School board update: District seeks details on state poverty formula

School Superintendent Dan Goldman told the Hood River County School District board he has invited Michael Elliott of the state Department of Education to attend the board’s Jan. 22 meeting to discuss the proposed changes in how the Department of Education calculates funding for students who are considered to be below the poverty line.

The district stands to lose $200,000 per year if these procedures are put into place, according to Goldman, who noted that 9 of 10 of the districts who stand to gain most financially from the proposed changes are from the Portland metropolitan area and the I-5 corridor.

The reductions would come “just at a time when we thought we’d be getting out of the hole,” Goldman said, noting that he is in communication with other school districts about “banding together” to lobby against the changes.

In other business:

n As reported in the Jan. 11 edition, the District is about to embark on a thorough review of its transportation operations, to find more efficiencies in light of the need to replace portions of its fleet.

Goldman told the school board Jan. 8, “I believe we are at a decision point,” Goldman said. “Either we look for changes to achieve efficiencies in ways we provide transportation, or we’re going to have to look at reductions in other areas so that we can buy two buses a year.

“The administration is committed to protecting class sizes and programs as much as possible so we are going to start exploring a number of potential changes to our general transportation services,” Goldman said.

n Finance Director Saundra Buchanan and Goldman reported on the 2012-13 audit findings. Goldman credited Buchanan and her staff “for the unbelievable number of hours, especially considering you are taking on someone else’s work.” Buchanan was hired in August to succeed former finance manager Nick Hogan.

The district financial advisory committee will be briefed Monday on auditor Pauly-Rogers’ report, which then is scheduled to be presented to the board on Jan. 22.

The board meets at 6 p.m. at the District office at 10th and Eugene streets.

Goldman said, “We received a modified opinion, which indicates that some problems were found and changes are required that points to a small number of logistical issues regarding internal procedures, and we will be fixing those things this spring. There are no ethical or legal deficiencies.”

“When we have a modified opinion, it affects the way the public perceives the way we manage our resources,” and it can have a negative affect on the district bond rating, which impacts the amount the district has to pay in interest and other costs on bonds approved by voters. “So it is important that we clean this up,” he said.

Buchanan also said she is updating the web page devoted to the district budget, and also plans to develop a page for the audit report.

“It’s an important thing and right now it’s a kind of a missing link in the process,” she said.

The board also took a lengthy look at two documents-in-transition. One is the new District Strategic Plan, and the other is the ongoing review of every district policy, which covered ample ground from building use to committee appointments.

These include reducing the number of routes, a difficult challenge based on district geography, Goldman noted.

“We could be looking at fewer stops; but how far are we expecting students to walk?” he said.

He said the transportation services review is just getting started and will include principals.

n The board approved an application for an Oregon Minority Educator Pipeline Grant for 2013-15, which will help the district in its goal of hiring minority educators, while also a cadet program to encourage current students who may want to become teachers.

Currently 54 percent of district students are Hispanic (compared to 35 percent statewide) while 3 percent of its teachers are Hispanic.

n The board spent about a half an hour on its ongoing policy review. The district has hired Oregon School Board Association to analyze all its policies and provide recommended changes. It will take through June for the board to go through all the policies. Section by section, throughout the school year the board is reviewing those suggestions and kicking the updates back to the administration to then present an overall set of changes by July.

The fast-track process is being headed by Human Resources Director Kevin Noreen.

“It’s a lot of work in a short amount of time, but it needs to be done,.” Noreen told the board.

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