June 23, 2021 — The June 16 meeting of the Siuslaw School District Board of Directors was a chance to tackle a lengthy to-do list in preparation for the July meeting, when two new directors join the board in place of outgoing members Paul Burns and Suzanne Mann-Heintz. Last week’s meeting also provided an update on staffing, reviewed policy and adopted the 2021-22 budget.
Four school board members were able to attend the meeting in person, directors John Barnett, Burns, Mann-Heintz and Guy Rosinbaum, and directors Dennis King and Diana Pimlott attended via Zoom. Board Chair Bob Sneddon was absent for the meeting, so Burns led the meeting as vice chair.
The meeting included first readings of policies related to school board standards of conduct and staff participation in political activities, but the board chose to discuss those further with the new board, which will be seated July 28. The board also heard the second reading of Policy EEAE, “Student Transportation in Private Vehicles,” and approved it unanimously.
However, Policy ACB and ACB-AR, “Every Student Belongs,” required a little more conversation.
According to the explanatory statement provided by Siuslaw Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak, in September, the Oregon State Board of Education adopted a temporary Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 581-022-2312 that requires that districts, ESDs, public charter schools and others receiving state funding for education adopt a policy prohibiting symbols of hate and addressing bias incidents by Jan. 1, 2021.
The OSBA Model Sample Policy stated, “‘Symbol of hate’ means a symbol, image or object that expresses animus on the basis of race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin, including the noose, swastika or Confederate flag.”
The board discussed this policy in December, ultimately voting against the policy four-three.
However, two directors who initially voted against the policy, Barnett and Rosinbaum, requested reconsideration. Barnett had to leave the meeting early, so Rosinbaum made the motion and led the subsequent conversation.
He said the main reason to bring the item back up was so the district “doesn’t lose funding,” but he added the policy made sense.
At the December meeting, the board had stated concern about the state’s making funding dependent on the policy, as well as the relatively quick timeline when the OAR was to go into effect. At this point, the Oregon Senate still hasn’t ratified the rule.
According to Grzeskowiak, “It's still on the agenda for approval. We're one of 18 districts that have been waiting for the approval process to come through at the Senate level, and there are some financial implications.”
Not approving the policy could affect the district’s funding through the Oregon Department of Education.
The five remaining board members discussed several aspects of the policy, including its scope and the fact that funding could be jeopardized.
“I don't think there's anybody that's listening or sitting here, that doesn't think that those things would be wrong,” King said of the “symbols of hate” listed in the policy. He was concerned that other symbols could be added to the list, as the rule was open-ended, and thought that existing bullying policies should be enough.
Mann-Heintz responded, “I was heartened by the footnotes added that reference some of the OAR, and then also specify that before we would add any other symbols or representations that we would consult with legal counsel.”
Burns also reminded the board that policies can be revised, and, if the board so chooses, can take issues to court.
At that point, the board voted 3-2 to approve the policy.
Next, District Business Manager Kari Blake talked about the 2021-22 budget during a public hearing.
Rosinbaum read the budget into the record, stating: “Be it resolved that the Board of Directors of the Siuslaw School District 97J hereby adopts the approved budget, as adjusted, for fiscal year 2021-22 and sets appropriations at $29,715,580.”
The budget is now on file at the District Office, 2111 Oak St., as well as online at Siuslaw.k12.or.us.
One question that came up before the board unanimously approved the budget was concerning graduation. Due to confusion and miscommunication, the Graduation Committee approached the Rotary Club of Florence for help in funding graduation, not realizing that the Siuslaw School District fully funds the important ceremony.
“In the past, we've always paid for pretty much everything,” Blake said. “The students have a student body account, where they fundraise, and if they want any kind of extras outside of what we paid for, for graduation, they can use those funds.”
Blake said that graduation is not a line-item in the budget, but that money comes from the office of the principal at the high school and district office funds.
According to Grzeskowiak, the district was holding the check from Rotary and did not intend to use the money.
“Again, we cover everything from flowers to printing to security to the sound engineer,” he said. “The only thing that students have ever purchased from the ASB account has been last minute or truly unique items … or gets donated back down to the lower grades. And so the request was made without our knowledge. The check is going back to Rotary for them to use it on a different community project.”
The final component of the meeting was a discussion about staffing for the next school year and the housing shortage that has affected the hiring process. Blake reported that the district is in need of nine units to fully house current and incoming staff.
For more information, visit Siuslaw.k12.or.us.