Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Honored: School Board members, past and present, gather Wednesday. From left: James Sims, Rich Truax, Bev Annala, David Russo, Julia Garcia-Ramirez, Steve Gates, Brandi Sheppard, Mike Oates, Randy Holmstrom, Chuck Haynie, Liz Whitmore, Kateri Osborne-Lohr, Anne Saxby, Benjamin Sheppard, Chrissy Reitz, Katrina Hankins Elliot, Superintendent Dan Goldman, and Tom Scully.
Encouraging current school budget and bond construction news accompanied Wednesday’s honoring of past school board members.
Hood River County School District invited any and all past school board members, who Superintendent Dan Goldman termed “superheroes,” to attend the meeting at the Coe Administrative Center for National School Board Appreciation Month, and thanked them for “paving the way” to where the school district stands today.
Accepting the invitation to attend were James Sims, Bev Annala, David Russo, Steve Gates, Mike Oates, Randy Holmstrom, Chuck Haynie, Liz Whitmore, Kateri Osborne-Lohr and Anne Saxby.
“You’re an inspiration,” said current board member Julia Garcia-Ramirez to the visiting past directors. “We are a great team and so much of that is because of the path you paved, and it says a lot for what’s going on in the community. It takes everyone working together.”
Board Chair Chrissy Reitz said, “(We) function so well because of the path you all laid. Thank you for making this job easier.”
In other action, the current board learned that the district received its fifth straight financial audit with an “unmodified opinion,” which is the highest such ranking and fulfills a goal Goldman established five years ago.
“It’s a sign of our fiscal health and stewardship of community resources,” he said, praising district Finance Director Saundra Buchanan for her performance.
The board also approved a $4,970,885 contract for the last two major bond projects paid for through voter approval in 2016: Westside Elementary and Parkdale Elementary schools. The contract goes to Griffin Construction, based in The Dalles and Prineville, a primary subcontractor with several district projects in the past two years.
BOARD MEMBERS, 1969-2019
Past board members, living and dead, recognized Wednesday: Glenn Adams, Dick Arnold, Masami Asai, Bill Baker, Roland Biehn, Rob Brostoff, Dan Bubb, Marion Bump, Garry Cassidy, Don Clark, Harry Cramblett, Anne Cushman, Bob Danko, Bill DeBorde, Fred Duckwall, Gene Euwer, Jeanne Gaulke, Gyda Haight, Paul Hamada, Lynae Hansen, James Higgins, Mark Johnson, Dean Kleinsmith, Jeff Kopecky, Sally LaVenture, Betty Lawson, James Lee, Sandy Lindland, Kathleen Malone, Richard McBee, Sue McCarthy, Allen Moore, Dick Nafsinger, Alex Newman, Karen Ostrye, Norm Paul, Vawter Parker, Richard Radliff, Ron Rivers, Ramona Ropek, Keith Sandahl, Pat Schmuck, Don Spink, Bob Spotts, Robert Stratton, Jim Stuck, Bob Thomsen, William Todd, Jay Tveidt, Jan Veldhuisen Virk, Jackie Wade, Bobby Walker, Ann Watt, Gowlan Wells and Teunis Wyers.
“We have a lot more work to do,” said Jose Aparacio of Weneha Group, the company contracted by the district to oversee bond projects.
The largest current project, the new May Street Elementary, is on schedule, according to project superintendent Mike Carter of Kirby Nagelhout Construction. The school will be ready for occupancy in August, and overlapping with project completion will be tear-down of the existing school, likely to start in July.
Aparicio and Goldman noted that the district will be able to look at adding more small projects under the bond fund, thanks to accrual of a half-million dollars from interest on the bonds, and by coming in $300,000 under budget on the Westside-Parkdale contract.
Board action Wednesday also included adopting the 2019-20 school calendar, with the unanimous decision by the current board to choose the option for a partial Thanksgiving week vacation rather than the full week, in anticipation of governor-ordered addition of six school days as soon as 2020-21.
The governor’s projected $9.07 billion State School Fund (SSF) under biennial budget for 2019-22 could potentially add those days.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to reinvest in our state’s children,” said Goldman. He noted that the SSF is a 7-percent increase over the current one, and he and board members spoke out Wednesday about their hopes that Oregon Legislators would devote as many dollars to K-12 education as possible when the Legislature meets in Salem starting Jan. 22.
“We need these resources,” said board member Rich Truax. “We need to reach out and encourage our legislators to follow through and bring us this funding.”
In his message Wednesday, Goldman reminded the board that last month he had told them, “We are currently spending more than we are getting from the state,” and “to be able to make investments beyond current levels for our students, and to be able to stop spending our reserves, we will need a bigger investment than the base budget proposed by the governor. With that said, this is the healthiest number we could have expected for K-12.”
In his report, Goldman also noted that surveys have been compiled for pending boundary changes, and community input meetings will be announced for March, with board action expected by May.
“While boundary reviews are never popular and are always emotional,” Goldman told the board last month, “they are much needed for our district now ands we have a number of schools that are over-enrolled and a number that are under-enrolled. There are currently students having to be in portables at some schools while there is classroom space at others.”
While enrollment at schools varies, the overall district enrollment is expected to decline in the next couple of years, which has budget implications, since SSF funding is provided on a per-student basis.
“We have a long-standing discrepancy in enrollment and it can result in inequities across the district: Which kids are getting which services,” Goldman said Wednesday.