the High Desert Education Service District in 2003. Before joining the organization, Andrews worked as a special education teacher in classrooms from kindergarten through high school in Washington and Alaska.

His heart for special education developed early in life after having loved and lost an identical twin brother, Peter, when they were only four years old. Peter was born with cerebral palsy, vision impairment and intellectual disabilities. Sadly, there were few support services for people with disabilities at that time, and the boys’ parents were encouraged to institutionalize Peter. He died in the nursing home where he lived without ever having access to Early Childhood Special Education because it didn’t exist.

Peter would have been 11 years old when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law was implemented in 1977, making free special education and related services required to children with disabilities throughout the nation. This reality was the early inspiration for Andrews’ career in special education.

Growing with HDESD

While county-based regional education services had been in place in Oregon since 1860, it wasn’t until 1997 that Central Oregon’s ESD began providing special education to children ages 0 to 21. Within one year of joining the ESD, Andrews recognized a pressing need for students experiencing disabilities so he developed an Assistive Technology program in 2000, bringing equipment and software designed to enhance learning for special education students in seven counties in Central Oregon.

In 2003, Andrews was appointed director of special programs, a role in which he served for eight years before being named executive director of school improvement in 2011. In 2012, he accepted the role of deputy superintendent, working in partnership with his predecessor John Rexford. In 2017, he accepted the position of superintendent and led the organization through significant growth and challenges, including the global pandemic.

Success and visibility

When asked what he is most proud of, Andrews is quick to talk about the HDESD team.

“We have a lot to be proud of,” he said. “We have over 300 people doing amazing work every day and I feel incredibly fortunate to have shared my career with them. I’m excited to watch their continued success and stewardship of this work.”

When it comes to awareness, Andrews explained that often people don’t know what Education Service Districts do.

“If we’re doing our job well as an ESD, we are often behind the scenes. We bring people together and make district teams’ lives easier. Oftentimes, when you read or hear about students’ success in the news, HDESD plays an important role and not everyone knows that.”

The delicate balance, says Andrews, comes with maintaining the appropriate level of visibility to ensure continued support and funding for regional services.

Supporting partner school districts

As the central resource for the region’s early childhood education (0-5 years), special education (0-21 years), mental/behavioral health, substitute teachers, driver education and other specialized programs, HDESD uses a shared resource model to make sure partner school districts have the support they need to provide cost-effective, healthy, safe and inclusive environments for students of all abilities, races, genders and walks of life.

“The HEDESD has served as the regional flagship as it comes to the common best interest for families and students,” said Steven Cook, superintendent for Bend-La Pine Schools. “They sit in the role of a stabilizing force to ensure that the needs of all students, including those furthest from justice, access, and opportunity have a voice at the table. They are great partners in delivering a multitude of services to our schools and districts. They provide support, guidance, training, staff and resources across so many different areas. We could not be as effective without their partnership.”

Cook explains that the true benefit is the scale and scope of the support offered by the HDSED.

“I think the other district superintendents would agree that we couldn’t function without them,” he said. “Paul is the consummate professional. He is a voice of reason for our group of superintendents and is willing to help with anyone at any time. He is one of the most polished diplomatic servant leaders I have had the pleasure to work with.”

In retirement, Andrews plans to enjoy time and travel with his wife Jenny, and continue teaching as an adjunct professor for Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where he obtained his Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership.

The HDESD board of directors announced earlier this month that they are partnering with Human Capital Enterprises to support them in the selection of the next Superintendent.

Invitation to Bid: Preschool Classrooms and Remodel

Manzanita Building Preschool Classrooms and Remodel
Project Location: HDESD Manzanita Building
1212 NE 5th St, Redmond, OR 97756
Bids Due: January 23, 2024
10:00 AM Current Local Time

Sealed bids will be received by Jimmy Keegan, Director of Facilities, High Desert Education Service District, at the Manzanita Building Front Desk, 1212 NW 5th Street, Redmond, OR, 97756, on January 23, 2024, by 10:00 AM current local time. The bids will then be publicly opened and read aloud. Bids received after the required time and date time will not be considered.

The scope of work for this bid includes, but is not limited to the following:
1. The addition of two preschool classrooms within their existing facility by remodeling a portion of the existing office and administrative area.
2. The remodel will also include relocating the main conference room and replacing the displaced offices.
3. Additionally, the scope of work will include security upgrades by creating a secure vestibule, lobby, and reception area at the main entry. Provisions for controlled access, surveillance, window privacy and security upgrades.

A MANDATORY pre-bid meeting will be held on January 9, 2024, at 9:00 AM current local time at the project location. Bidding documents are those prepared by BBT Architects, 1140 SW Simpson Ave, #200, Bend, OR 97702. Bidding documents may be obtained from the Central Oregon Builders Assoc. (COBA), 1051 NE 4th St., Bend OR 97703, 541-389-1058 or online at:

This project is a prevaling wage project therefore no bids will be received or considered unless the bid contains a statement by the bidder, as part of the bid, that “Contractor agrees to be bound by and will comply with the applicable
provisions of 279C.838, 279C.840 or 40 U.S.C. 3141 to 3148.”