ASB Co-President Brooke Moade, right, participated in helping select a student representative to the Philomath School Board. Also pictured is board member Karen Skinkis. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

A high school sophomore will have a voice on the Philomath School Board through the rest of the academic year thanks to a decision on Thursday night to add a student representative.

The board appointed Jackson Holroyd to the seat following a close selection process. 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.

“We think it’s important that we include students in the conversation,” board member Karen Skinkis said. “We’d like to hear what they have to say and give them a place at the table. Of course the position is a non-voting position, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be looking to them for feedback and advice and just general guidance from a student perspective.”

The students who expressed interest in the position went through an application process and the three candidates were interviewed during a work session earlier in the month.

“I want to thank the three applicants that we got for putting yourself out there and wanting to represent the student body,” board member Christopher McMorran said. “As we talked about a little bit when we interviewed them, this is the first time we’re doing this, so there’s no real roadmap — at least in our district — for the right way to do this and I think that takes even more putting yourself out there.”

Holroyd will hold the position through the rest of the current academic year. Holroyd was selected over junior Alora Gudge and sophomore Ahren Harris.

The board members participating in the vote had a brief discussion about what they would want to see in the student representative.

“I know that the person we select needs to feel really comfortable being in this position and sitting at this table and being able to have that voice and speak out and be able to go to the schools and talk to their fellow students and really engage,” Skinkis said.

Board member Joe Dealy appeared to be leaning toward a student with another year of experience — one applicant is a junior and the other two are sophomores.

Since one of the three candidates for the position is the daughter of School Board member Erin Gudge, she recused herself from the vote. Board Chair Rick Wells was absent from the meeting to leave McMorran, Dealy and Skinkis to make the decision.

However, Associated Student Body Co-President Brooke Moade, who was in the audience and had participated in the interviewing process, was invited to sit at the table to cast a vote.

The vote ended up in a 2-2 tie between Holroyd and Gudge, which stumped the board for a period of time to figure out how to proceed. A few ideas were thrown out, including one from the audience that suggested that the board select two student representatives. However, the board opted to stick to one representative based on the wording of a policy.

The situation resolved itself a few minutes later when Dealy announced that he had received a vote from Wells via text message and Holroyd was identified as the winner.

The board followed with an official vote on appointing Holroyd to the position, which passed 3-0 (Wells absent, Gudge recused).

Dealy suggested that the applications for the other student representatives be kept on file so they can be considered when the process begins again in preparation for the 2023-24 academic year. Halliday planned to contact all three students.

In other news out of the Nov. 17 meeting:

• In a follow-up to the October release of the Oregon Department of Education’s “At-A-Glance” district and school profiles, the board listened to reports from administrators about how schools monitor and adjust to meet the needs of students. Providing information were Philomath High’s Mark Henderson, principal, and DeeDee Collins, assistant principal on Center for High School Success strategies; Clemens Primary School’s Abby Couture, principal, on the Response to Instruction and Intervention program; and Donna Starr, Special Programs teacher, and Cynthia Barthuly, Special Programs student services administrator, on social and emotional learning.

• Stephanie Brandt, a parent representative on the district’s Special Education Advisory Committee, shared various news items with the board. SEAC meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday each month at the school district office and Brandt said “anyone in the community who is passionate about special education is welcome to attend.”

• In Halliday’s superintendent’s report, several topics were covered, including details on the new Paid Leave Oregon law that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for qualifying events. Halliday also mentioned the rising number of pediatric cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

• Jason Hay, Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District assistant superintendent, provided an overview of his organization to the board members.

• Teacher Grace Spaulding gave a report on summer learning.

• The board approved a four-year boys and girls swim team co-op agreement with Kings Valley Charter School.

• The board approved a revision to the school district’s policy on medications. Earlier this year, the board had approved of medication that reverses the effects of an overdose and the policy revision included language related to that action.

• The board tabled a discussion related to performing a superintendent evaluation. In general, the board appears to be in favor of the Oregon School Boards Association assisting with the evaluation. Chair Rick Wells was not able to attend the meeting and other board members wanted to hear his perspective and find answers to a few questions. 

• Brooke Moade, Associated Student Body co-president; Len Cerny, Philomath Education Association representative; Jennifer Griffith, business manager; Halliday, McMorran, Skinkis and Dealy all voiced thank you’s to the community for approving the school district’s five-year local option levy renewal in the recent election.

• The board met in executive session for about 20 minutes prior to the regular meeting “to consider information or records that are exempt from disclosure by law, including written advice from the district’s attorney.”

• The School Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 12.

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.