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Letters: School cuts, coverage appreciation, etc.

by: PHOTO BY: BRETT SMITH OF ROOT PHOTOGRAPHY - New Urban High School art teacher Kat Synder with junior students Shanna Randolph and Laura Joyner. Students are all smiles now that the district has given Oak Grove-based New Urban a possible reprieve from having to pack its bags and move to the Sabin-Schellenberg Career Technical Center.Since August, district administrators have worked with a community advisory team, members of the Budget Committee, and district staff to strategize ways to address an estimated $5 million to $7 million funding gap for the 2013-14 school year. By law, we are required to balance next year’s budget by June 30, so we are fast approaching the time to make some hard decisions for our schools.

In January, we offered a survey and held 14 public forums, gathering input from more than 1,000 people on community priorities to address the funding gap. Our community voiced support for selling property; eliminating math textbook purchases; further reducing the number of school days; closing or consolidating schools or programs; and open enrollment.

At our March 7 School Board meeting, we listened to the community’s views on the proposed consolidation of Riverside Elementary and the proposed move and re-design of New Urban High School to the south campus of the Sabin-Schellenberg Center. We also held four community meetings at Riverside and New Urban.

The board received a great deal of public input and thoughtful questions about both of these consolidation proposals. From the New Urban community, we heard about the value of a small school community to support students, and the importance of their close ties to the Oak Grove business community. From the Riverside community we heard a number of questions which need further research.

On April 4 (7 p.m. at the Sabin-Schellenberg south campus), I will bring two alternate proposals to the School Board:

1. The closure of one elementary school within the Putnam feeder system beginning with the 2014-15 school year. This recommendation will include the formation of a district boundary committee comprised of representatives from every school in the Putnam feeder system. Using established criteria and data, this committee will identify the school for closure and the necessary boundary changes.

2. A revised proposal that would require the New Urban model to adapt and change, while remaining grounded in its mission, and at the same time become more cost effective. This proposal would be implemented for the 2013-14 school year and could include New Urban staying in their current location.

Delaying or altering consolidation decisions will mean added impacts in other areas, and every student, school, and employee will be impacted in some way by the strategies we choose to close the funding gap. We have already implemented open enrollment. Next, we will consider proposals to sell district property, to eliminate next year’s math textbook adoption, and to reduce administrative and classified staff by $400,000. While these actions would balance our budget, they would not restore school days, reduce class sizes, or restore our fund balance to an appropriate level.

Please remember that we are doing the best we can to benefit the greater good of all the students we serve. As a community, we are in this together, and we need to continue to pull together to help students and staff members move successfully through the changes ahead.

I have tremendous confidence that in our district, no matter what school students attend, they will receive a caring, quality education. We remain fiercely dedicated to our mission of ensuring that each graduate is ready for education, career, and community contributions.

Matthew Utterback

North Clackamas superintendent

Contact your local legislators

It is hard to believe that we are already in the third trimester of the school year and that spring is just around the corner. I am sending this letter to parents in an effort to give you a glimpse of some exciting events in each of the schools and to update you on the state legislative conversations around finances and how they may affect our school district next year.

As you know, state funding for schools has been inadequate. Schools throughout Oregon have made significant reductions that have resulted in increased class sizes, fewer school days and loss of programs. Finally there is some good news. Legislators have heard from parents, business leaders, education groups and the general public that education needs to be placed as a top priority. Recently the Legislature released its proposed budget. It is $400 million more than the governor’s budget.

In Gladstone, we will restore some of our lost school days and make a few improvements in our education program. Over the next two years we will restore eight days to the school calendar. Although the additional funds will have a positive impact on the district, it is unlikely that class sizes will be significantly reduced. As always, student enrollment will continue to be a key factor in financial decisions for the district.

It is my hope that because of the quality of our schools, we will continue to attract families. If you know of families seeking information regarding our district, please encourage them to contact the district office. We would welcome an opportunity to further discuss the advantages to having students get a Gladstone education.

In closing, it is important that we continue the conversation with our state representatives to ensure that we have the ability to provide the very best education for all kids.

Thank you for your support of our schools and entrusting your children each and every day.

Bob Stewart

Gladstone superintendent

Keep essential options separate

A school district must offer programs that fit the needs of their population. Currently, the district provides many options — including New Urban High School and the Sabin-Schellenberg Career and Technical Center.

After reading my own letter from last week, “Look at downsides of moving New Urban,” I feel the need to make this comment: Sabin-Schellenberg is a great program. I’ve often discussed the idea of attending Sabin-Schellenberg with my students, but just as Sabin-Schellenberg fits the needs of many students, NUHS fits the needs of other students. Sabin-Schellenberg should remain an option for my students, but pushing these students into a program will likely only make them push back.

Both of these programs are essential, and they should remain separate options.

Martin Winch

Milwaukie

Story a blessing

Thank you for the wonderful article about the picnic table sold at our auction (“Tree raises money for school anniversary as picnic table,” March 13).

It brought in $1,750, and the family that bought the table donated it to the campus in an effort to keep it on the school grounds.

You captured the heart of joy we had as a campus. Thank you for using your gift of language to bless us at NCCS.

Julie Phipps

North Clackamas Christian School principal

Shout-out to hard-working girls

Thank you so much for the wonderful article (“Dance teams sparkle during state competetion,” March 20).

Dance is a two-season sport, and the girls work so hard for 11 months out of the year for this state championship. We appreciate your acknowledgement and support.

The Clackamas Review rocks!

Loraine Collacchi

Clackamas

Touching lives

I was very touched by your heartwarming story on Sgt. Jesse Knott and Koshka the cat (“Cat comes home to OC from Afghanistan,” March 20). The way Koshka is looking at his master in that picture says it all.

I would like to make a suggestion to Sgt. Knott that he and Koshka bring their story in-person, perhaps visiting VA hospitals, retirement homes, libraries and schoolchildren. I think they would be a big hit and touch even more lives.

Chris Zambito

Happy Valley

Privatization concern

Save Gladstone is very careful about picking and choosing words. When it comes to the future of the Gladstone Library and Gladstone City Hall they pick to say “privatize” and choose not to say “for profit.”

Why the careful choose of wording? Save Gladstone’s for-profit dollars have to come from somewhere. Save Gladstone will fight against higher taxes so that leaves cuts in services, salaries and staff to generate Save Gladstone’s for-profit dollars. A Save Gladstone for-profit library and a Save Gladstone for-profit City Hall will lead to prioritization. The for-profit Save Gladstone group will campaign against higher taxes and for police first, fire department second, public works third, with parks on the far horizon.

This is probably a reflection of the way things are today — the difference being that once you skim off the Save Gladstone’s for-profit dollars it’s going to be slim pickings at all levels of Gladstone governance. There’s something to beware of besides the “Ides of March.” It’s the march toward Save Gladstone’s for-profit privatization.

If these aren’t “the facts Jack,” Save Gladstone has only to share with we the electorate; how are these for-profit dollars to be generated?

D. Kent Lloyd

Gladstone

Return my message!

Although it bothered me when my state representative substituted “One nation under love” for “One nation under God,” when she recently led the Oregon House in the Pledge of Allegiance, I respected her right to free expression.

But it seems that, while she has no trouble expressing herself to the media, as a constituent I can’t seem to get her to say a peep.

I’ve written Rep. Carolyn Tomei three times in the last month with concerns about anti-gun legislation. These were not form letters or copy/paste chain mail — this was personal correspondence asking for her clarification on an important issue. I have yet to receive even an automated response.

I expect more from Rep. Tomei. Honest concerns from citizens should not fall on deaf ears in a truly representative government. I don’t mind if she disagrees, but she should show me the courtesy of returning a message.

Carl Thompson

Milwaukie

Editor’s note: State Rep. Carolyn Tomei said she’s received more than 1,500 emails from constituents during the last week of February. While in session she’s found it “impossible” to keep up. She added that as she catches up, she responds to constituents as soon as possible. In an email back to Mr. Thompson, she wrote that the two might just have to “agree to disagree.”

We welcome submissions from readers on local issues for our Editorial and Opinion page. Please send your thoughts by noon Friday to Raymond Rendleman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Keep Letter to the Editor submissions under 400 words; longer submissions will be considered for Community Soapboxes. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, libel and appropriate taste. Letters must be accompanied by a full name, a telephone number and street address for verification purposes. Readers are also invited to call 503-546-0742 with story ideas and comments.



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