PORTLAND, Ore. — About 200 people live in Ukiah, which sits about halfway between Pendleton and John Day. Some 30 of those residents go to school at Ukiah's K-12 building.
As such, they attend one of the state's, according to Pittsburgh researcher Niche.com, top school districts.
"We are, I think, Oregon's smallest district," said Norma Barber, who's both principal of the school as well as an English instructor who teaches those between sixth and 12th grades.
The Niche.com rankings, based on such factors as academics, parent surveys and health and safety, place Ukiah close to districts with far more resources — such as funding money collected from local taxes and access to businesses — than exist in the tiny town. Yet Barber and her team more than make do.
SLIDESHOW: Oregon's Top 30 School Districts
"The reason we do well is we know our kids individually, and we know their parents," said Barber. "Kids can’t get lost: There can’t be a kid who sits in the back of the room and goes unnoticed, because there is no back of the room. Everyone's in the front row!"
Ukiah's students, as a result, get tailored instruction designed to fit their interests, learning needs and, eventually, career paths. One student's interest in electronics led Barber's staff to start a VEX Robotics program. Senior students in Barber's English classes interview younger students, then write short biographies predicated on the notion of how those younger peers' lives will turn out.
Ukiah's graduation rates are typically high, usually 100 percent. Barber acknowledges that it's easy to achieve that rate with small senior class sizes. However, if a child leaves school, it can damage that level by measures of degrees.
Along with Ukiah, Niche.com's list of Oregon's 30 top school districts features seven from the Portland suburbs, three from the city's exurbs and Portland itself. Eastern Oregon is represented by five schools, including Ukiah.
The districts are ranked on the following factors:
Click through on the slide above to learn which schools sit alongside Ukiah on the 2020 list of Oregon's top 30 public education systems.