Board chair Rick Wells presented outgoing executive assistant Lillian Edmonds with gifts during Thursday’s meeting. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

A local student will have an opportunity to pull up a seat to the Philomath School Board table later this academic year to weigh in on the district’s issues while participating in the public process.

The five-member board during its Thursday night meeting unanimously welcomed the move and will next be taking applications from students who express an interest. Although the position allows for meeting participation, the student will not be a voting member and will be prohibited from attending executive sessions, which are closed to the public.

Book issue prompts comments, explanation of library acquisition process at School Board meeting

Two community members testified in favor of keeping a challenged book in the middle school library and two school district librarian staffers provided a detailed explanation of the book acquisition process during the Philomath School Board’s regular monthly meeting on Thursday night. The board listened to the visitor viewpoints and took in a 22-minute presentation…

The board worked off of an Oregon School Boards Association sample policy with revisions suggested by member Christopher McMorran. Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday and McMorran had met to iron out details of the idea and then it was discussed at the School Board’s work session on Sept. 8.

“We want to make sure that we are filling our district with policies and practices that our students think are important and we want to make sure we’re aware of our blind spots,” McMorran said. “We have a wonderful board but that doesn’t mean we know everything. We all represent voting constituents and most of our students cannot vote and there are 1,600 of them that we serve every day so I think it’s really important to make sure we have an active representative of arguably our most important constituency. Obviously we love our voters and taxpayers but I think we can all agree we’re here for the students.”

McMorran has taken on the task of creating an application for the students to fill out. A decision could be coming as soon as the Oct. 20 regular meeting.

In other news from the Sept. 15 meeting:

• The board honored Lillian Edmonds, who is retiring as the district’s executive assistant.

• Two community members testified in favor of keeping a challenged book in the middle school library and two school district librarian staffers provided a detailed explanation of the book acquisition process. See separate story.

• The board unanimously approved to enter into a renewed five-year agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians related to the use of the Warriors and Braves mascots and to continue to work toward goals of respecting and understanding the Siletz Indians’ history and culture. The Siletz approved the agreement renewal on Aug. 19. A districtwide professional learning activity with the Siletz is scheduled for Oct. 7.

• Business Manager Jennifer Griffith reported that enrollment is back up to levels seen in the mid-pandemic period. The district’s total full-time enrollment as of Thursday was 1,613 students — 471 at the high school, 331 at the middle school, 348 at the elementary school, 169 at the primary school, 57 at Philomath Academy, 28 at Blodgett Elementary and 209 at Kings Valley Charter School.

• The board unanimously approved updates to a policy that outlines various details related to personnel records.

• Halliday updated the board on the timeline of the State Report Card, which is published annually and reports on the state of public schools and their progress toward statewide goals.

• The board approved the district’s proposed COVID-19 management plans for each school. The plans replace the previous Ready Schools, Safe Learners operational blueprint. Halliday said the district worked off a single template and then made campus-specific adjustments as needed.

• The board approved a consent agenda that included various personnel and staffing adjustment and out-of-state travel for Philomath High’s boys and girls basketball teams to a tournament in Alaska.

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.