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February, 2013

Everything’s Coming Up Crocuses

WITH SPRING JUST AROUND THE CORNER, crocuses and other early flowers are blooming as local gardeners begin planning for the growing season, and school athletes and Little Leaguers prepare for their spring seasons. Afternoon sun tempts locals out of hibernation, while night-time temperatures still dip into the 30s. Chief Photo by Adam J. Wehrley

School District Seeks Combined Superintendent, Elementary Principal

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Clatskanie’s new school district superintendent will also serve as principal of the elementary school.

That was the outcome of a series of motions at the meeting of the school board Monday evening, Feb. 25.

On the recommendation of interim Superintendent George Lanning the board first declared an emergency to suspend normal board policy procedures so as to adopt on first reading board policy CPA, “Layoff Policy-Licensed Administrators,” and then adopted the policy itself. Both motions passed by unanimous vote of the four directors in attendance – board chair Megan Evenson, vice chair Michael Moravec, Monty Akin and Erick Holsey. John Moore was unable to attend Monday’s meeting.

Lanning then explained that it was his recommendation to eliminate the Clatskanie Elementary School principal’s position and combine those duties with the superintendent’s position “due to the anticipated revenue shortfall to balance the 2013-2014 budget (estimated at about $160,000) and the declining enrollment that will further negatively impact the 2014-2015 budget. This is not an easy decision to make because it will have an impact throughout the district,” Lanning told the board.

He said he would not recommend the combination of the superintendent and the middle/high school principal’s position because of “the demands placed on the middle school/high school principal with all the evening activities, discipline issues and array of other issues…”

Lanning said the most important reason for combining the superintendent/elementary principal positions is to save at least one classroom teaching position from being eliminated because of the expected budget shortfall. “This will have the least negative impact on direct student instruction. We must keep the student’s educational interest in mind in everything we do and the decisions we make on behalf of the district.”

By making that decision now, Lanning told the board, the timing is right as the district gets ready to hire a new superintendent to replace Mary Mitchell who resigned in December to accept a position as special education director for the St. Helens school district.

A retired longtime teacher, superintendent, and former executive director of the Oregon Small Schools Association, Lanning was hired in late January to serve as interim superintendent through June 30, and assist the district in its search for a new superintendent. At Monday’s meeting he emphasized that he was not a candidate for the superintendent/elementary principal position.

In making the recommendation to combine the positions because of the financial situation, Lanning noted that now, as the search for a new superintendent begins, candidates for the position will know that they will be expected to fulfill both roles.

Also, Lanning said, “we are sending a message to the public that we are serious about the lack of resources to fund our schools. This should also send a message to our employees as we prepare for collective bargaining that the district does not have adequate resources to provide significant funds to increase salaries and/or benefits.”

The board unanimously approved motions to eliminate the elementary school position – a post now held by long-time teacher and administrator Yolanda Brackman – effective July 1 of this year, and to advertise for applicants for the superintendent/elementary school principal.

It was emphasized that the action taken at Monday’s meeting was to eliminate the position effective July 1,  neither Brackman nor any other staff member has been laid-off.

Also, after discussion, the board voted unanimously to set the salary for the superintendent/elementary principal position at $110,000, and to offer a three year contract.

At a special meeting Feb. 20, the board contracted with Northwest Leadership Associates to conduct the superintendent/principal search. Meetings are set this Friday, March 1, to gather input from staff members, students and the community (see the separate story on page 1).

Update on Port Westward Development Impact

Port of St. Helens board of commissioners president Robert Keyser updated the school board on the progress of various existing and potential industries at Port Westward, and their potential positive financial impact on the schools.

Once the enterprise zone exemptions expire in the next couple of years and the urban renewal debt is paid off in 10 to 15 years, the school district will begin collecting property taxes from the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery and Portland General Electric’s (PGE) Port Westward generating plant unit 1, Keyser explained to the board.

More projects or expansion of existing industries within the Port Westward urban renewal district will result in the debt being paid off faster. Once the debt is retired, over $700 million will be added to the tax valuation to benefit local taxing districts.

“The potential exists,” Keyser told the board, “to see the valuation at Port Westward rise to the point that the Clatskanie School District may benefit from opting out of state revenue sharing.” That means that the school district would no longer be subject to the vacillations of state school funding.

The recently-announced plan to proceed this year with PGE’s Port Westward unit 2 is particularly good news for the school district in the near future, Keyser explained, because that plant will be built under the state’s strategic invest program (SIP) which offers a 15-year exemption from property taxes, but allows for a community service fee and other negotiated payments in lieu of property taxes.

The nine taxing districts that were originally scheduled to receive a share of those payments, based on their tax rates, agreed to include the Clatskanie School District and the Northwest Education Service District as well. The school district and ESD funds will be paid to the Clatskanie Foundation and then granted to those districts, so as not to impact the state school funding formula, Keyser explained.

According to preliminary figures, dependent on the exact valuation of the new PGE plant, the school district will receive an estimated $459,571 in the first year of the 15-year plan, beginning in either 2015 or 2016, gradually declining to $323,173 in the final year.

Additionally, if the Ambre Energy Morrow Pacific coal transloading project, which is in the permitting phase, becomes a reality, it has announced it will voluntarily make contributions to the schools in both Morrow and Columbia counties.

If the project is approved and built, Ambre Energy has committed to contribute 10 cents per ton of coal, estimated to be approximately $300,000 to $350,000 per year to Columbia County’s schools.

Sharing Discussed

In regard to the sharing of classes  with Rainier – aimed at increased opportunities for students – Lanning and Clatskanie Middle/High School principal Jeff Baughman reported about the on-going work with Rainier administrators to make the program work better.

Either a seven or eight period day is being considered.

The school board gave the nod to the idea of focussing the sharing program on juniors and seniors who have more flexibility in their schedules, thus easing the problems with timely transport between the two districts.

It is generally agreed that the shared classes to be offered in Clatskanie next year will be vocational and career/technical programs such as health science, fire science, construction, auto shop and forestry, while Clatskanie students may travel to Rainier to take upper level math and science courses, as well art and photography, not offered in Clatskanie.

It was also agreed that students should not be forced to take a class at the other district, and that the idea of having the shared classes filled with half Clatskanie, half Rainier students was “only a starting point.” The board members assured Lanning that he had flexibility in regard to decisions aimed at making the sharing program work better.

Because of the problems getting students to classes on time this year, Evenson predicted that participation in the sharing program may be lower next year, but the board agreed that was acceptable in order to build towards a workable program that offered juniors and seniors more educational and vocational opportunities.

“I’ve witnessed how much effort this has taken,” said director Erick Holsey. “We’re giving students opportunities… I think sharing is important. If we can provide it, I think we should.”

Licensed Personnel Contracts Approved

Following an executive session, the board extended contract renewals to the following teachers (FTE stands for full-time equivalent):

Probationary teachers:

First year to second year: Linda Anderson (.375 FTE); Dustin Clark, Tanya Ferguson, Tristan Holechek (.5 FTE), Timothy Kay, Sharon Williams (.5 FTE).

Second year to third year: Lucius Jones.

Third year to contract teacher: Diane Arnst, CJ Butenschoen, Hallie Parker, Mary Sizemore, Renee Wells.

Contract teachers: Marc Brewer, Nina Brewer, Kara Burghardt, James Byrne, Amber Crawford, Robert Emminger, John Hazapis, Sheryl Heacock, Rebecca Horness, Amber-Dawn Ingwerson, Linda Johnson, Megan Kilgore, Anne Kynsi, Jim Manser, Ron Reynolds, Mary Schulte, Jordan Slavish, Heather Stafford, Rhonda Stecker, Sara Tallman, Brad Thorud, Sarah Thorud, Ryan Tompkins, Theresa Trotter, Tim VanVoorst, Dawn Warren.

One year .675 FTE contract: Frank Somes.

First year probationary administrator to second year: Amy McNeil.

Classified Employees Appreciated

At the beginning of the meeting the board passed a resolution declaring March 4-9 as “Classified Employee Appreciation Week.”

Four classified employees were singled out for special recognition for their outstanding efforts and contributions to the well-being of the district and its students: CES media technician Connie Sims, CES head custodian Mike McMann, CMHS custodian Gary Jones, and CMHS head secretary Beth McDonald.

Drama Report

CMHS drama teacher CJ Butenschoen and student Kristopher Larson reported that about 60 middle and high school students are now involved in the drama program.

The high school group attended performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” in Portland.

Performances are planned on March 21 and 22, which are conference days, and parents are encouraged to watch them.

The Oregon Children’s Theatre troupe will be visiting CMHS on April 4.

Policy Update

On Lanning’s recommendation, the board approved a proposal from the Oregon School Boards Association to update the district’s policies to comply with all state and federal laws, post them on the district’s website, and make them “user friendly.” Cost will be $6,795 for the initial rewrite and website work, plus $2195 per year in the second and third year of the contract to keep the policies updated.

PUD Board Revises Cash Reserves Policy, Hears Criticism

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) board of directors adopted a revised policy on operating cash reserves at its regular monthly meeting Feb. 20.

Also at last week’s meeting, the board heard criticism  regarding its recent action to provide directors with health insurance and increased pay for representing the district at out-of-town meetings and seminars.

The new operating cash reserve amount was set at $5,297,645. That amount was determined using a formula of total expenses for 2012 ($45,880,550), less $2,910,764 in depreciation, divided by 365 days in the year, and that amount, $117,725, divided by 45 days, the regular billing/payment cycle.

The approval of the operating cash policy was the only action item of the meeting which was preceded by an approximately hour-and-a half-long executive session.

During the public comments portion of the regular meeting, local resident Mike George read a letter to the board criticizing the decisions at the Jan. 23rd meeting to provide health insurance coverage to the directors for a total cost of $6,929.40 per year, and to raise the “per diem” pay from $125 per day when board members are on CPUD business outside of the district to $160 per day. PUD directors also receive reimbursement for their travel, hotel and meal costs associated with PUD business outside of the district, and a $350 monthly stipend, which was not changed.

During 2012, there was a total of 84 days of per diem pay.

In his letter, George pointed out that the Clatskanie mayor and city council, school, fire and other local district boards of directors do not receive compensation.

George stated his opinion that “even though the district enjoys one of the lowest rates in the nation, it does not mean it was because of your doing, it is more from all the previous boards in the last 60 years. Some of this board seems to be on the board for personal gain.”

George said he had talked to over 200 people in the district and “everyone thought it was from stupid to greedy – like big government – for you to give yourselves a $6929.40 raise at ratepayers’ expense.”

He acknowledged, however, that he knew that the main factor influencing rates was the cost of power from the Bonneville Power Administration.

Another local citizen, Don Salmon, told the board “I think you’re doing a great job,” but, “please consider what you’re doing and how it affects people who are on a fixed income.”

Clatskanie’s First Ever Female State Wrestling Champ

CLATSKANIE’S FIRST EVER girls state wrestling champion, Lynn Siltala, proudly displays the medal she was awarded after winning the 145-pound Oregon high school girls wrestling state championship Saturday, Feb. 23, at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. See more information on the sports page inside this edition. Chief Photo by Carole Kelley

 

Public Input Sought in Superintendent Search

Community meetings will be held this Friday, March 1, to seek public input on the subject of “qualities and qualifications” for the superintendent/elementary school principal position announced at the Monday, Feb. 25th meeting of the Clatskanie school board. (See story above for more details.)

At a special meeting Wednesday, Feb. 20, the board approved a contract with Northwest Leadership Associates to conduct the search for the new superintendent.

Community input meetings will be held this Friday in the Clatskanie Middle/High School auditorium from 12 noon to 1 p.m. and from 5 to 6 p.m.

Consultants from Northwest Leadership will also hold meetings with the high school leadership class, the district’s administration team, and district office personnel during the day Friday. An  after-school meeting is set for all district personnel who wish to attend.

The search firm will use the input gathered at Friday’s sessions to evaluate which candidates will be recommended to the school board.

The process is under a short timeline in order to have a new superintendent in place by July 1.

The school board voted Monday to combine the superintendent and elementary school principal positions as a cost-saving measure to offset projected budget shortfalls.

Lady Columbians Return to State Playoffs

 

HEADING TO THE STATE PLAYOFF TOURNAMENT for the second year in a row, the Lewis and Clark League champion Rainier High School (RHS) varsity girls’ basketball team travels to Coos Bay where they will face Nyssa on Thursday, Feb. 28, for the state quarter-finals. The Lady Columbians defeated number one ranked Valley Catholic for the league championship title on Feb. 16. RHS is currently ranked fourth in the state and is the only team to defeat Valley this season. Nyssa is ranked fifth. Playoffs will continue March 1 and  2, in Coos Bay. Above the team members pose with the Lewis and Clark League championship trophy following their Feb. 12th victory: (back row left to right) Shelby Saylors, Dominique Pederson, Geneva Clarke, Jaden Thurston, Kylee Crape, Aubree Coffman, Kaylea Knox, Alexi Hall, Jenny Westlund, Alexis Vigoren, Jessica Gibson, (front row left to right) Megan Benson, Brandy Thurston, Hydee Coffman, Laken Garman and Coach Doug Knox. Photo Courtesy of Rainier High School

A Citizen in Her Heart for 60 Years, Lydia Arthur Makes It Official

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Lydia Arthur, a resident of Clatskanie for the past 23 years and a citizen in her heart since first arriving in this country on Dec. 7, 1952, made it official Tuesday, Feb. 26, when she was sworn in as a United States citizen in a ceremony in Portland.

Lydia was born in Montpellier, France and moved to Salt Lake City with her parents when she was five years. She grew up in Utah, and moved to Oregon as a young adult.

In January of 1990, Lydia and her husband Mike Arthur moved to Clatskanie. In addition to the cleaning service she operates, Lydia is an active member of the Clatskanie Kiwanis Club, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Clatskanie Veterans Memorial board of directors.

She has one daughter, two grandchildren and four great grandchildren – all native-born U.S. citizens.

“I’ve always felt like an American in my heart,” Lydia says.

After being encouraged by her husband, other family members and friends for years, Lydia began studying the questions in the citizenship manual. As it turned out, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) personnel only asked her five questions and she answered them all easily.

She was then sworn in as a citizen along with 35 other immigrants from 19 different countries. “It was a very moving ceremony.” (See page 8).

 

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