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Committee approval sends budget to school board

Curtis restores $145K for world languages, vocational ed classes

Budget committee members unanimously approved a $49 million 2011-12 budget Thursday night that includes $7.5 million in cuts.

The vote sends the hotly-contested document on to the school board for a final OK.

Superintendent Yvonne Curtis gave the audience of about 100 a glimmer of good news by recommending that $145,000 - gleaned from a $15,000 reduction in water use, a $30,000 reduction in grounds maintenance and a $100,000 savings from handling the district's special ed day-treatment program in-house - be applied to restore several cut programs.

The money will bring back a half-time world languages teaching position and a full-time vocational/technical ed teaching position at Forest Grove High School. It will also restore the Neil Armstrong Middle School track program.

No public testimony was taken at Thursday's meeting. The school board is set to adopt the budget June 13 following a public hearing.

'We have a new paradigm for K-12 education in this state,' an emotional committee chair Fred Sherrill said after the vote. 'Things are not going to be the same.

'This is a bitter pill we're swallowing right now, but we're going to dig deep as a community and decide what we're passionate about.'

Marble throws support

behind Gales Creek

Fred Marble, who won re-election to his school board seat in the May 17 special election, declared his allegiance to keeping Gales Creek Elementary School, which is slated for closure next year, open.

He said he'd like to negotiated two cut school days with the district's teacher and classified unions to pay for the grade school's operations for a year.

'I believe we're going to need the Gales Creek facility again in the future as an elementary school,' said Marble, who added that before the reconstructed Joseph Gale Elementary School comes online in 2012-13, district attendance boundaries likely will need to be re-drawn.

Incoming business manager Mike Schofield, who starts work in the district July 1, ticked off reasons he did not support most suggestions from the community - including furlough days for employees and increasing fees for building use - for plugging the budget hole.

'The budget as presented deals with federal and state mandates and agreements with our unions,' said Schofield, the district's former longtime business manager who was replaced by Darin Davidson when he went to work for the Gresham-Barlow School District in 2007.

Davidson resigned from his position in April to take a different job out-of-state.

Teacher cuts 'unavoidable'

Curtis noted that in the last biennium, other nearby districts pink-slipped teachers to save money while Forest Grove did not. This time around, she said, cutting a significant number of teachers is 'unavoidable.'

She said her leadership team had begun meeting with community partners, from Pacific University president Lesley Hallick to Portland Community College president Preston Pulliams to members of the local ministerial association, to look for ways to gird up programs.

PCC could offer technical classes to high schoolers and Pacific might invite teens to take foreign language classes on campus, for example, she noted.

Three principals - Joseph Gale Elementary's Melissa Carter, Tom McCall Upper Elementary's Chandra Cooper and Forest Grove High's Karen Robinson - listed reasons the district should not pull the green light on a controversial core literacy program for grades K-6.

Community members, as well as some teachers, have protested spending $510,000 on the bilingual Reading Street program next year.

'We need to purchase this reading program,' said Carter. 'Students are receiving multiple forms of reading instruction.

'Our teachers went to school to teach, not to design curriculum.'