School staff adjust to grade realignment

John Stearns (left), member services representative at Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative, passes a symbolic check for $57,940 to Grant School District No. 3 Superintendent Newell Cleaver (center) and school board chairman Steve Courtney. The check represents a rebate to the school district for retrofitting of inefficient lighting fixtures in district buildings.

CANYON CITY - Shuffling of staff at the beginning of a school year is always hectic, but Grant School District No. 3 coped with the additional confusion of closing a building.

A realignment plan to save about $60,000 in maintenance costs concluded last year with closure of Blue Mountain Junior High School.

On Aug. 14, school board members saw the effects of these changes at the ground level. Trustees toured the two most affected buildings, Humbolt Elementary School in Canyon City and Mt. Vernon Middle School. Humbolt will absorb the fifth-grade class from Mt. Vernon Middle School this year with the aid of a modular classroom. Mt. Vernon Middle School will accept grades seven and eight from the junior high school with the help of two modular classrooms.

Crafted over years of consultation and public meetings, the plan for realignment aimed to save on building expenses without causing staff layoffs. The school board made it a priority to avoid personnel cuts but allow savings through attrition, the non-replacement of employees who retire or resign.

The employee shuffle resulted in a variety of familiar faces emerging in new locations. They include:

Humbolt Elementary - Darlene Muzzy, Colleen Batty, Beth Spell, fifth grade; Barb Williams, special education; Kim Smith, junior first; Tammy Martin, secretary; Dovie Bolman, Susan Sintay, teacher's assistant. Also joining the Humbolt staff are Dianne Harris, exchange teacher from Penzance, England; and Georgia Boethin, who is returning from leave to work as a library assistant and Title I reading teacher.

Mt. Vernon Middle School - Marilyn DeRoy, Theresa Gardner, language arts; Pete Piazza, Vera Shoberg, social studies; Brandi Russell, Doug Sharp, math; Neil Bauer, science; Max Goin, Sharp, physical education; Sally Pendleton, special education; Rachelle Simmons, library worker; JoAnn Trip, Debbie Gibson, cafeteria workers; Terry Justen-Griffith, custodian; Bonnie Zick, Tammie Larkin, special education instructional assistants.

In other personnel moves, the school board accepted letters of resignation from high school science teacher Roger Ediger, high school vocational-agriculture teacher Kyle Kimble, freshman volleyball coach Shanna Kowing, junior high boys' basketball coach Thad Labhart, special education teacher Carrie Kimble, junior high volleyball coach MaryAnn Vidourek and school board member Les Still. The board approved hiring high school micro-computer specialist and Future Business Leaders of America adviser Guy Johnson, high school vocational-agriculture teacher Bryce Meyer, high school physical science teacher Sonna Smith and assistant volleyball coaches Cindy Batease and Vidourek.

In other business:  Superintendent Newell Cleaver described a "worst-case scenario" of $400,000 in budget cuts for the school district if state reductions are not offset in the Oregon Legislature.

"The financial picture is really up in the air," he cautioned.

The school board passed resolutions regarding organizational procedures and support for Measure 19, a Sept. 17 special election measure asking voters to approve the use of an education endowment fund for statewide school funding.

The first resolution identified Cleaver as the chief administrative officer and custodian of funds for the school district, Cleaver as clerk and Sherry Rose as deputy clerk, and authorized the purchase of fidelity bonds in the amount of $30,000 for clerk, $50,000 for deputy clerk and $50,000 for the accounts payable/payroll clerk per state law.

This resolution also designated Cleaver the budget officer and local agency representative for federal projects and funding, and named Dan Cronin as the district attorney, although the resolution added that the district is in the process of issuing requests for proposals for legal services as a standard and routine action. Oster Professional Group of John Day was named the district auditor; confidential employees were identified as assistant to the superintendent Linda Watson, accounts payable/payroll staff Karla Averett, deputy clerk Rose, transportation and maintenance supervisor Dennis Flippence, transportation and maintenance secretary Cyndi Nelson and cafeteria supervisor Judy Hudson. The Blue Mountain Eagle was named the newspaper for legal publications; Pioneer Bank and US Bank were named the banks for fund deposits; and the resolution authorized the clerk and deputy clerk to transfer of funds from the local government investment pool, to approve purchase orders and sign checks and pay bills. The board of directors was authorized to establish meeting dates.

The second resolution read: "Whereas the Third 2002 Special Session of the Oregon Legislature referred Measure 19 to voters at the September 17, 2002, special election; and whereas Measure 19 converts the Education Endowment Fund into an Education Stability Fund - a 'rainy day' fund to protect public schools in the event of future economic downturns and resulting revenue losses; and whereas Measure 19 authorizes a $150 million withdrawal from the Education Stability Fund to backfill 2002-03 K-12 budget cuts and still leaves a $138 million balance in the fund; and whereas Measure 19 provides for 18 percent of future lottery proceeds to be deposited into the fund; and whereas Measure 19 creates a school capital matching fund to assist school districts with their future capital construction and improvement needs, now therefore, be it resolved that the Grant School District No. 3 Board of Directors supports Measure 19 as critical to both the short- and long-term needs of its schools and students; and be it further resolved that the Grant School District No. 3 Board of Directors urges its staff, parents and community to vote in support of Measure 19."

Cleaver reported on the following policy issues:

Litigation supported in principle by the school board remains in process by the Glendale School District in Douglas County. The aim is to contest the state's non-allocation of federal timber-receipt reimbursement to timber-dependent communities. These dollars instead went into the general education fund for public schools.

Bob Douglas, president of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition, architect of the federal timber-receipt reimbursement bill, promoted a lobbying effort to "ease the appeals process that radical preservationist groups have used to hold up 'forest restoration' projects on nearly every national forest."

A bipartisan Senate group, according to Douglas, "suggested that environmentalists would still have a place at the table, but they would no longer have the power to veto the approved forest management plans by tying things up in court. Two weeks ago, it was revealed by the Forest Service that 35 percent of the fuels reduction projects proposed during the last year under the national fire plan had been appealed by radical preservation groups."

Douglas listed the following senators and their telephone numbers (all with the Washington, D.C. area code 202): Pete Domenici, New Mexico, 228-0900; Dianne Feinstein, California, 228-3954; Jon Kyl, Arizona, 224-2207; Larry Craig, Idaho, 228-1067; John Ensign, Nevada, 228-2193; Conrad Burns, Montana, 224-8594; Frank Murkowski, Alaska, 224-5301; Ron Wyden, Oregon, 228-2717; Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas, 228-1371; Craig Thomas, Wyoming, 224-1724; Michael Enzi, Wyoming, 228-0359; Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado, 224-1933; Gordon Smith, Oregon, 228-3997; Ted Stevens, Alaska, 224-2354; Michael Crapo, Idaho, 228-1375; Christopher Bond, Missouri, 224-8149.

The school board scheduled its next regular meeting for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, with a work session scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25.

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