D9 board ok’s Elk Trail, RIF, sup’t contract

Standing room only and controversial issues aplenty were present at the  School District 9 work session and board of director’s meeting on March 14. Issues ranged from the meeting  agenda to the superintendent evaluation procedure, a reduction in force, the fate of Elk Trail School, the superintendent’s contract extension and maintaining a full school year of 176 student contact days.

The workshop subjects included a review of the master calendar with a notice of the Hillside Elementary School grand opening celebration on April 11, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.  When the superintendent evaluation form was referenced for approval at the April meeting, board member Jim Mannenbach objected to the process and asked that it be revised.  After discussion, the subject will be part of April’s board meeting. 

The budget report was presented showing projected expenses over revenue by approximately $1.1 to $1.2 million this year and 2012/2013 expenses exceeding revenues by $1.5 to $1.6 million.  Projections for 2013/2014 are no better.  Sustainable budget recommendations include the consolidation of Elk Trail with Shady Cove School with a projected savings of $234,000, $850,000 through attrition and reduction in force, and $125,000 in reductions in departments and programs, which will be determined.

A discussion ensued regarding Elk Trail School.  There are 96 students at Elk Trail with 2/3 of them being bused from Shady Cove.  The costs per student are $515 higher than the average elementary cost and there are unused classrooms at Shady Cove.  If the consolidation is approved Shady Cove will have approximately 300 students in grades K-8 with focused resources and learning opportunities.  Superintendent Rickert stated that these are difficult decisions, which no one wants to recommend but resources are better focused on one campus.  She indicated that targeted class sizes will be maintained.

Board Chair Scott Grissom raised questions regarding Middle School sports, which were eliminated for this school year based on finances and the belief that other Middle Schools in the area were also eliminating these programs, but subsequently reinstated them.  In response it was noted that at the prior board meeting a number of potential volunteers made presentations and it was determined that if $46,000 were donated and volunteer coaches utilized that the district could coordinate the programs.  A meeting of interested volunteers is scheduled for the week of March 20 to ascertain if it is feasible to add the program with a decision needed by May 1.

The board meeting began with Mannenbach making a motion to amend the agenda by adding roof repair process, bus purchase and comments to the agenda.  After a lengthy discussion he withdrew the request regarding the roof and buses.  The amendment was defeated.  Board Member Ted Dole then offered an amendment to include a discussion regarding board support for a full school year to the resolution regarding the 2012/2013 calendar.  The agenda with this addition was approved.

Principal Paul Cataldo of White Mountain Middle School gave special recognition to students Nichole Bogart and Patrick Thrash, as well as teacher Andrea Townsend for their dedication and accomplishments.  He also enthusiastically reported on the White Mountain Middle School modified schedule.

Employee Association Vice President Dave Carrell brought a yellow beach ball as a part of his presentation, which he said signified that the ball was in the district’s court regarding contract negotiations.  He said he was looking for a collaborative relationship.  He stated that the association had brought up ideas to help the district but there are other options rather than layoffs or closing Elk Trail, one of which is to cut days.  Following his presentation he invited teachers to leave, which many did even as Grissom asked that they stay to hear the district finance report.

Beckie Figueroa stated that there is money in the district but it is being hidden.  She stated there is a need for counselors and the sports program.  She said she is supporting the teachers and against the administration.  Elk Trail parent Jason Haskell stated money could be found to keep Elk Trail open and if Elk Trail were closed tonight he would call for a recall.

Resolutions regarding the consent calendar, the 2011-2012 calendar revisions, the superintendent recommendations of renewal/non-renewal of probationary teachers and administrators and for extension of contracts to contract teachers, and revisions to policy IGBHE were passed unanimously.

When the renewal of the superintendent’s contract was discussed Manenbach objected saying with no employee contract settled, the recommended layoffs, and the recommendation to close Elk Trail, he did not feel it was appropriate to extend this contract.  Dole stated the superintendent is the only employee the board can hire and fire and they should do everything possible to keep a great employee. Because of financial constraints no raise would be offered but renewal shows the boards support. The contract was extended with board member Mark Bateman joining Mannenbach in opposition.

The 2012-20013 calendar with the Dole amendment of board support for continuation of a full 176-day student contact day inclusion was discussed.  Bateman stated he could support a reduced calendar and Mannenbach stated he would only support a reduction as a last resort.  This passed with Bateman and Mannenbach opposed.

When the reduction in force was discussed, Mannenbach proposed that the Hillside extra dollars could be used to fund both the staff and Elk Trail.  He felt that the roof costs are too high.  Grissom stated that the dollars are needed for structural repair of the roofs, which has been the intended use of any extra capital funds.  The resolution to approve the district to begin the reduction in force process was approved with Mannenbach and Bateman opposed.

Mannenbach stated that $234,000 was too small of an amount of savings regarding the consolidation of Elk Trail when 30 students and their families were affected.  He indicated there is a great group at Elk Trail.  He referred to an article showing that Roseburg has recently voted to not close a school.  Grissom stated he is not happy having to consolidate it but the school will be maintained and could be reopened if needed in the future.  The resolution to close was approved with Mannenbach and Bateman opposed.
By Bill Fierke
For the Independent

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