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Despite successes, there were issues

The front page of last week’s Review. proclaims, “Korach key to district’s survival.” If that’s the case, then he may be key to the city’s survival too, as the lake itself and the school district are the only two reasons why anyone should move to Lake Oswego.

Since access to the lake is limited to some 700 property owners, the school district is the real draw that attracts most residents to our town. Bill Korach is a highly competent superintendent with boundless energy and a Machiavellian cunning schooled in Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.”

Yet Bill’s missed opportunities and missteps in the last few years show he is not infallible. Some years back the senior LO High Political Action class called for later school start times. They reasoned that teenagers shouldn’t be at school at 7:25 a.m. when they were still half asleep. Bill and the school board deftly deflected this campaign. One October morning a couple years later a freshman at Lakeridge was struck by a car at 6:50 a.m. while crossing a road with no shoulder to an unlit school bus stop. Luckily the accident was not fatal, and the kid only has titanium rods in both legs to show for his dash in front of that car. No lessons were learned — the schools still start at 7:25 a.m. in pitch dark in winter.

Bill oversaw the closing of three elementary schools recently in a move that allowed the addition of one year to middle school and a supposed cost-saving effort. A year later River Grove Elementary had two additional portable classrooms added because the school district didn’t figure the right number of enrollees. Now rumors are circulating that this school should be closed because it is not structurally capable of handling major earthquakes and the cost to upgrade would be cheaper to do at another school. The district should dance with the date it brought to the party and dispel these rumors.

But perhaps the biggest missed opportunity has been the way to tackle school budget challenges year over year. The PERS beast has demanded more each year to fund its retirees and the school district, like others in the state, meekly acquiesces to these demands rather than seeking ways to limit the increasing cost of PERS.

The Oregonian and others have shown that if the assumed rate of return was lowered from 8 percent to 5 percent on investment funds that PERS would not require the extra contributions it does.

Our schools would rather sacrifice a few teacher positions than really take on meaningful reform that protects all teachers, not just some with overly generous retirements. The school board and Dr. Korach have not shown us the leadership in this matter that we in Lake Oswego expect of our best.

The most important challenge for Bill Korach this coming school year is to help the board choose a successor who continues to strengthen our excellent schools. We don’t want to be lamenting Bill’s loss at his retirement, but rather celebrating his achievement in shepherding us into a new generation of school students and administration. That will be how we ultimately measure the success of his career, by what we inherit in the school district in the future.

Peter Klaebe is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Editor’s note: Other details readers should know:

  • State legislators control the structure of the Public Employees Retirement System, recently voting on reforms to PERS that will provide additional funding to K-12 public schools.

  • Two Lake Oswego teachers have been laid off and will be the first considered for open positions for which they are eligible.

  • 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.



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