School watchdog group vows perseverance

Forest Grove School District Citizens Advisory puts its message online

They might not get a hearing in front of the school board at Monday's budget showdown, but members of a newly-formed citizens advisory say they'll train a sharp eye on the way the Forest Grove School District approaches educational policy well into the future.

Members met for the second time Tuesday night in the Forest Grove City Library to fine-tune questions they want to ask the school board about next year's $49 million budget proposal.

At their first meeting June 1, about 40 people cogitated over a number of lightning-rod issues, including remedial workshops at the high school, the proposed closure of Gales Creek Elementary School, sports program equity, a new core literacy program, administrative costs, board communications and the district's travel budget.

They assigned coordinators to research answers to questions in each category and decided to seek a place on the board's agenda Monday. At press time it was unclear whether the advisory would be granted a hearing.

'Overall, we are very unclear about the district's vision,' said Monica Gorman, a Forest Grove parent and one of the group's organizers. 'There's a lot of information that is obscure. I don't see it, and I don't understand it.'

Anya Doll, parent of a junior at Forest Grove High, said she joined the group to gain a voice in the direction of the district. 'Our district is telling us what their priorities are,' she said. 'As parents, we need to talk about that.'

Kate Grandusky, the board's newly-elected but not yet initiated member, said the words 'community-minded, creative and innovative' described the educational philosophy she thinks the district should be built upon.

After she's sworn in next month, Grandusky promised to 'meet with principals and introduce myself to every teacher' as an advocate for stronger board communication.

Saying she's not convinced that continual testing is in the best interest of Forest Grove students, Gorman, who teaches in the Beaverton School District, indicated the group would look into alternative methods and present its research to the board.

Even if board members pass the 2011-12 budget next week, advisory members vowed to stay organized as a watchdog group.

'We need to let the administration know that we have not been intimidated or exhausted into silence,' Doll said.

'I'm in it for the long haul,' Gorman added.