Siuslaw School Board updates policies, hears about programs

Technology, School Resource Officer, Florence Community PTA and homeless students all on agenda

Oct. 12, 2019 — Siuslaw School District discussed a variety of issues during its October meeting last Wednesday, including the passage of goals for the board, the district’s resource officer, signing up for the PTA and how the public should address complaints to the board itself.

The meeting began with two elementary students leading the pledge of allegiance.

“This is CJ Craig and Noah Craig,” Siuslaw Elementary School Principal Michael Harklerode said, introducing the brothers who just transferred to the school this year. “Every month in the school we have a different character trait to focus on, and this month it’s respect. We have two brothers, in their first month at school, independently with no teacher scheming behind the scenes, each named as the most respectful students in their class for the month of September.”

Fourth-grader CJ had been consistent in demonstrating respect through his leadership and friendship in the classroom, while second-grader Noah was a great example to others who was “very kind, thoughtful and attentive in class,” Harklerode said, before the students loudly proclaimed the pledge with the board.

Next, Florence Community PTA Vice President Cori Hanson spoke to the board, looking to encourage them to sign up for the program.

“Everyone says it takes a village to raise a child, so help this village by becoming a member. It will also strengthen our community,” Hanson said, listing the many programs the association offers.

The PTA has already hosted a talk on Parenting in the Digital world which touched on issues of raising children with social media. Next week, the group will feed all the teachers during parent-teacher conferences, “and we will provide refreshments for parents attending the conferences at the high school.”

Breakfast with Santa is provided for families during the holidays, as well as the annual talent show that is presented at the Florence Events center. And on November 2nd, the annual “Color-a-thon” fundraising event will be held.

The group also provides multiple scholarships and monthly grants to teachers and students throughout the year.

“You are important stakeholders advocating for all our students in our school district. Your membership publicly reinforces PTA,” Hanson said.

After Hanson’s presentation, board members who were not already part of the program signed up to join Florence Community PTA, which has an annual fee of $11 and can be joined by anyone in the community, regardless of their association with the district.

The board then received a facilities update from Maintenance Supervisor Reed Lewis, who went over a list of projects his staff had been working on, including replacing an aging roof in the elementary school, installing new scoreboards in the high school gym and resurfacing and restriping the middle school parking lots.

Lewis then showed off new soap dispensers that were imprinted with a new Siuslaw logo designed by students from Edward Mielke’s technology class.

“These will be going up here throughout the district, and it’s a neat project,” Lewis said.

The school board then unanimously approved the School Board and Superintendent Goals for the year, which focused on a wide variety of issues from increasing technology in the district, improving graduation rates, improving community involvement with the school and working to upkeep and upgrade district buildings and grounds.

The board discussed one of the goals presented in the document, that of continuing to partner with the City of Florence to fund the School Resource Officer. The board discussed the impact that the officer, currently Officer Brandon Bailey, has had in the district.

“The officer does a really good job of investigating crimes against children that occur outside of school, which encourages kids to come to school as well,” District Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak said.

Siuslaw High School Principal Kerri Tatum recalled an incident where Bailey prevented a student from dropping out of school.

“He’s the reason we got an additional kid to graduate,” Tatum said. “The kid was walking out of summer school and I started texting Brandon. Brandon was able to get him there. Working together is the norm.”

It was also mentioned that Bailey’s work has helped bolster the student’s attitudes toward law enforcement, and that his home visits with students who have difficult home lives have helped improve student outcomes.

“He was able to make some inroads in the school, and it was really helpful,” Tatum said.

During administrator reports, Special Programs Director Lisa Utz detailed a large increase in homeless students within the district, 52 in total. Of those, 30 students were doubled up, three students were living in a hotel/motel and 19 students were living in a car, RV, campsite or substandard housing.

“We’re doing everything we can, it’s just one of those things you have to hit the ground running,” Utz said. “We’re doing everything we can, and we have a good number of community supporters that we’re very grateful for.”

Finally, the board made additions to the public complaint policy regarding complaints brought to the board related to district issues, such as school policy or issues with staff.

The first change to the policy specifies that “complaints on issues previously decided by the board will be considered final.” Previously, the policy allowed individuals to bring the same complaint multiple times to the board.

“Part of this came up a couple years ago,” Grzeskowiak explained. “We had one person who kept repeating their objection to ‘proficiency.’ After the fourth time, the board said, ‘This question has been asked and answered.’”

The second policy addition stipulated, “Complaints may not be brought by a patron of the district on behalf of an unknown or anonymous person, or student with which they have no legal guardianship or relationship.”

Board member Paul Barnes explained, “The thought on this when it was put together was to eliminate complaints based on hearsay and secondhand knowledge. It was to ensure that the complainant, or whoever was speaking for them, knew the details with it.”

Directors Suzanne Mann-Heintz and Dianne Pimlott questioned whether or not the changes would discourage the community from making official complaints to the board.

“I understand what you mean when you say it’s hard for people to make a complaint this way, but this is not the way people should me making complaints in the first place,” Board Chair Guy Rosinbaum said. “It should be talking to the teacher, the administrator or the building personnel. We should be the last place a complaint comes to. And most of the onus on this is when people decide they want to get a board member involved and burn down the school because they have an issue. … We have a responsibility to protect our administrators, our staff and our students from baseless accusations that occasionally happen as well. I understand it might be a little bit harder to make a complaint, but the complaint has to have some factual backing to it as well.”

The board voted unanimously to accept additions.

Finishing up the meeting, the board commended the varsity football team, particularly newly hired coach and Siuslaw alum Sam Johnson for his work with the youth. In addition, Director Dennis King commended the Woahink Lake Cross Country Invitational that was put on by the district.

“There are so many moving parts that are there, and it’s like an orchestra. I don’t know how you guys do that,” he said.

Rosinbaum ended the meeting by saying of the district, “This is the largest organization in the city. We touch everybody’s lives, every single day we’re here. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of what you guys are doing.”

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