Parents offer feedback on schools


Advisory committee members discuss transportation, school board priorities

At a districtwide parent advisory committee meeting last month, parents were asked to provide the Lake Oswego School Board with feedback on the opening of the school year and recommendations for the year ahead. Now, the results are in.

Committee members overall seemed to agree the school year started smoothly, with one exception: transportation. Parents picking their children up from some schools unintentionally obstructed buses from entering and exiting school parking lots, which is perhaps due to the elementary school consolidation.

“The drop-off/pickup congestion seems to have been remedied with the new traffic flow patterns in the parking lot,” wrote Westridge Elementary parent Bonnie Carlson. “The true test will be when the rainy season starts, when parents don’t want their children to wait for the bus or walk to school in the rain.”

“It sounds like bus usage has helped to limit the traffic congestion during drop-off times,” wrote Westridge parent Marshal Burgess.

“Of the complaints that I have heard most have to do with the buses,” wrote Forest Hills Elementary parent Mark Macuddy.

“My daughter has told me each of the three days this week the bus from Lake Grove was late to Hallinan,” wrote Hallinan Elementary parent Christopher Beach.

“I think the buses are still very crowded and my daughter’s bus route is a bit off,” wrote Oak Creek Elementary parent Michelle Ericson. “She is the first bus stop in the morning and one of the last in the afternoon. This does not make sense to me.”

Dan Sterling, principal of River Grove Elementary, wrote: “There was an initial loss of credibility with respect to the published bus schedule, which was not accurate and with the transportation delays during the first week or two of school.”

“We have a new transportation director who’s coming to us from Canby. She’s very experienced as a transportation director, but she’s still just learning us,” said Superintendent Bill Korach at a coordinating council meeting Oct. 19.

School board priorities

Parents seemed to agree on the importance of two school board priorities: aligning instructional practices to the new Common Core State Standards (content standards designed to ensure all students are college- and career-ready in literacy and mathematics) and keeping class sizes low, though at the coordinating council meeting one Lake Oswego High School parent said, “There’s a lot of good that’s happened over having 100 additional students.”

Less consistent was the parental response to the school board search for Korach’s replacement. School board members Teri Oelrich and Patti Zebrowski spent the summer consulting with other Oregon districts about their own experience with replacing superintendents and are planning to release a request for proposals from superintendent search firms this month, with a final superintendent candidate identified in May 2014.

“I was very impressed with the amount of work and planning that Teri and Patti have put into the superintendent search,” wrote Lakeridge High School parent Lisa Feenstra.

“I don’t really understand why it takes 28 months to find a replacement superintendent,” said Oak Creek parent Michelle Ericson. “It seems to me that the pool of candidates shouldn’t be that large. We do elect the president of the United States in less than two years.”

“The cost of such a lengthy search is definitely a concern, as is the urgent need to move forward with a new superintendent during these challenging times,” wrote Lake Oswego Junior High parent Amy Clark.

The LOHS parent committee collectively said, “Though there was concern about the cost of the national superintendent search, there was general agreement that it was reasonable to conduct the search as widely as possible to obtain the best candidate.”

Parents formed a united front, however, when it came to the issue of funding.

“The information that was presented to us at the district-wide SAC meeting was scary. ... Three years and we’ll be operating in a deficit,” wrote Westridge parent Burgess.

At the coordinating council meeting, Korach said, “Our problem is that we’re burning $3 million each year in reserves ... to run our programs with our staffing and our class size ratios.”

“My concern is the same as everyone’s — maintaining a quality academic program given constrained resources,” wrote LOJ parent Courtney Clements. “I am particularly worried about the negative ending fund balance projected for 2015.

“I would like to see the board and administration focus intensely on finding efficiencies in district operations and work to develop a long term budget strategy that is sustainable.”