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Board Meeting Summary: August 4, 2021

August 4, 2021
School Board Work Session and Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Aug. 4, the school board held a work session and regular meeting. Community members attended the meeting in-person for the first time in more than a year. The meeting 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 continues its work to reorient 4J’s discipline and student safety practices so all students feel safe at school and practices do not disproportionately harm students of color, LBGTQ students, and students with disabilities, among others.

Representatives of SeeChange LLC, a Portland-based consultant, presented the board a report on its analysis of the district’s strengths, challenges and opportunities related to student and school safety. The assessment was based on a review of district data; students’ and educators’ survey responses; and 33 hours of interviews and focus groups with students, families and educators.

In summary, the assessment found that 4J students and educators generally feel safe at school. It concluded there are promising practices occurring in areas of the district where students experience culturally affirming environments, there is a focus on relationship building and repair, social and emotional needs are addressed, and there is growing diversity in the educator pool. However, the assessment found there is a disconnect between what students feel are the most pressing safety issues for them and what district resources, policies and practices are addressing. The assessment concluded that systemic challenges include a lack of unified professional development on these issues, need for a deeper commitment to equity, initiatives and departments that are disconnected from one another, and policies and procedures that leave room for exclusion, individual bias and disparities. The report said that 4J does not have a “north star,” or specific direction, in what the district seeks to achieve and by when related to student safety and belonging, that drives policy and resource decisions.

The consultant recommended the district undertake a community visioning process to define a “north star” and then develop and implement a plan to align policies, practices and resources toward it.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar welcomed board members to the first regular board meeting of the 2021–22 school year and acknowledged the community members sitting in the audience in-person for the first time in more than a year. She introduced Dr. José Salgado, 4J’s new assistant superintendent for instruction.

Superintendent Vandercar noted the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Lane County related to the spread of the more highly contagious delta variant. She addressed the new state rule reinstating a requirement that everyone in K–12 schools must wear face coverings and noted the Oregon Health Authority’s legal authority to adopt the rule. She said the district will comply with the statewide rule and take all necessary precautions to keep students in the classroom and out of quarantine.

The superintendent said changes would be coming to 4J’s Equity Committee as a result of a new state law, which requires all Oregon school districts to establish educational equity advisory committees. The new law will result in changes to the membership and responsibilities of the district’s equity committee. The board will receive more information about the forthcoming changes during its August 18 meeting.

Superintendent Vandercar said students and staff will return to the building that houses Kelly Middle School and Yujin Gakuen Japanese Immersion Elementary School this fall. The building was closed in May when two roof trusses were found to be failing in one of the school’s gymnasiums. Crews have shored up the roof of the gym, and the building has engineers’ approval to reopen for regular use including the spaces around the gym. While the rest of the building is safe and ready for students to return, the gym itself will remain closed and off-limits for the school year, until full repairs are completed in summer 2022.

The superintendent noted that, as shared in previous board meetings, teacher staffing has been added and the district is moving to add space at the school site. Two modular classroom buildings with two classrooms each will be installed at the Kelly/YG school site, adding four classrooms. The first building is aimed to be in place by the start of school, and the second will be delivered later in the school year.

Public Hearing

Public hearing on the potential purchase of property:  The board held a public hearing on 4J’s potential purchase of two residential properties to launch a new career technical education program, Future Build Project, in which students will learn construction skills and help build housing. The neighboring lots are located between Northwest Expressway and Filbert Avenue on the block between Park and Cherry avenues in the River Road area. The public hearing is an opportunity for residents to testify before the board on the proposed property purchase and the related findings of fact—a document that outlines the proposed acquisition and evaluation criteria for the public record. No one testified during the public hearing.

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

• Update on KRVM radio operations and diversity plan: Public radio station KRVM has been in operation since 1947, currently operating from a small studio behind Sheldon High School. The district provides space for KRVM to operate and holds its FCC license, but the radio station is otherwise self-funded through listener donations, underwriting and grants. 4J students take classes at the studio in radio broadcasting, podcasting, and other digital media experiences. KRVM’s operations manager and other district staff provided an overview of KRVM’s operations and its diversity plan, including ongoing efforts to diversify its volunteer team and musical programming.

Update on state guidance for the return of full-time, in-person learning this fall: A new state rule requires everyone in K–12 schools in Oregon to resume wearing face coverings indoors at all times during the school day and educational activities. The superintendent noted the district had learned that school districts violating the rule could be fined $500 per day per incident, and that educators could be disciplined, up to losing their license, for violations.

4J will offer a new online learning option for elementary school students whose families who prefer they continue to learn online. The new option will feature online classrooms with a blend of real-time or synchronous learning and independent learning activities. Classrooms will be districtwide and will not be associated with individual 4J schools or special learning programs, as they were with the “Same School Online” learning option offered last year. The district also offers Eugene Online Academy, an asynchronous, more self-directed learning model with support from 4J teachers. Families will receive information about the new learning option and how to request enrollment next week.

District staff also briefed the board on the Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework, the set of mostly advisory guidelines developed by the Oregon Department of Education to help school districts plan for the return of full-time, in-person learning this fall. The state guidelines strongly advise school districts to provide vaccination opportunities for eligible students and staff, maintain physical distancing of at least 3 feet to the extent possible, design cohorts for students to the extent possible, provide effective ventilation and indoor air quality, establish protocols for hand hygiene, and take other layered prevention measures.

Items for Action

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board approved personnel actions; awarded a contract to purchase and place the second of two modular classroom buildings at Kelly Middle School; authorized seeking federal grant funding to subsidize the purchase of new student laptops for middle and high schools; and approved the official minutes of the March 17, June 2, June 16, June 23 and July 1 board meetings. The vote was unanimous.

Approved the purchase of property: The board unanimously approved the purchase of two adjacent residential lots located in the River Road area to launch a new career technical education program.

The district will pay no more than $85,000 for each of the two lots, located between Northwest Expressway and Filbert Avenue on the block between Park and Cherry avenues. The sale of one of the lots is expected to close by August 13. The sale of the second lot is expected to close at a later date, as the district is awaiting verification from the City of Eugene that that property is a legal lot. If the city doesn’t provide that verification, the district will not buy the lot.

4J is planning to launch a career technical education (CTE) program, called the Future Build Project, in which students will learn construction skills and help build housing. The program will provide students with hands-on experience building a home—teaching them about planning, budgeting, design and construction—under the supervision of a licensed teacher with support from community mentors. The home or homes built through the program then will be sold to a community partner to help economically disadvantaged families transition into home ownership, and the proceeds of the sale will be used to purchase property for the next home.

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

Considered initiating the process to adopt a new language arts and social studies curriculum for elementary schools: In 2020 and 2021, the Oregon Department of Education adopted new English language arts and new social studies standards, respectively. District staff shared that the curriculum used by 4J educators to teach elementary students language arts doesn’t align with current educational research. Research also shows increased reading comprehension by bringing together social studies and language arts instruction. In addition, the curriculum used by 4J’s language immersion programs in the target language is not aligned with the district’s English-language curriculum. A full language arts adoption process has not taken place since 2007.

The school board will decide whether to initiate a comprehensive process for the district to adopt updated language arts and social studies curriculum for elementary schools. The adoption process would be led by a team of about 55 elementary school teachers plus other district staff, and it would include opportunities for educators, parents and community members to provide feedback. Under the proposed timeline, the school board would consider adoption of the new curriculum recommended by the adoption team in the spring of 2022.

Considered initiating the process to adopt a new language arts curriculum for 4J middle and high schools: In 2020, the Oregon Department of Education adopted new English language arts standards. District staff shared that the curriculum that 4J educators use to teach language arts to students in grades 6–12 is based on older state standards for language arts that don’t align with current educational research. 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 school board will decide whether to to initiate a comprehensive process for the district to adopt a updated language arts curriculum for middle and high schools. The extensive two-year process would be led by a team of about 28 teachers plus other district staff, and it would include opportunities for educators, parents and community members to provide feedback. Under the proposed timeline, the school board would consider adoption of the new curriculum in the spring of 2023.

Considered revisions to board policies to reflect changes in law and make updates consistent with best practices:
IIBGA – Electronic Communications System
INDB – Flag Displays and Salutes
– JGA – Corporal Punishment

Public Input

The board heard live public comment both in-person and virtually via Zoom. Ten speakers, three in-person and seven virtually, spoke about face coverings and the heating systems in 4J’s school buildings. The board took a brief recess during the public comment period due to ongoing disruptions from audience members.

To request to speak to the school board, either in-person or virtually, community members may complete an online request form by 5 p.m. on the Monday before the next regular board meeting. Up to 10 people will be scheduled to provide public comment at each meeting. Community members also may send comments via email to board@4j.lane.edu.

Agenda and Materials

August 4 meeting agenda and materials
August 4 work session audio recording
August 4 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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