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What Direction Should School Take?

Public workshop asks

By SVERRE BAKKE

The Enterprise

Next month, the White Salmon Valley School District's board of education will hold a workshop, followed by a public comment period, to review the direction the school district has been following and discuss the big issues facing it.

It made the decision during its July 15 business meeting at the district office.

The workshop and public comment period will take place on Thursday, Aug. 27, in the Columbia High School library, starting at 6 p.m. Moreover, the board--at director Paul Mosbrucker's request--asked that any written comments be submitted to the district office by Aug. 15 to allow all five directors time to review them before the Aug. 27 workshop. Mosbrucker added that the public comments will help frame the agenda for the workshop.

In response to an audience question about the goal of the workshop/meeting, chairman Kris Kreps indicated "the meeting would be more of an overview of where we've been and where we're going."

He added, "I don't know if the board plans to go any further than that."

Director Tom Stevenson welcomed the chance to hold a community meeting as a way of getting feedback from the district's patrons on a spectrum of issues, including the district's strong and weak points.

"I'm expecting to learn something new (at the Aug. 27 forum), and I'm hoping all those constituents out there who decide to get involved will learn a lot," Stevenson said.

In other action, the school board:

Adopted a final 2009-10 budget that will spend less money than the district takes in.

The budget anticipates general fund revenues of $12,489,085, expenditures of $12,480,428, and an ending fund balance of $473,657.

Moreover, the new spending plan is based on the district receiving $141,357 less in revenue and reducing expenditures by $155,963.

Business manager Terry Anderson cautioned, however, that for an operation that spends on average $1 million a month, the fund reserve should be closer to $600,000 to $700,000. That, he said, is the recommendation of financial planners at Educational Service District 112.

Directed interim Supt. Jerry Lewis to continue discussions with the Valley School District near Spokane, regarding the White Salmon School District becoming a full-blown partner in Valley's non-profit K-12 online Columbia Virtual Academy.

Lewis told the board that the district may have as many as seven students enrolled in the Virtual Academy, which offers an online option to parents who are home-schooling their children, as well as for students trying to make up class credits or seeking more challenging courses.

"I'm now in the information-gathering process that will help us determine if we want to go forward [with a partnership]," Lewis said, noting, "This option is tuition-free because it's public."

Moreover, should the district join the co-op, it would share in state student apportionment revenue. But before that can happen, Lewis added, the board must adopt the necessary policies.

Approved six teaching contracts--from new to revised--for the 2009-10 school year. As a result of this action, the school district added personnel to fill all but 2.65 full-time equivalent teaching positions that were subject to a previous reduction in force resolution.

Director Kristie Hurn moved to approve contracts for Jennifer Clark, 1.0 full-time equivalent, Whitson; Leslie Jackson, .17 FTE, CHS; Ursala Kermani, 1.0 FTE, Henkle; Betsy Perick, .85 FTE, Whitson; Omar Sankari, 1.0 FTE, CHS; and Amy Steunenberg, 1.0 FTE, White Salmon Academy (alternative high school).

Approved a four-year lease/purchase option for 427 Dell computer systems, under the voter-approved technology levy.

The lease plan calls for four years of payments on the computer systems, with a three-year warranty on all products, and a purchase option of $1 per unit at the end of the lease, Lewis explained.

Each computer, he added, will come equipped with a Windows operating system and Microsoft Office 2007, so the district won't have to pay additional licensing fees for those products.

The purchase approved by the board of education will leave the district's Technology Fund with about $200,000 for future technology acquisitions.

"The nice thing about this," Lewis said, "is that everyone will get the same technology starting out."

The new computer systems will arrive sometime in August, and the goal is to have them operational during the beginning months of the 2009-10 school year, starting with Whitson and ending with Columbia.

Adopted the district's Initiative 728 Plan, which calls for 2009-10 expenditures of $148,000--down from $500,000 in 2008-09. The money the district will receive for class-size reduction efforts will pay for 2.5 teacher FTEs.

Accepted the recommendation of acting transportation supervisor Skip Enes and Lewis to establish the temporary position of, and job description for, assistant transportation supervisor, and to pursue the filling of the job.

Accepted the resignation of administrative assistant Nicole Clifford.

Adopted Resolution 08-09/13, offering certain surplus real property for sale, as a follow-up to Resolution 08-09/11, which declared the property surplus to the district's needs.

Approved the district's state bilingual grant budget in the amount of $163,930.

Gave its OK to the Columbia High School, Henkle Middle School and Whitson Elementary School 2009-10 School Improvement Plans.

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