News school news, union protest occupies District 9

Over the years this reporter has covered several hundred District 9 meetings, but other than negotiations, I  don’t believe there has been one that lasted for five hours (workshop and regular meeting) since the mid 1970s.

The whole affair was at the high school and began at 3:30 p.m. with a workshop and executive session, followed at 6:30 p.m. by a regular board meeting, which lasted for two hours.

During the workshop considerable time was devoted to an update on a new elementary school, provided by David McKay of Willamette Education Service District, who has been hired to evaluate sites and data currently available.

McKay prefaced his report by saying he and his team of two professional architects met with representatives of all departments, from food and transportation to Lynn Scott, Little Butte principal, to understand the needs of a new elementary school based on program needs. McKay stressed they did not want to reinvent the wheel and did not wish to spend money where it was not needed.  McKay said they used available data for comparisons. That data included completed plans by DOWA (Dull Olson Weekes Associates) for the Glenn D. Hale site, information from a Medford architect (Ogden Roemer Wilderson Architecture) that built a school in Grants Pass for the Glenn D. Hale site, (which is the bare land behind Little Butte) and a plan for the junior high site also by DOWA.

The analysis took the best part of an hour. McKay’s team recommended the DOWA elementary plan. First, it is ready and could be put out to bid quickly. And with the current economy that should be to the district’s financial benefit. McKay said they had a meeting with Eagle Point officials and it was probably one of the best pre-planning meetings he had ever had.  The DOWA plan has involved considerable community input, which McKay said was also a very important consideration in moving forward.

All of the plans come in above the $12 million the district has from the fire settlement. Ideas were discussed from eliminating one wing, to eliminating the gym , food services (these options would utilize Little Butte) to bonding. Business Manager Randy Struckmeier said there is some bond money available and if they obtained $4.5 million it would cost the district $300,000 a year for 15 years. Doug McKenzie, director of special programs,  pointed out that there would be a cost to operate any portion of Little Butte and that should be factored into any discussion.

During the regular meeting of the school board, Struckmeier said they would be moving forward, looking at value engineering and then with an RFP (request for proposal) to seek bids.

The regular board meeting was held in the high school cafeteria before a large crowd of primarily staff members there to speak in support of retaining nine food managers as school district employees. The board and Eagle Point Education Association had been meeting in bargaining sessions under a “demand to bargain” which has a 90 day end date clause. The 90 days expired without an agreement. The bargaining team recommended the board adopt and implement changes presented in their final offer.

According to a Dec. 10 proposal the nine employees would be laid off from District 9 effective Dec. 31 and offered employment with Sodexo beginning Jan. 1 at the same rate of pay as they currently have, eight hours a day through the school year. Sodexo will waive the 90-day insurance window so there will be no lapse in insurance coverage. Eligible food service employees will receive severance per the current contract and all will receive an additional $250 per person.

The board allows a total of 30 minutes for a public forum. Ten members spoke in favor of keeping the employees in District 9. Remarks included concern over employees who have been with the district for 30 years, a concern that moving these employees to a large corporation might mean future outsourcing of staff, to a suggestion that staff quit attending so many meetings, some of which require paying substitutes.

Gail Rasmussen, who began her education employment in Oregon in the front office at Eagle Point High School and is now President of the Oregon Education Association, came down from Portland to show OEA support and made comments. She said she was extremely disappointed., noting that the employees live in the community, their children attend District 9 schools and their reward for being in the community is to contract out. “It doesn’t make sense. I ask you to honor these employees,” concluded Rasmussen.

Some of the comments were pointed directly at Sodexo. One comment said a child was hungry and turned away for seconds. After the meeting, a Sodexo representative said if a child wants seconds on something high in carbs that is refused, but they can eat all the salad and fruit they want. Another comment concerned smaller plates. When it came time for a vote, Jim Mannenbach and Mark Bateman voted no. The motion passed 3-2.

Another motion regarding changing hours for some classified staff, which had also been bargained with no resolution, supported the district team’s proposal 5-0 with no comments from the audience.

Mountain View Elementary recognized two outstanding 5th grade students as well as a volunteer. Those receiving recognition were Stephanie Liles and Kacey O’Duane. Stephanie was described as one who finishes a project and does so quickly, makes sure other students are included and looks for more to do. She is a Girl Scout. Kacey was described as athletic, honest, self-directed and inspiring, among other descriptive words.

Yvonne Shaffer was recognized as the volunteer. She is a foster parent, has served on site council and on the hiring committee and is active in the parent organization and according to Principal Lisa Yamashita, “ a giving generous parent.”
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent

 

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