Inaction may kill D9 chance to get funds

Two items of potential financial benefit to School District 9, students and taxpayers met with less than favorable support at last week’s board of directors meeting.

The last item on the agenda for the  regular board meeting was a recommendation for board approval of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant application, which is part of President Obama’s proposal to improve education in the United States.

Earlier in the evening, Janeen Nodine, president of the Eagle Point Education Association, said the Eagle Point Education Association was interested in working with the district on the Race to the Top.

The application had a place for the superintendent’s signature, the signature of the board chair and the local teachers union leader. The union signature was not there, which raised questions based on Nodine’s positive statement earlier in the evening. She left the meeting part way through the evening. According to information from the board and superintendent, Nodine said the Southern Oregon Bargaining Council needed to approve it. And again according to board room discussion, SOBC had the information in advance and had a meeting in time to give approval.

The deadline to get the signed application to the state had passed. The board discussed trying to get a letter from the union and/or SOBC with their signature and passed a motion to that effect.  “It will be very disappointing if we missed out on $1 to 2 million if the teachers’ union dropped the ball. It’s poor leadership,” said board member Ted Dole.

The day after the board meeting, the Oregon Department of Education announced they could extend the deadline to noon Friday, Feb. 15. Calls to Nodine did not change the union’s stance.

What is Race to the Top, you ask. It is a program first outlined in July of last year by the president and the Secretary of Education providing those states interested with a four-pronged program and asking that they develop their own guidelines based on the four priorities and giving school districts the opportunity to apply for funds. Each state that has an approved program will receive funds. District 9 believes based on the criteria they would be eligible for somewhere between $1 million and $2 million if Oregon is approved. The four elements of the federal program, upon which the state is required to develop a plan for are:
• Standards and assessments
• Effective teachers and leaders
•Data systems
•Struggling schools

The Oregon Education Association and the National Education Association support the four priorities.

The contract says, in part: If the local union leader signs the agreement it agrees “it will work together in good faith to implement the Oregon Plan …” and “Nothing in this MOU (memo of understanding) shall be construed to override any rights or duties as provided by collective bargaining law or collective bargaining agreements.”

The final application from the federal government was released Nov. 17. From that, the state needed to develop their plan and then send it on to school districts.

Winners in this first go-round will be announced in April. There will be another go-around in early summer,

The other item of potential financial benefit was a topic of conversation during the work session and concerned the proposed cell tower.

The tower has an initial benefit of an estimated $60,000 to the district with additional income possible from a second user. It went through the public hearing process and was approved by the Eagle Point Planning Commission in December and was the subject of a detailed report by Don Larsen, who  represented AT&T concerning zoning issues during a District 9 board workshop in December. The expectation was that it would be put on the agenda for a regular meeting. That has not happened.

Board member Ted Dole said he believed there was a consensus that would allow it to be on the agenda to which Board Chair Scott Grissom replied there was no consensus and that in conversation with various board members there may be a more satisfactory site. Dole said it needed to be brought up at a regular board meeting. He said if it isn’t sited at the high school, then AT&Twill go someplace else with it.

At the December workshop, board member Jim Mannenbach asked if could be located  on district property on Idlewood (which is the road off Stevens by the Nazarene Church). That was not in the application and if the board rejects the approved site, AT&T could walk away or would have to determine if they want to consider another site. And that would require starting with a site analysis and once again working its way through the planning commission and school board. 

Grissom agreed to put the cell tower on the agenda for the next meeting, which will be Feb 10. He said, “I’m personally not in favor. If it came to a vote, the board probably wouldn’t vote in favor.”

Several people from the high school were recognized by Principal Allen Barber. They included Carol Newcomb who heads the food department and is striving to get a program for students to earn a culinary associates degree while at EPHS. Each board workshop the district hires the foods class to prepare a meal. Last week’s head chef was Jeffry Mauer.

Two 4.0 outstanding students were introduced. They were Blanca Gutierrez and Jordan Henderson. Logan Winter was a runner-up.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent


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