Keene back on school board in Crawfordsville seat

Benny Westcott

Dale Keene was appointed by the Sweet Home School Board to fill its remaining vacancy, and was sworn in Monday night, Oct. 11, at the board’s monthly meeting in the district board room.

Keene will be the new representative for the Zone #6 Crawfordsville area, after board members voted 5-3 to select him over the other candidate, Jenna Northern.

Voting and in attendance at the meeting were Jason Redick, Mike Reynolds, Debra Brown, Janice Albert, Sara Hoffman, Kevin Hill, Jim Gourley and Jason Van Eck.

Keene served on the board from 2008 to 2014, winning an election in 2010. He resigned in November of 2014, citing difficulties in carrying out his board responsibilities at that time. Keene also served on the board starting on Sept. 14 of 2020, replacing Angela Clegg, who stepped down earlier that summer.

Keene works as Linn-Benton Community College’s business operations coordinator.

“I know the ins and outs of board work, and I work for LBCC, so I’m familiar with the higher ed side of education, and how they interact and tie in to each other,” Keene said at a previous board meeting.

In other business, Supt. Lisa Riggs reported that teachers this year are doing full-time in-person instruction while preparing distance learning curriculum, compared to last school year when faculty and students came back to school on a part-time in-person basis.

“Teachers are running around without their cape showing, but they are super human and have super powers,” Riggs said.

She said the short-term distance learning material “is for one student, or a group of cohorted students that might be quarantining. It might be a whole class. It could be a whole school. It could end up being the whole district. It’s the unknown.”

She said that a short-term distance learning plan has to be set up for one or more quarantined students, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

“What is difficult is getting four weeks ahead and making sure that we have that available so every bit of that transition to and from school is a successful one,” Riggs said.

She noted that full-time K-12 online learning is also happening in the district.

“We really have a lot going on,” Riggs said.

Certified employees union President Steve Thorpe, a math teacher at the high school, said “We’re exhausted. We’re doing a lot of stuff on our own time, and during weekends.”

He expressed appreciation for the Oct. 7 district-wide in-service day, during which teachers could work on building online lesson plans or other things they needed to get caught up on.

“Thank you for that Thursday. We needed that. It was incredible,” Thorpe said.

Riggs said “One day is not enough for our teachers to be four weeks ahead, but it was a start. We still need time.”

In other news:

n The district’s enrollment was reported to be 2,271 students as of Oct. 5, up from 2,096 students enrolled as of Sept. 13.

n Foster Elementary School Principal Luke Augsburger reported that the district met 55 of the 57 Division 22 Oregon Administrative Rules Assurance standards last year. The district failed to meet the standard of having a staff member trained in CPR/First Aid for every sixty students in a building. Only four out of the district’s six schools were able to meet that criteria last year.

“We are working with the student services department and our district nurses to come up with trainings in the buildings, and we are going to make sure that moving forward for this year we will be in compliance in the very near future.”

The district also has to report to the state that they were out of compliance with a standard that requires a suicide prevention plan to be written down and disseminated to administrators.

Augsburger said the district’s department of student services is writing such a plan and will be getting it to administrators in the district’s buildings “In the very near future.”

Explaining the failures in the district’s compliance with two Division 22 Oregon Administrative Rules Assurance standards last year, Augsburger said “We did a very good job last year balancing all of the needs of COVID, all the guidelines and protocols. We just happened to miss the mark slightly on a couple of minor things. But we are very happy with our progress, and we have talked as an administrative team on a number of occasions about making sure that we are looking at and paying attention this, to make sure that we are in compliance for the future.”

n Facilities Director Josh Darwood said that installation of new bleachers at the junior high would be finished on Oct. 12. “It adds a lot to the gym to add that color and get those things in there,” he said.

n District Business Manager Kevin Strong reported that through the end of September, the district had spent $193,147 more in their general fund than in the same time period last year. He gave three primary reasons for the increase in spending: higher labor costs, higher water usage, and higher property insurance premiums.

n Linn County recently published 2021-22 property tax rates.

The Sweet Home School District’s property tax rates continue to decline, decreasing by $0.02 per $1,000 of assessed value compared to the prior year. The permanent rate and the local option rate remained the same, while the bond rate declined.

In math terms, the bond rate’s denominator (the district’s total assessed value) is growing at a rate faster than the numerator (the annual debt service owed), reducing the rate, Strong explained.

The district’s initial bond was passed in 2001. The tax rate during the 2001-2002 property tax year was $1.91 per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate has declined since then to $1.53 per $1,000 due to refinancing outstanding bonds at lower interest rates and growth in assessed value, Strong said.

n The board unanimously approved a permanent easement with ODOT on the school district property east of 56th Street. The easement is needed for slopes and utilities purposes for the sidewalk ODOT is planning on putting in the area, said the acquisition agent for the project.

In other action, board members:

— Accepted a donation of a Lenovo Horizon Computer from Diana and Gary Actor of Sweet Home.

— Accepted the transfer of Christie Chapman from the junior high to the high school to teach in the life skills classroom.

— Accepted resignation from Katelyn Duggan, 3rd grade teacher at Holley Elementary, effective immediately.

— Accepted resignation of Patty O’Day, district nurse, effective Dec. 31, 2021.

— Accepted resignation of Brittanie Sorensen, Title 1 teacher at Oak Heights, effective when position is filled or in 60 days.