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Former Evergreen principal takes on extracurriculars in order to keep kids from 'getting lost'

Rian Petrick, new head of extracurriculars and athletics for Hillsboro School District is looking for ways to multiply pupils' experiences.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Rian Petrick, the Hillsboro School Districts new director of extracurricular and athletic programs, wants to get more students involved in opportunities outside the classroom, but that's easier said than done.For decades, the Hillsboro School District has been focused on the “three Rs” of academics: reading, writing and arithmetic.

This school year, Rian Petrick hopes to add a fourth "R" — recreation.

Petrick is the district’s new head of extracurricular and athletics programs, a new position tasked with getting more kids involved in after-school programs. It's a daunting task for the Hillsboro School District, which enrolls about 21,000 students across three dozen schools from Cornelius to Aloha.

“Basically, my job is about asking how we make as many extracurricular opportunities for kids as possible,” said Petrick, who served as principal at Evergreen Middle School in Northwest Hillsboro for the past six years.

Petrick knows a thing or two about running extracurricular activities. He worked as a football and baseball coach at Glencoe and Century before coming to Evergreen in 2007. His father, Vern Petrick, is a celebrated athletic director at Glencoe, and his younger brother, Ben Petrick, coaches at the high school and played professional baseball for the Colorado Rockies.

Athletics aren’t the only thing that Petrick will focus on, he said. In his new position Petrick is trying to find ways to add non-athletic programs to after-school schedules, such as expanding science, engineering, music or drama opportunities.

After-school programs of any kind, on or off the field, can shape a child’s outlook on the world, Petrick said.

“My dad really grew up in poverty,” said Petrick. “He had a really rough childhood, but getting involved in sports really changed his life forever. This type of work can help kids find their purpose. It’s important. That’s why I wanted to do it.”

Classes like band, drama or joining clubs is what keeps some students in school.

“There are a fair number of kids out there that don’t love math, they don’t love to read ... they do it because they have to,” Petrick said. “What makes school special for them? For some kids it’s what they get to do before or after school.”

‘No lost students’

Rian PetrickBut paying for those types of programs can be difficult, Petrick said. Elective courses and after-school programs are often the first to get cut when budgets get tight.

“The budget is a big concern,” he said. “We, as a district, have made a lot of cuts for a lot of years. We need to do whatever we can to find the revenue streams to help plug the holes and support some of these things.”

Much of Petrick’s job will be fundraising and networking with local businesses and agencies to offer programs, he said.

“We know we’ve got companies out there that are the types that might want to support some extracurriculars or initiatives to support the district,” Petrick said. “And there are great individuals as well that want to help out and support. It’s all about making connections, leveraging resources and honoring the businesses that we’ve gotten help from.”

This month, Petrick and a committee of school officials will begin looking at the barriers that keep kids from participating in after-school programs.

“There are operational and logistical roadblocks,” Petrick said. Many students rely on school buses to get them to and from school, which means they can’t stay after class to take part of athletics or after-school programs, Petrick said.

“That becomes a barrier for kids and is a place for us to grow,” Petrick said. “We can’t transport as many kids as we’d like.”

The district also has a shortage of physical places for students to meet, Petrick said.

“We run short of gym space and turf fields,” he said. “If we can’t transport them and don’t have a place for them, that makes it difficult.”

Other solutions might be changing the way that the district funds its clubs and activities, such as controversial “pay-to-play” fees for athletic teams, Petrick said.

“It is a definite barrier,” Petrick said. “In band, the instruments are expensive. We can’t afford to buy instruments for all the kids, so how do we support interested musicians in getting involved so they can participate in band?”

Aside from being enjoyable, Petrick said that being involved in after-school programs can help with the educational process.

Petrick worked in a middle school for close to a decade. During those transformative years in a kids’ life, they need the support of other students in order to succeed, he said.

“If kids don’t see a purpose in school they’re not going to graduate. They just won’t,” Petrick said. “In my opinion, there’s nothing more powerful than when you connect in school and see something that lights a fire and gets them excited. Every kids needs that something. Every kid has purpose. What is it?

"As principal, I saw some kids that seemed like they really had found their purpose, but some kids seemed lost," Petrick added. "We need to make sure we don’t have lost kids in our system.”

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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