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Board Meeting Summary: Oct. 21, 2020

October 21, 2020
School Board Work Session and Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, the school board held a work session and regular meeting. The meeting was held virtually in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. The meeting was open to the public via live video on Zoom, audio stream at www.4j.lane.edu/stream, and radio broadcast on KRVM 1280-AM. Public comment was received via email.

Work Session

The board interviewed 15 candidates for the three open seats on 4J’s budget committee. A total of 16 applications were received and one was withdrawn.

The budget committee reviews annual budget proposals to ensure that the district is planning to spend money in furtherance of district goals. The committee examines the proposed budget, listens to comments from community members, asks questions, and then approves the budget to forward to the school board for adoption.

The committee consists of the seven elected school board members and seven community volunteers appointed by the board. The openings are for three-year terms that run through June 2023. Positions are non-partisan, unpaid, and are not connected to any specific region within the district.

The board will vote on the appointments at its next meeting on November 4.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar said she attended a listening session organized by the Eugene Education Association, the union representing 4J’s teachers and licensed specialists. Ms. Vandercar said she will continue to support teachers and licensed specialists and make adjustments to alleviate the challenges they’re facing as comprehensive distance learning continues.

She noted the board will vote in this meeting to approve the grant agreement with the Oregon Department of Education necessary for the district to receive Student Success Act funds. She noted the district will receive about one-third of the originally projected amount during the 2020–21 school year—about $4.3 million instead of $13.4 million, including funds for charter schools and indirect costs—due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The district is reducing the scope of the board-adopted plan to account for the lower level of funding in the first year.

Superintendent Vandercar then introduced Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, for a surprise announcement: Board member Alicia Hays is the the 2020 Oregon School Board Member of the Year. Ms. Hays said she was surprised and honored by the award and considered it a team award rather than an individual one, noting her colleagues on the board are just as deserving. Her spouse and son, who briefly joined the board’s Zoom session for the announcement, and other board members gave their congratulations.

Items for Information (no board action is expected to be taken)

Received a report on Division 22 state standards compliance for the 2019–20 school year: School districts must annually report to the school board and the state assurances that the district is complying with various standards set out in Oregon administrative rules for public elementary and secondary schools. The standards require school districts to provide the minimum number of instructional hours; adhere to state graduation requirements to award high school diplomas; provide services to children with disabilities, emergent bilingual students (English learners), and talented and gifted students; and assess and record students’ individual progress and achievement, among other things. For the 2019–20 school year, the number of standards were reduced from 52 to 17 to account for the sudden shift to emergency distance learning stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Received an update on COVID-19 and comprehensive distance learning: Superintendent Vandercar said that the district and Eugene Education Foundation have raised more than $100,000 for 4J students and families in need during the pandemic. She said the generosity of the community has helped residents who need it most during the pandemic, and more support would be needed in the coming weeks and months.

The superintendent thanked Nutrition Services employees for their work in serving more than 750,000 free school meals since school buildings closed in mid-March due to the pandemic. She reported student enrollment continues to drop, which is not normal for this time of year, and staff are digging into the data. She said staff would provide a full report on enrollment to the board during its Nov. 4 meeting.

District staff provided information about staff professional development, childcare hosted in schools, synchronous (“live”) and asynchronous (“on-demand”) learning, and employee evaluations. The board’s questions and discussion centered on reducing the demands of synchronous and asynchronous lesson planning on teachers and the role of music and physical education teachers during distance learning.

Received an update on the student safety review roadmap: On June 17, the board voted to end the stationing of armed school resource officers in high schools by the end of December, and work to conduct a thorough study of the district’s current model of providing for safety in schools to identify alternatives to the current model. District staff recapped the board’s discussion during its Oct. 14 work session and outlined the draft schedule to review the district’s student safety measures and develop and implement changes. Immediate next steps include scheduling a joint meeting of the board and 4J’s Equity Committee to talk about the road ahead, and discussing the formation of a working group including additional community members to consider issues and problem solve.

Items for Action

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved a grant agreement with the Oregon Department of Education for Student Success Act funding (the district will receive about $4.3 million during the 2020–21 school year including funds for charter schools and indirect costs, about one-third of the original amount due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic). It also approved the hiring of new teachers and licensed professionals, and submitting the annual request for a portion of State School Fund (SSF) formula revenue to be distributed to the district in lieu of services provided by the Lane Education Service District (ESD). The vote on the consent agenda was unanimous.

Approved changes to the policy accommodating students’ religious observances (Board Policy JEF).  Under current district policies, teachers excuse students who miss school to observe a religious holiday, and they can make up any missed assignments and tests at another time without penalty. The unanimously approved changes to Board Policy JEF will:
• define major religious holidays and allow students and families to request others;
• prohibit the scheduling of important school-wide events on major religious holidays with limited exceptions;
• require teachers and staff to consider possible conflicts when scheduling field trips, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities;
• prohibit the scheduling of field trips or major co-curricular or extra-curricular activities within school or district control on major religious holidays without the approval of a school administrator;
• encourage parents and students to communicate their need for religious accommodation to the school;
• require the school board to consider conflicts with major religious holidays during final exams when it considers approval of the academic calendar each year; and
• require the district to publish a list of major religious holidays on its website and make the information readily available to parents.

Prior to the final vote, the board approved an amendment to the proposed policy adding language related to final exam reviews; the vote was unanimous. It rejected an amendment to the proposed policy to add language prescribing specific accommodation provisions for co-curricular or extra-curricular tryouts; the vote was 2–5, with board members Gordon Lafer and Martina Shabram voting yes.

Approved board working agreements for the 2020–21 school year: The board annually reviews and approves working agreements. The agreements are the guidelines and expectations among and between the individual board members, the superintendent, and district staff. To support student success, members of the school board and the superintendent agree to function together with integrity and commitment as a leadership team. The vote was 6–1, with board member Gordon Lafer voting no.

Cancelled its solicitation of a superintendent search firm: The board voted unanimously to end its search for a firm to support the board in the recruitment and selection process for a permanent superintendent. Six search firms had applied for the job, and the board selected four of those to interview during its Sept. 23 work session.

Items for Future Action (board action is expected at a later meeting)

Discussed extending the interim superintendent employment contract: On May 6, the board appointed Cydney Vandercar as interim superintendent under a one-year contract for the 2020–21 school year. The board is considering extending Ms. Vandercar’s contract through the 2021–22 school year. A vote on an extended contract is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Public Input

Public comment was submitted via email to board@4j.lane.edu. The board read, reviewed and took into consideration all comments submitted by email by 12 p.m. the day of the meeting. The two emailed comments discussed public comments and religious holidays.

Agenda and Materials

Oct. 21 agenda and materials
Oct. 21 board work session recording
Oct. 21 board regular meeting recording


NOTE:  This is a quick summary of the topics and actions at a meeting of the school board. This document is NOT the official minutes of the school board. Official minutes are posted after they are drafted, reviewed and approved by the board. Audio recordings of meetings are typically posted within two days after the meeting. 

School Board Meeting Schedule & Information

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