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Board Meeting Summary: Nov. 4, 2020

November 4, 2020
School Board Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the school board held a 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.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar opened the meeting by introducing and administering the oaths of office to the 2020–21 student board representatives: Paige Dunnavant (North Eugene), Mazie McNamara (Sheldon), Joel Sadofsky (Eugene International High School), Harmony Simmons (Churchill) and Dusty Temple (ECCO). Noa Ablow Measelle (South Eugene) was not able to attend the meeting.

Vandercar said the district has received a number of emails from parents urging 4J to reopen school buildings for on-site learning. She said the district is unable to do so because Lane County’s coronavirus case rates are too high to meet either the original or updated health metrics for school reopening issued by the Oregon Department of Education on Oct. 30. She said the district eventually would move to on-site learning in a hybrid model with alternating cohorts, possibly beginning as early as January if public health conditions allow. She also outlined the restrictions the Oregon School Activities Association has placed on prep sports.

Board Chair Mary Walston said the board would provide an opportunity for live public comment via Zoom, starting at its Dec. 2 meeting. Interested speakers must sign up in advance of the meetings, and speakers will be assigned by lottery if more community members request to speak than the allotted number for each meeting.

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

Received an update on COVID-19 and comprehensive distance learning: District staff reviewed for the board the updated metrics, released by the Oregon Department of Education on Oct. 30, that must be met for schools to return to teaching and learning on-site. Lane County currently does not meet the metrics for 4J to reopen school buildings either for all students or just for the youngest grades. The district is planning to reopen school buildings for on-site learning in alternating cohorts beginning after winter break, if public health conditions allow.

District staff also presented information on a student resource center that will open Nov. 16 in a building across from the Hult Center in downtown Eugene. The center will provide a place for students, particularly those who are unhoused, to study and and receive heath care, mental health counseling and job training. In the coming weeks, an overnight youth hostel will open at the location. The center is a collaboration of public agencies including Eugene School District 4J and the City of Eugene, community organizations including 15th Night and Youth Era, and private donors.

Information was also shared about assistance for students and parents to navigate the technology needed for comprehensive distance learning, including a webpage with technical resources and upcoming training sessions for parents.

Received an update on enrollment for the 2020–21 school year: District staff provided a presentation on student enrollment, which during the pandemic has declined to its lowest level since 1961. The district had 15,839 enrolled students as of Oct. 1—679 students less than anticipated in enrollment projections for this year, and 474 fewer than enrolled in 2019. Of those 474 students, two-thirds either transferred to a virtual charter school or registered as homeschool students.

The biggest enrollment decrease came in kindergarten with 21.6% fewer students than projected. Most other large Oregon districts have seen similar enrollment drops concentrated in kindergarten.

Items for Action

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved an agreement with the Eugene Education Association, the union representing 4J teachers and licensed specialists, on working conditions in the comprehensive distance learning and hybrid learning models, and approved the official minutes of the Sept. 2, Sept. 16, Sept. 21 and Sept. 23 board meetings. The vote was unanimous.

Approved extending the interim superintendent employment contract: The board unanimously approved extending the appointment of Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar through the 2021–22 school year, pending board approval of an mutually agreed-upon amended contract. The board is scheduled to vote on the amended contract at its Nov. 18 meeting.

The board appointed Ms. Vandercar as interim superintendent on May 6 under a one-year contract for the 2020–21 school year. The board began the process this fall to select a recruitment firm to assist in the selection of a permanent superintendent, but voted on Oct. 21 to cancel that process in consideration of the impact of the pandemic on district schools and on the recruitment and selection process.

Appointed three members to the budget committee: The board appointed Joshua Burstein, Gary Campbell and Anne Fifield to three-year terms on 4J’s budget committee. The board interviewed 15 candidates on Oct. 21. The budget committee reviews annual budget proposals to ensure that the district is planning to spend money in furtherance of district goals.

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

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 review the draft policy and vote on its adoption in upcoming board meetings.

Discussed the upcoming Oregon School Boards Association election: The board is set to vote on Nov. 18 whether OSBA should adopt the association’s 2021–2022 Legislative Priorities and Principles as recommended by the Legislative Policy Committee.

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. 4 agenda and materials
Nov. 4 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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