The Philomath and Kings Valley Charter School appear to have agreed on a charter renewal. The KVCS board will vote on the final draft next week. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath School District and Kings Valley Charter School will continue to work together to educate students at the rural campus through the renewal of a charter agreement. Philomath’s School Board unanimously approved the document Thursday night and the KVCS board is expected to vote on the matter at its meeting on Monday.

“That’s been a lot of work on both sides for everybody,” board chair Rick Wells said. “I think everybody will be happy now that they have a charter to work off of.”

Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday said the process was necessary to make sure information in the charter was equally understandable by all — currently or in the future as staff and board members change.

“The biggest things were about how to work out the finances and the second part of it had to do with being able to recognize third-party contracts,” Halliday said, the latter a reference to the charter school’s contract with People Sustaining Kings Valley, a nonprofit that supports educational services at the rural campus.

On the financing end, the agreement updates the funding formula to be able to categorize students with disabilities in a different way.

“In the past, there was a 92% amount of funding that went forward to Kings Valley for K-8 students and 95% for 9-12 students,” Halliday said. “With charter agreement language, we have shifted to be able to say, we will take the weighting for students with disabilities being served by special education and we will pass through 40% for K-8 students and 47.5% for 9-12 students.”

The original charter agreement dates back to Aug. 31, 2001 and the latest revisions represented the seventh time that it’s been amended.

“We feel like we’re in a good place and with the knowledge that we will go back consistently and re-evaluate the funding formulas for things that may change through the life of the charter,” Halliday said.

Discussion on Chromebooks for students

On the technology front, Halliday shared with the board plans to expand a Chromebook distribution program beyond middle school to include Philomath High School and Philomath Academy students. Halliday said they could be handed out at registration for use by the students throughout their high school years. After four years, the students would get to keep the Chromebooks.

Students would be required to use the school’s Chromebooks and not personal laptops or devices because of the inability to log in to the school district’s technology network, the superintendent added.

Halliday asked the board for feedback about the idea of a technology fee or some sort of insurance option that could be offered to cover costs associated with things like cracked screens, lost charging cables, etc.

“If we as a district determine that Chromebooks are necessary, I see that similarly to how we manage textbooks,” board member Anton Grube said. “If I go home and turn all of the pages of my textbooks into paper airplanes, I imagine we have a process involved for how we appropriately handle that for a family based on a variety of factors.”

Grube said that if the district believes Chromebooks are a learning necessity, “then I think we should be providing as much as possible free access to public education. I think we already charge a number of fees that we didn’t charge many years ago.”

Added Grube, “If you go out and turn your Chromebook into a sled on a snow day, that’s a different thing.”

The other board members seemed to agree that families and students should only be charged for damages that go beyond normal wear and tear. Discounted replacement cables or options to accommodate low-income families could also be a part of the program.

Halliday said she needs a more clear picture on whether or not any cost associated with technology would even be a problem.

“A parallel example in some ways — without sports fees this year, we’ve had a lot more students participate and a lot more people involved,” Halliday said. “It’s really helped to make sure we’ve taken away some stigma in a lot of ways.”

In other news out of the June 16 meeting:

The board on a unanimous vote (Karen Skinkis absent) approved a $44.6 million budget for fiscal year 2022-23 and imposing and categorizing the tax. There were no comments during a public hearing.

• Wells announced that a complaint was brought to the board and members unanimously voted 4-0 to schedule a hearing rather than conduct an investigation. The recipient of the complaint, who was not identified, has the option of the hearing taking place in either open or closed session. If a closed session is scheduled, Wells said two hours will be set aside at the July 13 meeting for the hearing beginning at 5:30 p.m. As such, the regular meeting that night — which is on a Wednesday instead of the typical Thursday — would not begin until 7:30 p.m.

• The board approved a consent agenda that included several personnel moves. New hires included Daphnie Collins (PHS assistant principal), April McKinney (special education teacher), Lance Faxon (PHS physical education/health teacher), Keri Bennett (PHS culinary arts teacher), Jamon Ellingson (PMS assistant principal), Philip Peterson (PMS math teacher), Sally Mills (PMS science teacher), Sarah Peterson (PMS science teacher), Derek Bright (PMS social studies teacher) and Daniel Mock (PMS social studies teacher. Other paid staffing additions include Walker Vave — former Oregon State football player — as an assistant football coach, Stefanie Larson as head dance coach and Michelle Park as assistant dance coach. Extra-duty assignments for the summer staff were also approved.

• On the annual evaluation of the superintendent, Wells read a statement that reported “there are positive things and some things that need to be worked on.” Wells said a survey sent out to staff and community members produced comments that expressed both concerns and compliments “and goals have been set accordingly.”

• The board was provided with an overview of the district’s summer school program, including the lineup of enrichment camps.

• The board briefly mentioned a self-evaluation, which was something discussed at a recent retreat, and shared a draft version of five goals that they had decided upon.

• Halliday gave a report on negotiations with the local chapter of the Oregon School Education Association, saying a lot of routine business has been completed with the last topic of conversation relating to a financial package. The next meeting between the district and OSEA is scheduled for June 20.

• Halliday gave an update on work being done to establish school-specific COVID-19 management plans to be submitted to the Department of Education. Decision-making at the local level remains in place and Halliday hopes that classes this fall begin under the same conditions as they ended this spring.

• The board approved the second reading of policy revisions related to personnel records, family leave, individualized education program, special education, talented and gifted program and animals in district facilities. 

• Halliday said Philomath Academy will be moving out of the high school library and into two room at the district office — one currently used as the board’s meeting room and the other that’s set up as a computer lab. Halliday is not sure yet where the School Board meetings will be moved.

• High school and academy students will have access to training and coaching support to ensure students are on track to graduate, Halliday said, through Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District’s partnership with the Center for High School Success, a project of the Stand for Children Leadership Center. Philomath will send 21 staff members to initial training on June 21 in Albany.

• Halliday will attend the final session of the Superintendent Equity Academy at the COSA Conference on June 22 in Seaside. The academy’s intent is to develop a shared consciousness of the role race and culture play in leading school districts and to build capacity to explicitly and courageously lead for equity and in support of historically underserved students.

• The board expressed several thank-yous to all involved with the Class of 2022 graduations for Philomath High School and Philomath Academy.

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.