Board Split on Support for Rickert

The Jackson County School District #9 Board met in Shady Cove Middle School on February 13. Prior to the regular meeting, the board hosted a community forum to inform local citizens about budgetary issues. Scott Whitman, District Operations Manager, gave a PowerPoint presentation showing: General Fund resources, expenditures, revenues, expenses and balances; other district funds; information how the governor’s budget will affect D9; district priorities, budget impacts and challenges; General Fund projections; and the budget process. Two more public meetings are scheduled for March 13 at White City Elementary and at Hillside Elementary In Eagle Point, both at 5 p.m.

Dr. Tina Mondale, Director of School Improvement, introduced a new grading system based on proficiency vs. the old system of grading, A-F. Basically, proficiency grading measures whether a student meets predetermined standards, Common Core State Standards being adopted across the country. For the first time, national standards will govern local performance. Much discussion ensued as teachers and parents expressed concerns. Some teachers have already seen significant negative effect on students relating to college entrance requirements and scholarship qualifications, as well as altering a long-maintained GPA, the only difference being how the achievement was calculated. Others questioned the use of classroom time and teachers, considering ideal scenarios vs. reality. Teachers expressed a desire to be more a part of the planning and implementation. Dr. Mondale acknowledged they still had much work to do, snags to deal with, and that the program would unfold over time. Both she and superintendent Cynda Rickert ended the discussion by thanking the participants and acknowledging their concerns.

The regular meeting convened with the flag salute and a welcome from Rickert. She praised the local students and staff for the smooth transition to Shady Cove School when Elk Trail closed. She also gave kudos to Shady Cove School for its recognition as one of only 27 across the state recognized as a Model School. Student representatives, Hunter Hoeptner and Micaela Saling announced a Leadership Class sponsored Sweetheart Dance on Friday the 15th to raise funds for their Spirit Trip. Tyler Downing and Hoeptner are Oregon Association of Student Council’s Winter Energizer representatives for EPHS. SkillsUSA and the Community Association will host the annual dessert auction, and the Honor Society is hosting a Red Cross Drive at the high school on February 19th. EPHS wrestling team took second in regionals, and twelve wrestlers will go to state, including Hoeptner who took first. A clothing drive to assist homeless teens yielded 1,300 articles of clothing, and the band is on its way to a competition in Corvallis.

Mary Ann Wolf came to the microphone and asked if teachers could possibly have early notice on major changes, enabling them to better form lesson plans. Jody Streetman of Medford, former EPHS teacher with 30-yr. tenure, questioned the football coach decision and decisions made that might not be best for the kids. Such comments come under Public Forum, only allowing folks an opportunity to state their opinions and concerns, but with no action taken.

Superintendent Rickert gave her report for January, highlighting items such as: focus walks in schools; meetings with community members, parents and business leaders; professional meetings; meetings with past and present board members; meetings with Mr. Whitehead, the new technology supervisor.

Scott Perry, Superintendent of the Southern Oregon Education Service District spoke to ESDs likely decreased funding, thus affecting individual school districts. An ESD offers services an individual district cannot afford. For example, the ESD can hire a speech therapist who works with several schools, the collaborative effort benefiting all. The board approved the Southern Oregon ESD Service Plan Resolutions, which highlighted basic information about the district and ways to deal with new budgetary situations.

Mr. Whitman presented the audit committee report, an annual requirement for school districts. The auditors found, among several favorable findings, that D9 has “no significant deficiencies or material weakness in internal controls,” “no instances of noncompliance material to the financial statements,” and finally, “Jackson County School District No. 9 qualified as a low-risk auditee under the criteria specified in OMB Circular A-133.” During Mr. Whitman’s report and proposed resolution for acceptance, Board Member Mark Bateman moved that the district buy a school bus, seconded by member Jim Mannenbach. An energetic discussion followed. Board Chairman Scott Grissom ruled the motion out of order, while Mr. Bateman insisted on a vote. Mr. Grissom, unsure of how to handle the matter, agreed to look into it. In the end, he tabled the bus purchase motion for later consideration, and the board approved the audit report.

Board President Grissom and Allen Barber, Director of Human Resources, presented a resolution “that the District provide a legal defense for the Superintendent in the charges brought against her by TSPC [Teachers Standards and Practices Commission].” A heated discussion ensued over wording in the information docket provided in the district packet, and whether the TSPC had dropped one of the two charges. Mr. Barber passionately pointed out that under her contract the Superintendent is entitled to legal counsel as long as she is acting within the scope of her job and responsibilities, either individually or as a board representative. By majority vote, the board passed the resolution to provide such defense.

The next item of business was a resolution to approve a draft of “the evaluation for D9 Superintendent, Cynda S. Rickert, for the period of February 2012 through January 2013 as presented.” Mr. Mannenbach stated that his comments were not part of the final report, that the report included the “evaluation of three board members only.” According to Mr. Grissom, the Board had adopted a policy wherein each member is assigned three administrative or district leadership people to talk to. This group includes the cabinet, principals and district supervisors (such as transportation and technical personnel). The resolution passed by majority vote, giving Superintendent Rickert a distinguished rating.

The Board also passed a resolution that based on staffing and available resources, the D9Board of Directors has established no nonresident students shall receive written consent for admission for the 2013-2014 school year.

David McKay, with the Willamette ESD and serving as project manager, was pleased to present Snyder Roofing’s low bid of $9 per square foot. This includes the tear off, dry rot repair, insulation, new roofing materials, and labor. The low bid allows more work than originally thought possible—approximately 95% of the needed work at EPHS and White City Middle School, targeting the most needed repairs first. Mr. Mannenbach objected that only one kind of roof had been considered. He had earlier proposed a second option, but the board did not pass a resolution to that effect. He asked Mr. McKay if he was getting a payback for securing the bid. Mr. McKay stated emphatically that he was not. A district contracts his services through an ESD, and pays the ESD directly for those services.

The evening’s meeting stood in sharp contrast to the previous evening’s City Council meeting, where the process of government proceeded smoothly and effectively and with room for disagreement and opposing opinions. The School Board meeting showed a far less amenable process.

The next meeting will be held at White City Elementary School on March 13.







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