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Principals still hiring as second semester begins

Thanks to an economic uptick that led to $3 million more than expected from the local option levy, more new and reinstated teachers are entering the Beaverton School District pipeline as the second semester gets underway.

The levy, which voters approved in May 2013, was originally projected to bring in $15 million to help prevent further teacher cuts in the district after 344 positions were slashed in the 2012-13 fiscal year. Actual tax collections received between November and mid-December, however, pushed the amount closer to $18 million, said Claire Hertz, the district’s chief financial officer, who shared news of the unexpected windfall at the district’s board meeting on Dec. 16.

The additional $3 million can fund the equivalent of approximately 30 full-time teachers, which translates to closer to 60 teachers when hiring in the middle of the school and fiscal year, noted Sue Robertson, the district’s human resources director.

Principals continue to interview and hire candidates.

“Most positions will begin today since it is the first day of the new semester,” she said on Tuesday, noting all district schools have received additional staffing. “Principals determine how positions will be filled or restructured based on the amount of (available staffing). We don’t have final numbers because we are still hiring.”

The levy was proposed to prevent teacher cuts, restore at least 151 of the 344 teaching positions previously eliminated and address some of the larger class sizes that resulted. By late December, the funding had returned more than 200 teachers to their classrooms.

The levy does not restore multiple years of budget reductions, totaling $142 million, but it “changes the trajectory in a positive way,” Superintendent Jeff Rose shared in the district’s Dec. 20 community newsletter.

The additional funding will be applied using what Rose called an “equity lens” based on class sizes and academic achievement.

“It’s going to where it’s needed most. It’s not equal,” said district spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler in December. “We’re asking principals to scrutinize what they have — their programs, grades, class sizes and student achievement data — to see where we’d be able to best utilize the resources.”

In other funding developments, Rose is reviewing a $680 million bond proposal the committee approved on Dec. 11 and presented to the board at its Dec. 16 meeting.

Expected to go before voters in May, the bond proposal targets nearly 30 projects including a new high school in the proposed South Cooper Mountain development area, a new elementary school in the North Bethany area and rebuilding of Vose, William Walker and Hazeldale elementary schools.

While the option levy is focused on staffing, the bond is strictly intended for capital projects, maintenance and facility renovations. A large portion of the bond would be used to cover maintenance of school buildings deferred since the economic downturn.

“Without the bond, maintenance such as roof repairs will come from the general fund,” Robertson said, “reducing the amount spent in the classroom.”

The School Board is expected to consider putting the bond proposal before voters at its Feb. 24 business meeting.

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