Middle school team talks to School Board about curriculum
School Board members listen to a Philomath Middle School language arts curriculum presentation at Monday’s meeting. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath School Board adopted new language arts curriculum for Philomath Middle School and moved forward two facilities projects through the approval of bids for a new roofing system at Clemens Primary School and new boilers at Philomath High School.

Steve Bell, Philomath Middle School principal, said his team tried to research when the last time the middle school’s curriculum had been updated.

“We couldn’t really come up with a date, it was so long ago,” Bell said. “But the publication date for the last textbooks that we adopted was 2001 — so we’re due.”

Adeline Stewart, Response to Intervention program teacher, explained the process that led to the middle school’s decision to propose Amplify as the recommended program. Stewart talked about the program’s features, such as an online side, journals that students work in and in-class textbook materials.

Bell said the curriculum offers a blend of hard copy and online teaching methods. The program also comes with access to an online library of books for all ages.

The price comes in at $54,896, which includes all student and teacher packages and professional development.

“We’re looking at seven years of this curriculum and these materials and within that price … that includes the consumables — every year you get the new stuff and then access to all of the online materials,” Bell said.

Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday said money was set aside in the appropriate fund to pay for the curriculum update. Philomath Elementary appears to be the next school in line for a decision on which direction to go with language arts curriculum, including how it would align for students as they progress into middle school.

Bell confirmed for one board member that there would be no additional costs based on the seven-year contract.

With that cycle, teachers and students in the future will see updated learning materials no longer than seven years out.

Bell hopes to see the new materials arrive in May with a training to be scheduled for teachers before adjourning for the summer, followed by another training in the fall.

Joining Bell and Stewart at the meeting for the presentation were Alan Jozwiak, sixth grade teacher; Kim Maness, seventh grade teacher; and Christina LeBrun, RTI teacher.

After asking a few questions and looking through materials that the middle school team brought to the meeting, the board approved the curriculum on a unanimous vote.

PHS boiler replacement

Two boilers at Philomath High School need to be replaced and the School Board approved a $193,730 bid to get the job done. According to information provided to board members, the issues with the boiler system had been on the maintenance department’s radar for the past few years. An inspection in January confirmed that the boilers were failing.

“Unfortunately, the boilers that were installed during the high school reconstruction were not the best quality for longevity and are failing much earlier than should be for this type of equipment,” the memo reads.

According to Halliday, the boilers installed during the PHS remodel 11 years ago had a 10-year warranty.

Facilities Director Joey Digiovannangelo solicited bids from suggested contractors for removal of the existing boilers and replacement with two new systems. Four bids came in ranging from the accepted proposal up to $230,500.

The bid calls for two 3-million BTU KN-30 Plus boilers. Jennifer Griffith, interim director of finance and operations, said the project will be paid out of funding received from the Public Purpose Charge Schools Program and should not come out of general fund dollars. The project would occur during the next budget year but needed approval in advance because of long lead times.

Board member Anton Grube suggested that with a project of nearly $200,000, the district might want to spend another $5,000 to $7,000 and hire an independent engineering service to take a close look at the project and provide detailed feedback on the investment. No final decision was made on that possibility and was not part of Monday’s final decision.

CPS roofing project

A problematic roofing system at Clemens Primary School needs to be replaced and the board approved a $189,620 bid to do the work. According to information provided at the meeting, the roof had been repaired in 2013 to fix leaking in some areas.

“Those repairs have come to their end of life and the roof system needs to be replaced before any additional damage occurs to the building,” the memo reads.

The roofing project would be done in July. The new system would come with a 30-year warranty.

Two bids came in for the project with the other adding up to $336,398. Board members voiced some concerns about the price difference between the two bids.

Griffith said funding for the project will be included in the 2022-23 budget cycle as a capital project in the general fund budget.

Rick Wells and Susan Halliday talking
School Board Chair Rick Wells chats with Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday during Monday night’s meeting. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In other news out of the March 14 meeting:

• Jennifer Kessel and Mark Neville of the school district’s technology department provided the board with their annual report and hit on several topics related to curriculum, security and district infrastructure and device needs.

• The board unanimously approved an updated Philomath School District “Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan,” which is due to be submitted to the state by March 30.

• Halliday announced that the district received a $10,000 grant award from the Oregon Education Association Choice Trust. The funds are to be used in support of “educator health and well-being,” which could be anything from a new coffee maker for the break room to special lunches from a local business or food truck on a Friday. Representatives from the unions and the district are brainstorming for possible uses, Halliday said.

• Halliday said the district is moving forward with the local option levy renewal for the Nov. 8 ballot and went over various deadlines. Halliday expressed the desire to begin a plan to reach out to the community and was looking for a volunteer to lead the effort, perhaps someone from beyond the board.

• Halliday provided updates on the school district’s dropping of the mask mandate and other related changes. She reported that the latest information showed an 80% COVID vaccination rate in Benton County. Halliday mentioned that home test kits will be sent home with K-5 students for spring break. Students in middle school, high school and Philomath Academy can pick up test kids in their respective school offices.

• The board approved licensed teaching agreements and several policy updates.

• The board approved a consent agenda that included bills, minutes, out-of-state travel and personnel moves. Retirements include Jolene Latz (district media specialist) and teachers Carmen Martin (middle school math) and Yvonne Alaman-Granados (middle school social studies and literature). Teacher resignations include Michelle Cahill (high school science), Christina LeBrun (middle school RTI) and Justin Marshall (high school math).

• PHS student government representative Dylan Bell gave a report on activities at the high school. Bell said the Polar Plunge raised $2,500 for Philomath’s Unified basketball program.

• Amber French, co-president of Philomath’s Oregon School Employees Association chapter, issued a report.

• Board chair Rick Wells read a proclamation in recognition of Classified Employee Appreciation Week.

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.