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Board Meeting Summary: Nov. 18, 2020

November 18, 2020
School Board Work Session & Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, 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, and radio broadcast on KRVM 1280-AM. Public comment was received via email.

Work Session

In this work session, a joint meeting of the school board and 4J Equity Committee members, members discussed the formation of a working group to discuss student safety, consider issues and problem solve. The discussion touched on the number and representation of the working group; suggestions for facilitators that would run their meetings; and also a broader discussion about what may be missing from the draft road map that outlines the process toward the adoption of an updated student safety plan.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar discussed the statewide two-week “freeze” to reduce the rapid community spread of the coronavirus in Oregon and noted that case rates in Lane County currently are not trending in the right direction to resume in-person learning.

In positive news, the superintendent said the state’s economic and revenue forecast showed a slow and steady economic recovery in Oregon, a good sign that the district wouldn’t face budget cuts during the current school year. She cautioned the two-week freeze could have an impact on the state’s recovering economy.

Superintendent Vandercar reported demolition has begun on the former Silver Lea school building to make way for the new North Eugene High School building. She said that memories of the 60-year-old school building, most recently the home of Yujin Gakuen and Corridor elementary schools, would live on in the community.

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

Received an update on COVID-19 and comprehensive distance learning: District staff presented details about the two-week “freeze” ordered by Gov. Kate Brown that took effect earlier in the day. The governor’s order has few direct impacts but some indirect ones on 4J’s operations. The district has encouraged 4J employees not to travel outside the state for the Thanksgiving holiday, and to self-quarantine for two weeks if they do, in line with travel advisory issued by the governor. Working from home where feasible is particularly encouraged during the two-week freeze; staff who can complete some or all of their duties remotely have been advised to talk with their supervisor about establishing a teleworking agreement if they do not already have one in place. 

Parents are making requests now to change their students’ learning pathway for the second term. The district’s recent communications about this are not related to the “freeze,” but timed to prepare for the start of the new trimester for middle and high schools on Dec. 14.

District staff reported on the ongoing planning for the start of a truncated athletic season, set to begin with winter sports in late December, and the return of in-person learning in a hybrid model sometime after the new year, although that would require a significant reversal of the rising COVID-19 case counts in Lane County. The earliest students would return for hybrid learning is late January. K–3 students would be the first to return to school buildings, followed by older elementary students. Under the guidance from the Oregon Department of Education, unless case rates drop precipitously, middle and high school students cannot begin to return to classrooms until at least four weeks after elementary students begin on-site learning.

In the meantime, the district is collecting feedback from staff, parents and students about comprehensive distance learning and the support services students and families are receiving.

The board’s questions and discussion centered how the district is monitoring student performance during distance learning and the demands of homework on students during this challenging period.

Received an update on live public comment during board meetings: Starting with the school board’s regular meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, board members will welcome residents to their computer screens to share their comments on issues impacting 4J. Interested residents can submit their request to provide public comment at 4j.lane.edu/board/publiccomment. The deadline is noon (12 p.m.) on the Monday before each regular meeting of the school board.

Items for Action

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved a revised contract with Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar through June 30, 2022, and authorized the replacement of more than 1,000 document cameras that are at or near the end of their life at an estimated cost of about $300,000. The vote was unanimous.

Approved vote in the Oregon School Boards Association election: The board approved the state association’s 2021–2022 Legislative Priorities and Principles as recommended by the Legislative Policy Committee. The vote was 6–1, with board member Gordon Lafer voting no. 

Approved grant agreement for reduced Student Investment Act funds: The school board has unanimously approved for a second time the district’s grant agreement with the Oregon Department of Education to receive Student Success Act funds during the 2020–21 school year—an amount reduced by two-thirds from initial estimates, due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Oct. 21, the school board approved the agreement as part of its consent agenda, which are routine matters that the board can approve with a single vote. After the vote, the Oregon Department of Education notified the district that the board must approve the agreement as an individual item for action rather than a consent agenda item. The delay caused by this requirement will not impact the grant award amount.

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

Considered the process for evaluating the job performance of the interim superintendent: The board evaluates the superintendent’s job performance annually under the timeline set forth in the superintendent’s employment contract. The evaluation is based on the job duties described in the superintendent’s contract, board policy and progress in attaining goals established by the superintendent and board. The board’s discussions with the superintendent about their performance are conducted in executive session. A summary of the evaluation is presented publicly.

Considered adopting policy on hate symbols and bias incidents: On Sept. 17, the Oregon State Board of Education approved the temporary All Students Belong rule that bans the presence or use of hate symbols, including the swastika, noose and Confederate flag, on school grounds or in any school or educational program that receives state revenue. It also requires school districts to adopt a policy banning hate symbols and establish procedures to address bias incidents. The temporary rule allows the use of the symbols in teaching that aligns with state standards.

For decades, 4J has prohibited discrimination and harassment against students and staff based on their race, color, religion and other protected statuses, and has measures to enforce such policies. However, the district does not currently have an adopted board policy explicitly banning the identified hate symbols.

School administrators have reported examples in recent years of the presence of these symbols on 4J school grounds, such as displays of the Confederate flag on cars in parking lots and clothing, swastikas at the entry of a school or on notebooks or desks, and images of nooses and swastikas displayed as a result of hacking by district students. These incidents are distressing and harmful for both students and staff, and take administrators and staff from other critical work.

Proposed policy ACB – Hate Symbols and Bias Incidents is intended to meet the requirements of the state rule. It defines hate symbols, bias incidents and hate crimes; prohibits them on district properties and in district programs; affirms that students and staff are entitled to work in discrimination- and harassment-free educational environments; and directs the superintendent to develop rules necessary to implement the policy. The board will vote on its adoption at an upcoming meeting.

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.

Agenda and Materials

Nov. 18 agenda and materials
Nov. 18 board work session recording
Nov. 18 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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