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School budget is approved; group to screen project managers

A total budget of $42,049,470 was adopted for the 2012-13 school year by a vote of the School District 509-J Board of Directors at its Monday night meeting.
   The budget passed with three adjustments recommended by Chief Financial Officer Dan Chamness: the additions of $4,640 to hire a drama coach, $100,000 to install an HVAC system at Madras Primary, and $400,000 in contingency funds.
   The budget levies taxes on property owners at a rate of $4.58 per $1,000 of assessed value for the general fund, and in the amount of $2,854,200 for debt service on general obligation bonds.
   The tribal referendum on whether to pay $10.7 million, half the cost of building a new K-8 school in Warm Springs, will be held July 10. The vote for the 509-J District to pay half the cost passed among school district voters, but it must also be approved by the tribes before construction can start.
   Superintendent Rick Molitor said 509-J administrators and board members have been helping support the tribal vote, which did not have the required voter turnout to pass last time.
   "We've created flyers, been updating information on our website, attending meetings in Warm Springs, and putting out yard signs," Molitor said, adding, "Our focus is to get out the vote, not on voting yes."
   Committee members were selected to screen and interview a project manager for construction projects, including the building of a new auditorium and stadium.
   The committee includes community members Gail Stone, Joe Stanfield, and Richard Raschke; all five 509-J board members; and district representatives Molitor, Darryl Smith, Tim Whitaker and Dan Chamness.
   Molitor said eight firms had attended an informational meeting and another eight had contacted the district for information.
   Applications are due July 6, and the committee will gather at a special meeting 4:30 p.m., July 9 and 5 p.m., July 10, to screen applicants and create a short list. Interviews will be done at another date.
   During citizen comments, parent Joie Trosper expressed concerns about explicit language in the book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian," which her son was reading in his ninth-grade English class.
   She said overall, the book was about a boy from a dysfunctional family who was trying to improve himself, but the vulgar language and comments about religion were very offensive to her.
   After she complained to the teacher, her son was able to read a substitute book. But she handed out excerpts from the book, asked board members to look the book over, and noted a few districts had banned the book.
   She said she would like to see the board "ban the book from the curriculum, not the library. And you should let parents know about such books and send out permission slips."
   Madras High School teacher Carrie McPeak also spoke on the topic, noting people have different values and students should have a choice. For that, permission forms are already being used when certain films are shown, and could be used for books, too.
   "I strongly encourage the board to read this book before you start banning books," she said, citing "Huckleberry Finn," which some schools banned because of one racist word a character uses, when actually the whole book was against racism.
   "Our students are encouraged to think critically and controversial topics give opportunities for discussion. The point of this book is about racism and it has redeeming values. The book looks things squarely in the eye," McPeak said.
   Molitor said he and the curriculum director will research the use of the book and report back at the next meeting, but board members Tom Norton and Lyle Rehwinkel wanted discussion of banning the book put on the next agenda for possible action.
   Board member Stan Sullivan said they should all at least read the book before making any decision.