Board identifies future policies during marathon meeting

The Lake Oswego School Board doesn’t usually hold six-hour meetings — generally they’re about half that or less. But last week was different.

The board had a packed agenda on July 18 because it was meeting one day a month instead of two, and the board was discussing general and individual priorities for the entire fiscal year, 2013-14.

Topics included financial and staffing changes, curriculum updates, a proposed pilot program and the incoming superintendent’s salary.

  • Board member Sarah Howell’s proposed full-year seventh-grade Spanish pilot program for next year was voted down 3-2 with board member Bob Barman joining Howell in voting yes. Howell said a pilot program would support the existing grade-school immersion program. The district may consider the program in the future.

    “You know my opinion: I don’t want additional costs,” board member John Wendland said of the program.

  • District administrators proposed new learning models in English/language arts and math to help local high schools keep up with Common Core Standards. Common Core involves changes to standardized state testing that may affect students’ scores. The community will have a chance to weigh in on the changes next month. For more information, call the district at 503-534-2000.

    “We’re trying to get the bar raised,” Superintendent Bill Korach said.

  • The Honors English protocol was changed last school year to allow freshmen and sophomores to appeal or opt in if they are not recommended for the class based on an assessment that includes an essay test. The board chose to continue the practice this school year.

  • The marketing material publicizing the soon-to-be-open superintendent position will include a salary range of $140,000 to $185,000.

    “Just because we’re putting a range out there doesn’t mean we’re going to go straight to the top,” Barman said.

    Korach will retire in 2014. Not counting four furlough days, Korach makes $142,000, plus $10,000 in retirement annuities because he retired before continuing another two years on annual contracts. For the last two years, he has donated $40,000 of his annual income to the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, which gives almost all of its fundraising dollars to support teachers’ salaries.

  • The local option levy is up for a five-year renewal on the November ballot and will remain at the same rate: $1.39 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The cost to an owner of a $350,000 home is less than $41 per month, or $487 per year.

    The levy was last raised in 2000 from $1.18 per $1,000 of assessed value to the current rate.

    The ballot measure explanatory statement will be presented to the board for approval in August.

  • Korach’s cost reduction plan for the school district is to cut $1 million next school year, an additional $1 million in 2014-15 and another $1 million in 2015-16 to address budget woes. To help achieve the dollar decreases, this year there will be 10 fewer teaching positions, and the district is increasing student-to-teacher ratios. The ratio will rise by one more student per class in all grade levels, and the effect on staff depends on enrollment. Two Lake Oswego teachers have been laid off and will be the first considered for open positions for which they are eligible. Most teaching jobs were eliminated by strategies including not filling vacant positions.

    “Right now, we’re still looking for spots to place displaced teachers,” Human Resources Director Mary Kaer said.

  • A real estate study, to be ready next year, will offer an assessment of the value of school buildings, which will influence the Lake Oswego School District board’s decisions on which schools to operate.

    In the wake of a state advocacy group’s criticism that the district’s bullying policy lagged behind state revisions, the Lake Oswego School Board has begun the process to update it.

    The board gave district bullying policy revisions a first reading last week and is expected to vote on them after a second reading at a meeting next month.

    One of the key changes to the policy, last revised two years ago, was in response to the criticism that the district did not define sexual orientation to reflect updates to state laws, statutes and regulations.

    “In the past, our policy had always included discrimination based on sex, but that’s biological, and ... gender identity could be different than one’s biological orientation,” Korach said.

    The district now has added a definition that includes gender identity and other changes: “’Sexual orientation’ means an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the person’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behaviors differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.”

    For example, Lake Oswego High School administrators would not be allowed to prevent a student who is biologically male but has a female gender identity from being a May Fete princess, Korach said.

    Changes to the policy on hazing, harassment, intimidation, bullying and menacing include adding a paragraph defining teen dating violence — and adding it to the policy title — and providing additional information on retaliation. Seventh- to 12th-graders also will receive age-appropriate education on teen dating violence, and staff members will now be trained in ways to prevent and respond to harassment, intimidation, bullying, teen dating violence and acts of cyberbullying.

    Other new language included that an employee within the school district could be dismissed for failing to report bullying in all forms defined in the policy.

    The final line of the policy also is new but meets with existing expectations: “The principal and the superintendent are responsible for ensuring that this policy is implemented.”

    The changes were inspired by Oregon Safe Schools & Communities Coalition’s second annual State of the Safe Schools Act report. The report gave Lake Oswego, Riverdale and 53 other Oregon school districts, or 28 percent of the state, a bronze rating. It is the coalition’s lowest possible ranking for compliance. The report looked at 197 school districts in Oregon.

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