Philomath School Board Chair Rick Wells, center, leads a swearing-in ceremony with new members Sandi Hering, left, and Ryan Cheeke, right. Also at the table, from left, are board member Erin Gudge, superintendent Susan Halliday and board member Joe Dealy. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath School Board took care of routine business on the first weekday of the new fiscal year Monday evening with a mix of new and old.

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to open the meeting, board chair Rick Wells led a swearing-in ceremony with newcomers Ryan Cheeke and Sandi Hering.

“Thank you for running and volunteering in the community — it pays really well,” board member Joe Dealy joked later in the meeting.

Service on a board of education in Oregon is entirely voluntary, although a bill that was approved in the most recent legislative session and is on the governor’s desk will give school boards the option of paying directors a monthly stipend. Those not paying a stipend must at least reimburse directors for any expenses incurred.

A degree of continuity remained intact on the board with the reapproval of Wells as the chair and Dealy as the vice chair. The vote for the chair position was close with Wells edging nominee Erin Gudge on a 3-2 count.

Cheeke took a seat at the table formerly held by Christopher McMorran and Hering took over  the position that Karen Skinkis had served in.

Philomath Education Association co-presidents David Dunham and Nicole Stueve extended an invitation to the new and continuing board members to get to know teachers.

“I want to encourage all School Board members to go to the schools to talk to the teachers, to be present and be around. It’s good when we have School Board members who are present and listen,” Dunham said. “We’re going to encourage both the conversation and dialogue across the board.”

Wells cautioned board members to not bypass the chain of command in the process of interacting with teachers and staff. Dunham clarified that he’s referring to more casual conversations and not going to the board to try to solve issues.

“Any board member is always welcome in any of the teachers’ rooms,” Stueve added. “I have not ever heard a teacher say ‘don’t ever come in.’ I mean, if you guys are there and you want to see how a classroom runs, you are always welcome.”

In other news from the July 3 meeting:

• The board approved a consent agenda that included various personnel moves, including the hiring of Marisa Beachy (second-grade teacher), Eleanor Jones (fifth-grade teacher), Ben Deardurff (middle school special education teacher), Candace Van Patten (elementary school special education teacher), Amy Pallari (media specialist) and Trevor Johnson (tech position). In addition, Chad Matthews was reassigned from middle school assistant principal to language arts teacher and math teachers Jodi Moade and Corinne DeAngelis became full-time employees. Resignations included elementary school teacher Anna Franco. Also included were the approval of various required district designations and a request for out-of-state travel to Seattle in November for high school performing arts students.

• Board members and the PEA acknowledged progress in the ongoing contract negotiations with hopes of reaching an agreement before school starts. 

• The board chose to stay with the third Thursday of each month to conduct its regular meetings. However, next month’s meeting was moved to a Wednesday, Aug. 23, to accommodate a board member’s scheduling conflict.

• Wells read a short statement concerning an annual evaluation for Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday. “There were a number of positive things and some things that still need some work,” Wells said. “The board did hear concerns and are doing things to address these. We also heard the compliments as well.” The evaluation included the board’s perspectives and a targeted feedback survey conducted through the involvement of the Oregon School Board Association.

• The board scheduled its annual retreat work session for 5 p.m. Sept. 7 at Blodgett Elementary School. The board uses the board retreat to work on goals, discuss the district’s mission statement, plan calendars, assign liaison roles and take care of other routine business.

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.