The Philomath School Board directed schools superintendent Melissa Goff to come up with a plan for how the district can provide all students with uninterrupted access to core subjects.
The board and superintendent had been working on goals in recent weeks — student achievement among the major topics — and approved those during Thursday night’s meeting. Right after those votes, however, board chair Jim Kildea immediately took things a step further by announcing that he wanted to make a motion for Goff to bring back a proposal that eliminates curriculum gaps.
Through a discussion that followed, Goff plans to have a proposal ready for discussion in a work session as early as February with a possible final decision to be made in March. Kildea would like to see a plan implemented for the 2019-20 school year.
“I don’t want to put you in a box that you can’t get out of, but I do want to set the expectation that we’ve got to do better for our kids as far as offering the continuity of curriculum and coursework,” Kildea said. “It’s going to be important to their success and for all the kids.”
Goff offered various observations regarding the scope of what Kildea was requesting while trying to define what should be included in the proposal.
“I keep wanting to get to how are we helping all of the students, all of the student subgroups and how does that work specifically across all the different school buildings,” Kildea said.
“One that stands out to me is continuity in math,” he added. “And part of the gripe I have is I know we’ve talked about this before and I do want to make a motion with the expectation that you come back with some proposals for the board. Because when we’ve talked about this in the past, I mean, let’s be honest, it’s just verbal commitments — this won’t happen again and here we are.
"I just don’t want to do that to kids anymore.”
Longtime board member Rick Wells, who announced later in the meeting that he would not be running again this next election to retain his seat, said the current system appears to be “short-changing our kids” because of those gaps. He used an example of a student who may be in a certain program during the second trimester, isn’t in the third trimester and then takes the summer off before beginning classes again in the fall.
“It takes them so long to get up to speed that they’re not really spending a lot of time on learning new things,” Wells said. “They’re getting brought back up to speed on what they’ve already learned but kinda lack on keeping up on it.”
Wells told Kildea that he understood the point he was trying to make with the motion.
“We’ve talked about it many times since I’ve been on the board but have never done anything about eliminating those gaps and doing the stuff that we need to do for our students,” Wells said.
Core subjects include social studies, science, English and math. Kildea also expressed the desire to see continuity improvements in other areas, such as with Career Technical Education, foreign language, and visual and performing arts.
During the public comment portion of the meeting early in the evening, David Dunham, who teaches language arts, video production and driver’s education at the high school, said PHS teachers deserve to be part of the discussion when it comes to proposed changes intended to improve student achievement.
“As administration moves forward in their planning process, we would respectfully request a seat at the table and a voice in the discussion — one that accurately reflects the shared values of the significant majority of the high school instructional staff,” Dunham said.
The board approved Kildea’s motion on a 4-0 vote (Shelley Niemann absent).
In other news from Thursday’s meeting:
• During the public comment period, Malcolm Rose and Chris Nelson spoke to the board on drag team racing issues. Nelson, a PHS graduate who was part of the drag racing team when it existed, expressed his disappointment over decisions that have been made to date, primarily not being able to use on-campus facilities.
• Denee Newton, Philomath’s AVID district coordinator, did a guest presentation to the board on AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination), a program focused on better preparing students for college, career paths and life.
• Calvin Snuggerud, student body vice president, provided the board with student activity highlights.
• Administrator reports covered attendance rates and behavior data with principals Mike Bussard, Steve Bell and Abby Couture on hand to answer board member questions. Among the information provided was each school’s strategies on improving attendance.
• Rob Singleton, school district technology director, updated the board on technology-related projects, such as equipment replacement efforts, and infrastructure plans.
• Bill Mancuso, business manager, said the district’s enrollment stands at 1,639 students. A year ago at this time, enrollment was 1,611. Broken down by campus: Clemens Primary, 175 students; Philomath Elementary, 375; Blodgett, 33; Philomath Middle School, 361; Philomath High, 470; and Kings Valley Charter School, 202. The total also includes 23 part-time students.
• Kildea outlined board roles and responsibilities, including community liaison roles, and shared a planning calendar. Kildea said board members are invited to provide liaison updates at future meetings.
• The board approved a consent agenda, which included four out-of-state trips for staff members for training purposes.
• The board adopted a list of goals and objectives for 2018-21. Areas of focus include assessment processes, reviewing student achievement, communication avenues, an effective process that advocates for schools and students, and ongoing open conversations with KVCS.
• The board adopted a list of superintendent goals for 2018-19 that includes specifics on programming, community partnerships and facilities, student achievement, assessment tools and completing a natural resources plan.
• During the superintendent’s report, Goff included information about the state’s open enrollment law that is scheduled to sunset in 2019 and how it could impact Philomath. The law allows students to attend schools outside their home districts as long as the schools they want to attend have room for them. Open enrollment started in Oregon in 2012 and was to originally sunset in 2017 but lawmakers extended it in the short legislative session to 2019.
• The board approved on a 3-0 vote (Greg Gerding recused, Niemann absent) the awarding of a contract to Gerding Builders for Clemens Community Pool renovations.
• The board approved a co-op agreement with KVCS in boys swimming for this season.