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Board Meeting Summary: Dec. 2, 2020

December 2, 2020
School Board Work Session & Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, 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 and live public comment using Zoom.

Work Session

The board held a work session to discuss the goals and process for evaluating the superintendent’s performance in 2020–21. 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 superintendent’s goals for the current school year center on maintaining and communicating a balanced budget; keeping bond-funded projects moving forward; and supporting students, families and staff. The board’s discussions with the superintendent about their performance are conducted in executive session. A summary of the evaluation is presented publicly.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar noted the end of the first trimester is approaching. She said many students are struggling online, and 4J teachers and other staff members are working hard to help them. She acknowledged the hardships but noted the challenges are an opportunity to grow as educators and as a district while helping students learn and succeed.

She said the district has begun budgeting for the 2021–22 school year. The first milestone in the biannual state budget development process came on Tuesday, when Gov. Kate Brown presented her recommended budget for the coming two-year fiscal cycle. The Governor’s recommended budget would provide $9.1 billion for the State School Fund, the main source of operating revenue for K–12 public schools in Oregon. Superintendent Vandercar noted that this budget, if approved as proposed, about a 1% increase over the previous biennium, would not provide enough revenue for school districts including 4J to maintain their current service levels.

Superintendent Vandercar said that while some people might assume that school districts are saving a great deal while students are learning at a distance, that is not the case. Because the district is continuing to provide education and services during distance learning, it does not save much money not having students in school buildings, she said. Labor costs account for about 84 percent of 4J’s annual operating budget, and staff are continuing to work with students learning from home. The district also is incurring higher costs for, among other things, the technology, increased internet capacity and staffing that comprehensive distance learning requires. The board will receive a financial update at its Dec. 16 meeting.

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

Received an update on COVID-19 and comprehensive distance learning: District staff provided updates on school sports, meal service and the ongoing planning for students to return to school buildings in a hybrid of on-site and online learning when public health conditions allow.

The earliest that students could return to school buildings for hybrid on-site/online learning would be the third week of January, although that would require a significant reduction of the current spread of COVID-19 in Lane County. The district’s current planning is that the youngest elementary school students would return first, followed by older elementary students. Middle and high students may follow some weeks later if elementary schools can demonstrate the ability to limit transmission of the virus in the school environment.

Families were offered the choice of three learning pathways this fall: Same School Hybrid (when it begins), Same School Online, and Eugene Online Academy. Students may request to switch to a different learning pathway option at the term change. The new trimester for middle and high schools begins on December 14, and the new semester for elementary schools begins on February 1. Families were invited to submit their requests to change pathways next term in November. Most students are continuing with their original pathway choice, but families of nearly 800 students requested a change next term. The requests are fairly balanced, with some students requesting to change from online-only to the hybrid option and vice versa. The district will seek to minimize impacts, but the movement of these students may cause some disruption, with some students having to change teachers and some educators shifting to new teaching assignments.

The district is awaiting guidance from the Oregon School Activities Association as it continues to plan for the return of prep sports. OSAA’s first shortened sports season of the year is slated to begin Dec. 28 with sports normally held during the winter. OSAA’s executive board will meet Dec. 7 to discuss the upcoming season. The district had been planning toward resuming some athletic workouts and training prior to the start of the season, but has not yet begun to allow this because of the sharp increase in COVID cases in Lane County in recent weeks. 

4J’s nutrition services team has prepared and distributed more than 1 million free meals since mid-March, when school buildings were closed due to the pandemic. The district will continue to provide free meals during winter break, with staff providing meal boxes with seven days of food from its youth meal distribution sites on Friday, Dec. 18. A second weekly meal box for students and youth will be available at the 4J Education Center on Monday, Dec. 28.

Received an update on the statewide assessment and accountability waiver: Due to impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the Oregon Department of Education has applied to waive the federal requirement to administer the English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science state assessments in the spring.

ODE has released a student assessment plan with three possible main components in lieu of the annual statewide assessments. The plan would prioritize limited on-site assessment for English language learners and special education students, provide interim assessments and other assessment tools to teachers, and administer to all Oregon students a survey to determine access to educational resources and opportunities to learn.

If the federal Department of Education denies ODE’s request, the department is planning to have only in-person testing and reduce the combined testing time for language arts and math to 2.5 hours instead of the current average of 7.5 hours.

Items for Action

Adopted a 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.

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 vote was unanimous, 6–0, with board member Gordon Lafer absent from the meeting.

Approved the job performance evaluation process for the interim superintendent during the 2020–21 school year: 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 superintendent’s goals for the current school year center on maintaining and communicating a balanced budget; keeping bond-funded projects moving forward; and supporting students, families and staff. The board’s discussions with the superintendent about their performance are conducted in executive session. A summary of the evaluation is presented publicly. The vote was unanimous, 6–0.

Approved board goals for the 2020–21 school year: The board sets goals each year. This year’s goals are navigating 4J through the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic;  adopting a district-wide safety plan; and planning for the North Eugene region. The vote was unanimous, 6–0.

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved a 1.75% cost-of-living adjustment and other changes for the employee group that includes 4J managers, administrators, professionals and supervisors, matching the wage adjustment provided to teachers and licensed specialists for the current school year. The board also approved the official minutes of the Oct. 7, Oct. 21 and Nov. 4 board meetings. The vote was unanimous, 6–0.

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

Discussed legislative priorities for the 2021 session: The proposed priorities include ensuring stable funding in basic school support; continuing and expanding support for the rollout of the Student Success Act; and minimizing the impact enrollment shifts stemming from the coronavirus pandemic have on state financial support to K–12 schools.

Considered revisions to board policies: The board discussed recommended revisions to several policies:
– GBEB – Communicable Diseases – Staff
– GBL – Personnel Records
– GBH/JECAC – Staff/Student/Parent Relations > Custodial and Noncustodial Parents
– JECAC/GBH – Staff/Student/Parent Relations > Custodial and Noncustodial Parents
– JHCC – Communicable Diseases – Students

The proposed changes to GBL – Personnel Records relate to sharing investigatory or other personnel information with outside agencies when an employee is suspected of child abuse or sexual conduct. The other proposed revisions also are intended to align the board policies with current state regulations or best practices.

Public Input

The board heard live public comment via Zoom for the first time at this meeting. Four speakers spoke about educational equity, standardized testing, comprehensive distance learning and reopening of school buildings. To request to speak to the school board, community members may complete an online request form by 12 p.m. on the Monday before the next regular board meeting.

Four residents also submitted public comment via email to board@4j.lane.edu. The emails discussed live public comment, reopening school buildings and resuming prep sports. 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

Dec. 2 agenda and materials
Dec. 2 board work session recording
Dec. 2 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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