The Philomath School District and Philomath Education Association appear to be close on approving a teacher contract. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath School Board and the Philomath Education Association appear to be closing in on an agreement with a vote on teacher contracts to take place in the coming days.

The district and teachers’ union have been in negotiations since the spring months but took a break over the summer break. Officials believed an agreement could be reached in time to avoid any possible payroll-related issues.

School district looks to the future of Downing forest

With the Downing Research Forest tree removal project in the past, school officials and others with an interest have now transitioned into what to do in the future at the outdoor education and cross-country course site. Cleanup and trail work at the location has picked up in recent days, Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday said…

Philomath schools seeing rising enrollment numbers

The Philomath School District plans to add two new teachers before the beginning of classes this fall in response to larger-than-anticipated kindergarten and fourth-grade classes, Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday said. “We’re seeing increases in enrollment that have altered some things significantly,” Halliday told the Philomath School Board Wednesday evening. “We have agreed to add…

“We are relieved to have a potential contract agreement before the start of school,” David Dunham, PEA co-president, told the board during its Aug. 23 meeting. “It’s a priority I think for everybody in this room and everybody not in this room and so it’s a positive note for sure.”

The matter had appeared on the School Board meeting agenda last week but Chair Rick Wells asked for any vote to be postponed until the group’s next meeting on Sept. 7. Wells said he didn’t anticipate having any issues with the proposed agreement but wanted to just thoroughly read it before voting.

“Our negotiation process has underlined the fact that our contract is a living contract and both PEA and the district can and have and should continue to work together to shape it … and address things that come up.”

Dunham said the PEA membership could possibly take a vote on ratification this week.

“There is still some work to be done to address and clarify some areas of the contract,” Dunham said.

The board scheduled to have its annual retreat work session Sept. 7 at Blodgett Elementary School with a 5 p.m. start time.

In other news out of the Aug. 23 meeting:

• The board’s consent agenda approval (5-0 vote) included six hires, including Phillip Ayer as a Philomath Academy teacher and five kitchen staffers. There were also three resignations — all instructional assistants — and the retirement of Clemens Primary first-grade teacher Julie Rain. Rebecca Davis rejoined the staff and new coaches hired included football assistant Jovan Stephenson and volleyball assistant Whitney Rasmussen. In addition, Laura Coen was provided a leave of absence as an IA to serve as a long-term substitute for a teacher on parental leave at the elementary school.

• Discussion and possible vote on a communicable disease management plan for the district was postponed until the next meeting at the request of Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday with more preparation work to be done.

• During her superintendent’s report, Halliday went through enrollment numbers, including the need to add a kindergarten class and a fourth-grade teacher. See separate story.

• Business Manager Jennifer Griffith said two individuals are needed from the community to fill vacancies on the Budget Committee.

• The board listened to an update on the Downing Research Forest project. See separate story.

• The board plans to try to set up a goodwill meeting with the Kings Valley School Board.

• The board approved a cooperative agreement with Eddyville Charter School for a student to play with the PHS boys soccer team.

• The board approved a policy update to paid family leave insurance.

• PHS junior Raegan McKinney took a seat at the table as the student body representative.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.