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Board Meeting Summary: August 18, 2021

August 18, 2021
School Board Work Session and Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Aug. 18, the school board held a work session and regular meeting. Community members attended the meeting in person, and the session also was open to the public via live video on Zoom, live audio stream, and radio broadcast on KRVM 1280-AM.

Work Session

The board continued its discussion of the process to search for and hire the permanent superintendent. Board members appointed Cydney Vandercar as interim superintendent in May 2020. After reviewing and interviewing search firms last year, the board opted to cancel the search firm selection process and extended Ms. Vandercar’s appointment through the 2021–22 school year.

After a lengthy discussion in the work session, the board settled on the appointment of a subcommittee of three board members to draft an informal request for proposals (IRFP) to solicit an executive search firm. The firm would lead the recruitment of a permanent 4J superintendent. The board voted during the regular meeting following the work session to approve the process for initiating the superintendent search.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar said the district is looking forward to welcoming back students to schools in-person on regular schedules five days a week. She said more than 300 families so far have requested to enroll in two online learning options: 4J K–5 Connect and Eugene Online Academy. Requests will be accepted through August 23.

Superintendent Vandercar said district staff would present information later in the meeting about the layered approach 4J would employ to protect the health of students and staff when schools reopen for full-time, in-person learning next month. These approaches include the use of face coverings, physical distancing, upgraded ventilation, frequent handwashing, and more. She briefly discussed both the surge in coronavirus cases locally and in Oregon, and the worker shortage affecting the district along with many other public agencies and private businesses. She encouraged community members to consider job opportunities with 4J (listed online) if they are in the job market.

Superintendent Vandercar reported 4J is seeking guidance from the Oregon Department of Education on its ability to confer a high school diploma or honorary diploma posthumously to a high school senior who dies before meeting the graduation requirements defined in state law.

The superintendent reported 4J has closed on the sale of one of two properties it is seeking to buy for a new career technical education (CTE) program, Future Build Project, in which students will learn construction skills and help build housing. The sale of the second property is pending.

She said the district was working with neighboring school districts and the United Way of Lane County so students can attend an Oct. 28 talk by Ruby Bridges Hall, an American civil rights activist who, as a young girl, was the first African-American student to desegregate an all-white elementary school in Louisiana in 1960.

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

Received an update on 4J’s plans for the return to full-time, in-person learning this fall: As the county experiences a record COVID-19 case count, 4J is currently not allowing visitors and volunteers in school buildings with the exception of essential individuals needed for student safety. The district is not allowing community organizations to rent out district-owned buildings for activities and events, except for essential services such as wraparound childcare. There also are no school field trips at this time, except for Outdoor School programs. These restrictions will be revisited at a later point as public health conditions evolve.

District staff explained protocols for isolation and quarantine of students and staff who become ill, test positive or are exposed to COVID-19, as well as contact tracing practices to identify individuals who have been in close contact with and exposed to someone with the virus. Staff outlined the online learning options that will be available for families who would prefer their students continue to receive instruction virtually at home. District staff also reported on the shortage of bus drivers, reflecting similar shortages across Oregon and the U.S., and how 4J is adjusting and reducing routes and stops and making other changes to be able to continue to provide transportation services and get students to school when the new year starts.

Received an update on potential changes to 4J’s Equity Committee: The district is proposing to restructure its existing equity committee in response to a new state law. The committee advises 4J leaders on ways to increase educational equity for underrepresented students.

The current committee is made up of 12 community members appointed by the superintendent, in addition to five non-voting members: the superintendent, one school board member and three staff members appointed by the superintendent. To comply with Senate Bill 732 and better serve students, the restructured committee would almost double in size, consisting of six high school students, five parents, five 4J employees and four other community members. Participating high school students could earn high school credit for serving on the committee. The restructured committee would include a mix of students and parents from 4J’s four school regions and staff members from its primary employee groups: licensed, classified and administrators. The district’s equity office aims to convene the reconfigured committee for the first time in November, after the superintendent and school board make appointments from a short list provided by district staff.

Discussed potential allowances for instructional time in the 2021–22 school year: This item was not originally on the agenda and was added at the beginning of the meeting. A board member proposed adding it as an item for action in this meeting; after lengthy discussion it was added as an item for information for the board to discuss.

Oregon Department of Education rules set a minimum number of instructional hours that all K–12 students must receive each school year, depending on grade level (900 hours per year for grades K–8, 990 for grades 9–11, 966 for grade 12). Under the state regulations, if approved by the local school board, a district may provide fewer hours of instruction than these requirements by counting as instructional time up to 60 hours of recess in grades K–3, and up to 30 hours of professional development and up to 30 hours of parent-teacher conferences in grades K–12. These credits can’t be taken unless they occur. Board members agreed to further discuss whether to approve such allowances at its Sept. 1 meeting.

Items for Action

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved the purchase of school buses and vans; awarded the contract for site preparation at Kelly Middle School to accommodate the addition of modular classroom buildings; and approved an agreement on certain economic terms for the final year of the 2018–2022 labor contract with the Oregon School Employees Association, the union representing 4J’s classified employees. The vote was unanimous.

Initiated the search for a permanent superintendent: Board members voted to direct the board chair to appoint a subcommittee of three board members to draft an informal request for proposals (IRFP) to solicit an executive search firm to lead the process to select a permanent superintendent. The full board will vote to approve the IRFP on Sept 1. The board also voted to delegate to the subcommittee the jobs of screening and scoring each of the search firm candidates and to recommend to the full board search firm finalists for consideration. The vote was unanimous.

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

Considered initiating adoption processes for language arts and social studies curriculum: This item was slated in the published board agenda as an item for action, after having been considered for future action in the previous meeting. It was changed in this meeting to again be discussed as an item for future action.

The school board is slated to decide whether to initiate a comprehensive process to adopt an updated secondary language arts curriculum and an elementary language arts and social studies curriculum that can be used by both English language and language immersion programs.

In 2020 and 2021, the Oregon Department of Education adopted new English language arts and social studies standards. District staff shared that the curriculum 4J educators use to teach language arts is based on older state standards for language arts that don’t align with current educational research, and that research also shows increased reading comprehension by bringing together social studies and language arts instruction. In addition, the curriculum used in the target language in 4J’s language immersion programs is not aligned with the district’s English-language curriculum. A full language arts adoption process has not taken place since 2007.

The adoption processes would be led by a team of more than 55 elementary school teachers, and a team of about 28 secondary school teachers plus other district staff. Each adoption process would include opportunities for other educators, parents and community members to provide feedback.

Under the proposed timeline, the school board would consider adoption of the new language arts and social studies curriculum for elementary schools recommended by the adoption team in spring 2022, and the new language arts curriculum for middle and high schools recommended by the adoption team in spring 2023.

The board discussion centered on whether to initiate a process to adopt one suite of instructional materials for each school level, as recommended by district curriculum and instruction specialists, or seek to adopt two or more curricula for each of the subject areas as suggested by some board members, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of each of those options.

Postponed Agenda Items

Due to the late hour, the board moved three agenda items to its next regular meeting on Sept. 1:
• Item for Action: Approve Resolution 2021-22-09 Concerning Masking and Other Protective Measures to Ensure Safe Public Meetings
• Item for Action: Approve Revisions to Board Policies: IIBGA Electronic Communications System; INDB Flag Displays and Salutes; JGA Corporal Punishment
• Item for Future Action: Consider Revisions to Board Policy KGB Public Conduct on District Property

Public Input

The board heard live public comment both in person and virtually via Zoom. Ten speakers provided comment, four in-person and six virtually. Most spoke about face coverings and COVID safety protocols, one about social studies instruction, and one about diversity at KRVM-FM. To request to speak to the school board, either in-person or virtually, community members may complete an online request form by the Monday before the next regular board meeting. Community members also may send comments via email to board@4j.lane.edu.

Agenda and Materials

August 18 work session and regular meeting materials
August 18 work session audio recording
August 18 regular meeting audio 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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