Keith Steele takes vice chairman position and will focus on bond campaign

MolatoreLeadership changed hands at the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board’s regular meeting Monday, with Chairman Keith Steele handing the gavel to newly elected Chairwoman Regan Molatore following her nomination for the position and unanimous election. Steele subsequently was nominated and elected, again unanimously, as vice chairman.

Molatore was elected to the board in May 2012 and has just completed her first year of service. After Monday’s board meeting, she expressed satisfaction at the prospect of having Steele as vice chairman and said she expected to receive support from him.

“I’m very happy to have his experience beside me to help me get through the upcoming year. Hopefully it will be a very successful year,” she said.

Stepping down from the chairmanship will give Steele the chance to focus on the school district’s upcoming bond campaign. The board is preparing two measures for the November general election: a $84.5 million capital bond and a local option levy dedicated to staffing costs. Both measures represent continuations of expiring bonds and would maintain current tax rates. Since the school board voted unanimously in June to approve the bond measures and place them before voters, Steele has been heading up a newly formed bond committee to lead the bond campaign that he said now was “in full gear.”

“We have a very strong team,” he said, with three committee members each from West Linn and Wilsonville.

The bond measures have not yet been officially filed but that step is “imminent,” Steele told the board. In the meantime, he and the committee have been raising money to fund the bond campaign this fall.

“I am raising as much money as I can for the campaign and I am also organizing strategy,” he said.

Steele served on the 2008 bond committee and will draw upon that experience as he leads the 2014 campaign.

“Keith is heading it up because he has been through the process before and he is willing to lead the charge again,” Molatore said Tuesday. “And I hope to be here on the board for future bond measures, should they be needed, so I had requested to be the second board member attending committee meetings, so I can learn.”

The time is right to take on a leadership role, she said. A lawyer, she currently is a stay-at-home mother with two children attending Boeckman Creek Primary School this fall in fourth and first grades.

“This is the year that both my children are in school full time, so it opens up my schedule. I have time to address the needs of the board chairman,” she said. “I don’t do well sitting around doing nothing. I like to keep active, keep busy, and I thoroughly enjoy our schools.”

Foundation update

Following the leadership change, David Steinberg and Dawn Murai made a presentation on behalf of the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation. They presented the foundation’s 2014 donation to the school district — a $130,000 check representing 100 percent of funds raised from two foundation fundraisers in the 2013-14 school year and from the Tonkin For the Love of School fundraiser.

Murai reported that the foundation had met its goal of increasing participation in both its H.O.T. fundraising campaign last December and the COUNT campaign in the spring. Foundation participation in the Tonkin run was also up.

“We’ll be back next year with even more, we hope,” Steinberg said as he delivered the check.

“We recognize that increasing participation in any activity is difficult,” Molatore said. “You guys do a fabulous job and I don’t want it to be thankless. We do appreciate what you do.”

“Thank you for the funds, thank you for the spirit and thank you for what you do for our schools,” Superintendent Bill Rhoades said.

Superintendent contract renewed

In other business, 2013-14 vice chairwoman Kristin Keswick reported on the board’s annual evaluation of Rhoades. This year’s evaluation was entirely positive, she said.

“The board is quite pleased with the accomplishments this year. … The board appreciates the leadership of Dr. Rhoades,” she said.

“Thanks for the opportunity to do great work with this community,” Rhoades said.

Rhoades works with a three-year rolling contract; every year the board has the option to vote to add an extension, so that he always has three years remaining. Based on his evaluation, Keswick recommended adding a one-year extension this year, with four key changes:

A salary increase of 2 percent, retroactive to July and a 1 percent increase through March 2015;

A retirement insurance stipend, valid for up to seven years following the superintendent’s retirement;

The ability to accrue unused vacation time and

A retirement stipend of $500 per month for 48 months following retirement.

The board voted unanimously to renew Rhoades’ contract, with those conditions added.

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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