Camas, WA — Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Jeff Snell and Mayor Scott Higgins addressed the public Tuesday evening at the annual Camas State of the Community presentation at Lacamas Lake Lodge.

It was the final public address for Higgins, who retires his position this month. Camas School Board President, Doug Quinn, served as Master of Ceremonies.

Snell addressed the following:

  • District size
  • State assessments, national assessments, and secondary pathways
  • Beyond the classroom: Student mentoring, student activities, student athletics, intramural options
  • Social-emotional learning
  • The learning experience
  • History and vision of Camas schools
  • Challenges and opportunities
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District Size

CSD is now a medium to large school district with 7,100 students, 1,000 employees, six elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools.

“We think about the future of our kids,” said Snell. “We want students to feel part of the community, and … we want to inspire kids with their learning. They learn because they’re excited about it.”

Assessments

“Our kids are doing well with the assessments,” said Snell. “But we need to prepare them for the future, and we know they will have 12-15 job changes in their future careers. Kids need to learn how to learn.”

Beyond the Classroom

Snell praised the effectiveness of student mentoring programs, and how student activities and athletic events unite a community. He also said that CSD is introducing an athletic intramural program, and will report on its effectiveness at a later date.

Social-Emotional Learning

Snell said that Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is broadly understood as a process through which people build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships and making responsible decisions, leading to success in school and life. Research shows that SEL on a large scale supports better performing and more positive school communities.

“It’s one thing to know how to do math,” he said. “But, it’s another thing to learn how to navigate the world, and how to interact with others. To know where your strengths are, to know what your weaknesses are.”

Community

Camas School District Superintendent, Jeff Snell.

The Learning Experience

“In order to engage them, and not just to engage them, but to inspire them, we want them to want to learn,” said Snell. “… We want to connect people with the reason why we are doing things. If we do that, we find that students are way more motivated. Workers are more motivated … We really try to personalize the learning.”

History and Vision

Snell praised former school boards that had vision, which was laid out in multiple phases, starting with Skyridge in 1994-1999 and moving to build multiple schools and the renovated Doc Harris Stadium.

Challenges and Opportunities

Snell outlined several challenges:

Student engagement: Educators continue to look for best ways to engage students.

Preparing our students for life after K12: Wants to make sure that CSD is adequately preparing kids for adulthood.

Social Emotional Health: He said social media puts unnecessary pressure on youth.

Growth and sustainable systems: “The new state funding model doesn’t benefit our community, and other communities will benefit more now. And it’s hard to do, it’s like health care reform.”

Federal government funding: “It has gone down, and I believe that school choice should happen within
public schools.”

Local levy: “We’ve been able to grow with local funds. New model caps the local funding, and we’re not able to keep pace. We’ve always been at the mercy of the legislature and the biennium. If this doesn’t change, then we’re heading for an unsustainable model, and we will need to have a conversation around priorities.”

Experience factor: “We have an experienced staff, and we used to get more funding for veteran teachers. We did well under the old model, but the new model just gives a set amount per teacher, and that’s a real problem.”

Regionalization: “I looked at the cost of living in particular regions. We received the highest regionalization so we got a 12% bump in funding. Other regions got more, others got less. In 2020, they will back off 1% of that, so we see challenges down the road.”

Special education funding: These are students that have the highest needs. We’ve had to use local funding historically to do that, with the levies.”

 

Mayor Higgins

Community

Mayor Higgins giving his final Camas State of the Community address.

 

 

 

Higgins addressed his 17-year history of public service in Camas, and all the changes that have happened during that period, starting with the population. In 2002, the population was 14,085. Today, it’s 23,770.

“Camas will stay special because of the people who live here,” Higgins said. “Jobs is what put Camas on the map, and we’ve always made sure that jobs are an important part of our community. People want to bring their businesses here. I’m also really proud of the families who make up this community.”

Elected to the Camas City Council in 2002, Higgins became Mayor in 2011, and he said during that time he was first elected Camas was working really hard to ensure that downtown was successful — and noted it was struggling at that time.

He talked about the excitement of the many downtown events, and how those events unite the community, and addressed success points during his tenure, which include:

  • City expansion east of Lacamas Lake
  • Camas turned 100 years old
  • Green Mountain and North Shore annexations
  • Downtown Camas Association founded
  • Construction of Lacamas Lake Lodge
  • Modernizing city services with new technology
  • The current Parade of Homes

The Future

  • North shore Lacamas Legacy Lands Project
  • Currently 880 existing acres parkland acreage in the Lacamas Lake corridor
  • City staff working to secure another 140 acres for parkland — before they are converted into developments

“Camas is surrounded with good leadership,” said Higgins. “We have an amazing council. They work hard to find common ground. They have a skill and that is the ability to try to find common ground. They don’t get polarized. They have that vision; they have that ability. Your staff at city hall is like no other. They figure out how to save our citizen’s money. They show up.”

“I just want to make sure you need to have tremendous confidence in our city council and staff, and that the city was built to be successful. I’ve had the honor of serving with 15 different council members, three Superintendents, and two mayors. I can say that ‘I love them.’ I love them because they love Camas, and that’s why Camas has been successful. So, I will just tell you I will be leaving some things in Camas, but I will not be leaving my Papermakers. I will always be a Papermaker.”

“We had a lot of changes happen in the city, and we’ve lost many of those mill jobs, and that causes you to be sad. It hurts deeply when those things happen, but we’ll be OK. Camas still has its identity, it still has its heart.”

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Camas, WA — The public is invited to attend the annual State of the Community address this evening at 6 pm at the Lacamas Lake Lodge, located on Lake Road and Everett.

The annual event is an opportunity to hear from local leaders about the state of Camas, its schools and what is happening with the Port of Camas-Washougal.

The event will be the final State of the Community for Mayor Scott Higgins, who has served as City Councilor and Mayor for 17 years.

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This year’s theme is “Celebrating Success.” Mayor Higgins’ speech will take a look back at the City, the changes that have occurred during his tenure, and exciting things that are underway.

The public will also hear from Camas School District Superintendent, Jeff Snell, whose administration avoided a teacher’s strike. It was the only district in Clark County to avoid a strike with the Camas Education Association, which is the local teacher’s union.

Snell will discuss the educational successes this past year, as well as the challenges that Camas Schools face in light of recent legislative changes to the funding model that affects all districts. He has been asking for parent support to deal with these upcoming challenges.

The event will be recorded and available for viewing in the weeks following the event at the City of Camas YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ33V5v1DNIF24opS3mevqg

 

Camas, WA — Longtime Vancouver resident, and retired credit union executive, Larry Hoff, a Republican, is running for the open seat in the Washington State Legislature’s District 18, position 2, which is currently held by retiring Representative Liz Pike, of Camas.

New to the world of politics, Hoff outlined the reasons why he’s running, which are as follows:

  • Common Sense
  • Education
  • Balanced Budget
  • Small Business Support
  • Transportation

Common Sense

“Our campaign has been received quite well by so many here in our area, and it’s a great honor to run,” said Hoff. “I really want to bring a conservative common sense to the legislature. I’ve been in business for 35 years and there are challenges as to how people are going to pay their tax bills these days. There are many pressures on taxpayers right now, and we need to look at things with a common sense lens, and not be so partisan. If it makes sense do it, if not, then don’t do it.”

To learn more his campaign, visit www.ElectLarryHoff.com

Education

“People are at each other’s throats right now,” said Hoff. “Is there a way we can bring our kids back into focus? We need to make sure the kids are a priority in our education discussions. I’m not the polished politician that comes up with lines. I was on the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation board, and I have a passion for kids. I just have a passion for the children. I’m interested in truly keeping them as a priority for us. I would rather meet with teachers directly, and I want to hear what the challenges are in the classroom. I would spend a day in the classroom to shadow teachers. I would more than enjoy that.”

Hoff said he’s been watching the outcome of the McCleary legislative fixes, and said he’s concerned about the impact, but says it’s too soon to draw conclusions.

Hoff

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“I’m not an expert on McCleary, but the legislation has been put to bed and blessed by the Supreme Court, and there will be course adjustments. I’m not sure the ship has sailed enough to make dramatic course adjustments. When the school districts feel there is an inequity they will address what they feel needs to be done — and we will listen.”

“The alternatives are the school district will ask for more money. Increasing taxes is not a good option. They will have to look at cost cutting. They will also see how this course proceeds and then make legislative adjustments. The levies are cut. I’m not sure now is the time to make dramatic moves. The influx of cash for has been drained through these last union negotiations. I would imagine the unions and districts have to see what is the longevity of this plan. I don’t see the children being mentioned a lot. We have to ask ourselves: ‘In all of these discussions what does that mean to the kids?’”

He said if he wins the seat, his objective will be to listen than to throw out political rhetoric, and will listen to the districts and see what’s been done in the past.

“I will understand the challenges and will listen to all sides. Right now, I believe the legislation has been enacted and we need to see how it plays out. I’m not the type of candidate that will sit here and promise you I have the silver bullet, but I can promise you is that I will lead us in the right direction.”

Teachers

Hoff is a big advocate of education.

Balanced Budget

“It’s not what you make, it’s what you spend,” said Hoff. “It’s a simple, but profound statement. The legislature needs to practice good financial practices — and they’re not. There’s no more appetite from the public for anymore tax increases. The Legislature has to live within its means.”

Small Business Support

Hoff has worked in small businesses for 35 years, and he sees the challenges they face.

“I’ve seen what regulations and taxes do to small businesses — L&I, B&O taxes, environment and all of the challenges builders have with those regulations are astronomical.”

He promises to be an advocate for small business.

Transportation

“We have to apply common sense to the transportation issues we face, and figure out the congestion/bridge issue, and we in the Legislature need to assist in that. Congestion, in general, is really bad on the Oregon side. We need to seriously discuss the topic of adding more bridges. We need to make decisions that are more than just answer today’s issues. I imagine the I-5 bridge issue is the most fixable one. You can replace it to eliminate some sense of congestion. But, if we don’t start making decisions for 20-30 years out we will fail the future. We failed 20 years ago when we didn’t make key decisions then.”

Listening

He did address the concerns he hears from school districts about the growing school levy issue.

“The people are justifiably concerned about this levy swap but it was a Supreme Court edict that attempted to equalize the funding model,” said Hoff. “The legislature crafted the legislation and it is now the law of the land. We understand there might be some course correction somewhere. I’m struggling with the course corrections before the ship even sails. Course corrections are increased taxes or decreased costs. School districts will come with several solutions. If indeed they recognize that there are some inequities they will present those to us.”

He’s taking a listen and learn approach.

“We make a mistake if we forget about listening and learning,” said Hoff. “I’m struck with the fact that McCleary has yet to be fully implemented, and we’re already wrestling with changes. It just seems to me that the Legislature did their work, and the Supreme Court did their work, and now we’ll see if their policy becomes as successful as anticipated.”

Hoff said he will look out for the taxpayer at every turn.

“We have to find other ways to resolve these financial issues,” he said “It’s always on the backs of the citizens. The Democrats want a state income tax. That’s not a good option.”

Background

Hoff has lived in the 18th district for over 40 years where he and his wife, Renee, raised their son, Tracy. Their son and their daughter-in-law, Helen, have one son, named Preston. Hoff grew up in a small North Dakota town where he worked on neighboring farms. After high school, he proudly served in the U.S. Navy, and after serving he obtained a degree in accounting from the University of North Dakota. Shortly after, Larry and Renee moved to Clark County, where he joined the Credit Union industry and attained the position of Interim President at Columbia Credit Union. He continued to dedicate a career to growing the financial health of the community, recently retiring as President/CEO of the $1 billion Fibre Federal Credit Union, after having left the credit union through 15 years of solid growth and expanded service offerings.

“I retired on January 1, 2017 and to tell you the truth I didn’t feel like I was contributing in retirement,” said Hoff. “I was searching for a purpose. I love my family and they keep me busy and fulfilled, but I wasn’t giving back to the community as I wanted to, and I learned Liz was retiring, and the position was open, so here I am.”

Is there a blue wave in Washington state?

Data from the primaries show a blue wave is coming, and that the GOP is worried about losing typically safe seats, including LD 18, Position 2.

“We were surprised by the primary results,” said Hoff. “Our effort is to work on promoting the positive parts of what we believe in — and working hard at talking to folks. I’m on the streets every day. I’m getting people to know who I am. I’ve called and knocked on 3,000 doors. We now have teams going on, and that will quadruple.”

We will feature Hoff’s opponent, Kathy Gillespie, a Democrat, on Wednesday.

Camas, WA — This Saturday, the Camas Athletic Boosters Club will hold its annual Tom Wallenborn Golf Classic and charity auction at Camas Meadows Golf Club.

This will be the 12th annual golf tournament and charity auction, which raises significant money for local athletic programs.

“Again this year it is a sold out field,” said Ryan Dickerson, of the Camas Athletics Boosters Club. “144 players are coming out for a fun round of golf supporting our local athletes. Last year, we raised a little over $58,000 and are hoping to beat this number this year.  The golf tournament is sold out but if people have any interest in coming to the auction portion of the afternoon please feel free to email us at camasboosters@gmail.com.”

Boosters

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Dickerson said community members are free to come walk around and enjoy the afternoon. The auction begins at 2:30 at Camas Meadows.

“We have many local businesses that have sponsored this tournament and many of the different sports teams have put together baskets and different items for the auction,” he said. “We have some great trips, vacation homes, football games, and reserved 50 yard line seats with parking at the remaining Camas home games.”

The boosters club has raised significant funds to assist Camas athletic program. Here is a list of grants awarded from the past three years representing $168,822.67 in grants:

Grant Amounts:

  • 2013-2014 — $36,150.00
  • 2014-2015 — $89,326.17
  • 2015-2016 — $43,346.50
  • Total so far for almost 3 years — $168,822.67

Donations will help the Farmer’s Market provide fresh, local produce to area families

CAMAS, WA — Members of 100+ Women Who Care Clark County will write checks to the Camas Farmer’s Market for their third nonprofit selection of 2018. The total amount should be close to $10,000 once all donations are collected from members.

Members of the local giving circle met Wednesday, August 8 at Salud! Wine Bar in downtown Camas. Camas Farmer’s Market Board Member and Vendor Kimberly Koch, who is also a member of 100+ Women Who Care Clark County, nominated the farmer’s market.

Koch said the market operates on a tight budget and that the donations will help fund Produce Pals, which is geared toward encouraging children to make healthy choices at the market, and Fresh Match programs for SNAP recipients.

Koch said she’s passionate about the efforts the market makes to make sure fresh, local produce is available to a vulnerable population in Clark County.

Farmer’s

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“Feeding our kids is the most basic, important thing to do as parents. Everybody deserves the opportunity to have access to healthy foods.”

Members voted to support the farmer’s market after hearing about two other Clark County nonprofits as part of the nomination and voting process. The other nominees were NW CAVE, a Vancouver, WA-based nonprofit assisting victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, and the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society.

100+ Women Who Care Clark County is a giving circle that meets quarterly. Members who attend are eligible to nominate local nonprofits to be considered for the quarterly donation.

Members commit to a $100 donation to the charity voted upon by the members at each meeting. Teams are also welcome to split the quarterly $100 contribution. Current membership is 120 women.

The next meeting takes place Wednesday, November November 7 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Salud! Wine Bar in Camas. There is an optional social hour before the meeting from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. More information is available at www.100womenclarkcounty.com.

Women

Gathering at Salud! In Downtown Camas.

Camas, WA — The Camas School Board held its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, where they listened to the Superintendent’s Report, discussed capital projects, dealt with normal business issues, and honored the Odyssey Middle School Tech team for their ingenuity, among other agenda items.

Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Jeff Snell honored the tech team at Odyssey Middle School for creating a fire alarm system that allowed them to start school on time. They dealt with a system that failed, and worked hard to configure their own fire alarm system that met city code.

“They worked hard to get our occupancy permit just in the knick of time,” said Snell.

Their work was extensive, and the Camas Fire Marshall approved their efforts just before school started.

School

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During the public comments time, Camas Education Association (CEA) President Shelley Houle spoke on behalf of her union.

“I speak to you today on behalf of the CEA, which is grateful we came to an agreement,” said Houle. “We had 391 members vote 100 percent for the agreement, which is the most that have ever showed up. We believe the McCleary promise has been fulfilled. Thank you for your part in that.”

Ken O’Day, a parent of child at Odyssey Middle School, publicly expressed his concern about what the McCleary legislation, and the recent teacher’s agreement are going to do the CSD budget, which projects budget deficits in 2-3 years. He feels the recent agreement is going to put CSD into a bad financial situation.

The board unanimously approved the updated Grass Valley Elementary School Handbook, which changed its dismissal procedure.

School

The Mill Town Pride Award

Superintendent Report

Snell reported that CSD is still in negotiations with CAEOP, CAP — the principals and classified unions.

“It’s challenging with the new funding model,” said Snell. “The reason it was so complicated is the complexity of the new law. In the short term we are OK, but without changes, we are facing uncertain times ahead. We talked about the challenge of having to work together. There will be adjustments. We will continue to plan, but when we look out 3-5 years, the math doesn’t add up.”

He continued.

“We’re at the whim and mercy of the legislature, and we need to be thoughtful of our planning, and look for efficiencies, and we need to advocate with the legislature. We are fortunate we worked it out. There are conditions that make it challenging for each district. We just need to keep thinking about where we’re at, and where we’re going. We need to hold our legislators accountable for the legislation they create. More to come on that. It’s a challenge.”

Policy Review Committee

Snell said he’s been part of the Policy Review Committee, and will work toward moving those items to adoption, which is a two-step process. Snell is a WASA legislative representative, and they presented their proposed legislative agenda, which includes levies, what to do with the new funding model, along with staff mixes, and fully funding special education. He asked the board to review the contents of that proposal.

The annual State of the Community will be next Tuesday, and Snell, along with Camas Mayor, Scott Higgins, will present a state of both the city and the school district to the general public.

The Jack, Will and Rob (JWR) Center has undergone program changes that are resulting in a successful after school program that financially sustains itself. Over the summer, JWR had 148 camps, which included seven brand-new camps, such as robotics and cooking, along with sports, math, and reading programs. More than 2,600 kids participated from the Clark County area.

Capital Programs

Heidi Rosenberg reported on expenditures from CSD capital programs, which include the new schools: Lacamas Lake and Discovery High School.

“We’re doing well and spending the money like we’re supposed to,” Rosenberg said.

Discovery High School is not totally completed, but it is operating.

“The learning stair at Discovery is constantly being used for something,” she said. “It’s like Christmas — something new happens every hour. It was a team effort to get it opened on time.”

She also reported that the Garver Theater Modernization will begin in 2020, which will make the theater usable again.

Steve Marshall’s team discussed what their doing to keep the district’s 14 buildings safe and operational. He reported that it requires 31 custodians, and that they completed water lead testing.

School

Heidi Rosenberg addresses capital program projects at CSD.

 

Vancouver, WA — More than 1,400 Evergreen Public Schools (EPS) teachers met Sunday afternoon at Evergreen High School to ratify their new collective bargaining agreement — by a vote of 1,455 to 4, or 99.5 percent approval.  The new two-year union deal gives teachers, on average, a raise of 11.5 percent, and gives starting teachers salaries $51,619 and veteran teachers topping out at $98,279 in year one. The year two salary range will be $53,474 to $100,618.

The new deal opens schools back up on Monday for Evergreen’s 26,000 students. It’s the largest school district in Clark County, and the second to last district to end a two-week long strike. Battle Ground still hasn’t settled.

“We are excited to be welcoming our students and staff back to school and appreciate the hard work both bargaining teams did in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement,” Superintendent John Steach said.

The Evergreen Education Association (EEA) struck a deal with administration leaders just before 3 am today.

Teachers have been picketing in front of their various schools for two weeks, causing major scheduling issues for parents.

EPS teacher, Hillary Axford, said the teachers were frustrated that a deal took so long. It’s been a very contentious few weeks.

“I don’t feel the district has been honest in these negotiations,” she said on Thursday.  “I think we’ll be one of the last districts to settle.”

All high school students who attend the Cascadia Technical Academy, which is run by EPS, need to report to classes as scheduled.

 

 

Washougal, WA — Nearly two weeks of a Washougal teachers strike came to end Thursday morning at Washougal High School as the Washington Association of Educators (WAE) voted 100% to approve the tentative agreement negotiators presented to them.

The two-year agreement gives Washougal teachers significant pay increases — 18% in year 1 (immediately) and 5% in year 2, and also boosts starting salaries to $51,434 in year 1. At the high end, veteran educators will receive a total compensation package of $96,944 in year 1 — excluding benefits. In year 2, the starting salary jumps to $53,005, and veteran salaries max out at $99,906. Funding comes from the new McCleary legislation that pumps $2 billion statewide, which is earmarked for teacher pay.

The compensation package consists of three areas: 1) Base pay; 2) Professional Development stipend, and 3) “Responsiblity” pay.

”We’re very pleased we came to an agreement,” said Eric Engebretson, WAE President. “We learned a lot about what the district faces, and we’re pleased to be able to provide this new package to our members. We all worked very hard on this.”

The often acrimonious bargaining sessions and tedious picketing tested energies and stamina on both sides. Wednesday evening both Engebretson and Dr. Mary Templeton, the Washougal School District Superintendent, appeared jointly in a video to report the tentative agreement.

Joint Press Interview: Templeton & Engebretson

“I am thrilled about the 100% ratification vote today,” said Templeton. “I think that signals strongly that we got it right. The contract has a lot of enhancement for salary, and that was our focus. That was our focus before we even started bargaining. We wanted to make sure we were regionally competitive, which was the common mission that both sides of the table had. We’re at a place where all of us feel very good about the contract and the salary enhancement. With regards to the budget, we always have to strike that balance between being regionally competitive around salary, but also making sure that you are fiscally sound over the course of one year, two years, three years, four years out. We’ve done that.  We are so excited to say we are recruiting teachers at a starting salary of around $50,000. We are also able to value our teachers who have been with us for many years to say we can compensate you at around $96,000. In year 2, we get really close to $100,000.”

During the interview, Templeton also said the deal doesn’t put WSD into a deficit, but that they will have to watch the budget very closely as they are reducing reserves from 16% on hand to 9%, which is how they were able to make the agreement work. By statute, they are required to keep at least two months of operating revenue on hand at all times.

WSD operates on a $44 million annual budget.

And, she addressed rumors that the district had $12 million in reserves.

“That’s simply not true,” she said.

Templeton will tour schools on Friday to visit students and teachers, and plans to substitute in the classroom at a future date. This is her third month on the job as WSD Superintendent.

 

 

Camas, WA — Camas School District (CSD) bucked the current Clark County teachers strike trend and started classes on schedule earlier this week. Negotiations between CSD and the Camas Education Association (CEA) started in May and ended on Sunday, September 2 — just ahead of the deadline that would have triggered a strike in Milltown.

Both sides agreed to a two-year deal that costs CSD $37 million in year 1, and approximately $38 million in year 2. The new deal gives teachers a 9.3% – 12.6% pay raise in year 1, which tapers off in year 2. Most breathed a sigh of relief, but this is really the beginning of the story about the impacts of the 2017 McCleary law, and how districts around the state are dealing with looming budget deficits — if nothing changes in two years.

During those negotiations, CSD alerted the public regarding the realities of future district budget deficits.

At their CSD School Board budget review session on August 13, budget forecasts revealed a 3.8% layoff projection, which was based on a pay raise of 3.1%. This is the reality of the new McCleary model. So, what does a 9.3-12% pay increase to do the budget? Our math also shows that CSD is going to have a $9 million budget deficit in 2-3 years. Here is a link to the budget forecast message at the August 13 School Board meeting, which predicts a 3.8% layoff in 2020-21:

August 13 School Board Meeting

We spent considerable time with Camas Schools Superintendent, Jeff Snell, and CEA Lead negotiator, Mark Gardner, about looming deficits. Politicians, political candidates, and others also offered their perspective on the new realities of McCleary — if left unchanged.

Kathy Gillespie, a political candidate for the 18th Legislative District, Position 2, recently said regarding the McCleary levy swipe/levy cap: “After decades of allowing schools to use voter-approved local special levies to pay for basic education expenses (violating the state constitution), including teacher salaries, the state swiped that money into the state budget, lowered the rate districts are allowed to ask for in future levy requests and restricted use of the money to state-approved expenses. This means many, many districts have lost capacity to fund current programs citizens expect. In fact, the loss is estimated to be 40% statewide and totals $1.13 billion in 2019-20.”

OSPI spokesman, Nathan Olson, says Washington will see a net decrease in funding in 2019 overall. The state solved the McCleary problem by reducing local districts’ reliance on local levies. But for many districts, it means the same or less cash, added Gillespie.

Added to the chaos is that each district has its own set of issues, and OSPI says certain districts will have it worse than others. Those districts, according to OSPI, typically have one of four qualities: 1) they already pay salaries near the state average, 2) they pay more for certificated staff than they were given by the state, 3) they didn’t get a pay bump for having experienced teachers, and 4) they’re losing 50 percent or more of their local levy capacity next year.”

Doreen McKercher, CSD Communications Director, says that Camas fits into those areas.

Gillespie continued: “Make no mistake, this chaos is a direct result of the inequities baked into the Legislative solutions passed in 2017-2018. The 2019 Legislature must uncover and systematically attempt to address shortcomings as the first order of business. Local communities must articulate their expectations to elected boards and representatives and remain engaged to advocate long after these local contracts are signed and school is back in session. I want citizens to be fully aware that decisions now to award salary increases over and above what can be sustained will potentially result in cuts as early as Spring 2019. I support our public schools and I am committed more than ever to being part of the new cadre of state legislators who will create sound policy that delivers the results we expect instead of creating the crisis we have now.”

State Representative Liz Pike, who voted against the McCleary bill, said “this is why I voted against it, because I knew it put too much stress on property owners with the biggest tax hike in state history, and that it would hurt school districts.”

Teachers

Camas Superintendent, Jeff Snell, at Prune Hill on the first day of school.

So, we asked Snell directly.

Did this new two-year deal with the teachers put us in financial jeopardy?

“Having an agreement with CEA is a very positive step,” said Snell. “This change in the funding model from the state has really created a whole new system for us to operate in. The old system really helped us, and now that’s been capped by the state. The total cost for the new contract, including benefits, is probably 12-13% over two years, which is aligned to the increased funding we received from the state. The challenge is down the road. When your organization is primarily staffing, costs will grow each year. When you look at the new funding model three or four years out, the revenue does not match up to expenses. That could be a challenge in the future if things don’t change.”

“It’s challenging for us in public schools because we always operate at the discretion or whim of the Legislature, and we operate in these two-year windows. We try to put all the resources to the students, but we also try to be thoughtful and think about the future. We have great facilities and resources, and we’ve also saved to open up new schools. For the next two years, we have to tighten our belts and look at efficiencies while protecting the programs we provide for students. We also know we have to retain and attract the best teachers, so we have to find that balance. This is why it took so long to get an agreement. I’m hopeful the state will make some necessary adjustments to the new model.”

Is this a gamble?

“There are always risks when you take on more costs for your employees,” Snell said. “You don’t go into a deal without having a plan for it, but we do need to find efficiencies and we do need to make sure the state understands the challenges of the new model.”

What are the risks?

“It’s challenging, I agree with you. We have to figure that out, which is why we pushed for a two-year deal. We need time to figure out the new system, and we need time to advocate. We’re a growing community and when we have increased student population that increases state revenue. There are a lot of factors in there. I love this school district, this is my home, and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that. It’s very real to me. I’m happy we’re able to come to an agreement. I know CEA understands the parameters we’re working with. CEA knows that if nothing happens from the state, we need to work side-by-side to figure this out. We have to do that with student interests first.”

Is there a $9 million CSD budget deficit looming?

“We could be entering a deficit scenario several years down the road, but we have a planned fund balance spend down, opportunities for growth in enrollment, tools such as hiring freezes, and working with our legislature to make adjustments to the new funding model and mitigate its impact,” said Snell. “It will be really important for our Legislature to look at the long-term plan for how this new funding model can be sustainable not just in Camas, but across our state. If nothing changes in two years, and you look at the way we’re funded in the district, something would have to change with that, because we can’t sustain that over time. We would have to make some cuts.”

“What’s important for our citizens to know is that we’ve used the former funding system to develop a staffing model that exceeded what the state has provided and has delivered to Camas,” said Snell. “For example, in Camas, 1.5 nurses isn’t enough for an entire district, so we’ve used local support through our levy to fund those needs. So, what this deal does is it gives us a window of time to better understand the new funding model and advocate for necessary changes. It’s important for the state to consider the staffing they provide local districts in the new model and recognize it takes more staff to get the job done. We don’t want to limit the local community. We have a four-year levy that was approved by our voters here, and the Legislature changed that. We were counting on more money from the local community, and that’s being taken away.”

Strike

There are many pieces of the puzzle to figure out how to get through the next two years.

How does CSD straighten this out?

“McCleary has been happening for seven years and many people have worked hard to advocate to where we’re at now, and changing a funding model is hard and it’s complicated,” said Snell. “I believe some of the ramifications of the new law weren’t intended, and as the Legislature comes back into session, it’s critical for me to share the impact that it’s having on our local community, and I could use your help in sharing that. To be honest, sometimes legislators get tired of hearing from me. They want to hear from their constituents. When you look at what we have here in Camas we want to be able to hold onto that. We want to keep innovating. We need to have sustainable funding.”

For his part, Gardner doesn’t think there are any budget problems.

“Camas is getting $11 million more than in previous years,” said Gardner. “State money will fill in the gaps.”

He told union members: “If anyone questions sustainability, just tell them Camas is getting $11 million more than last year.”

We asked Gardner if this deal puts the district in financial peril. He said, “No, it doesn’t — we would never want to do that.”

He said he coudn’t guarantee that, but added there needs to be advocacy to changes things in the Legislature, and that the union should work side-by-side with CSD administration.

“We have a wonderful school board that has done a great job of developing and sustaining a great school district,” said Snell. “We will find our way through this transition and continue to provide outstanding learning experiences for our students.”

Follow-up articles on looming budget issues are forthcoming, including how to advocate for special education funding, and state staffing ratios. Each article will analyze each issue, and propose solutions.

McCleary

Several CEA members avoided a strike.

Camas, WA — During Labor Day’s Camas Education Association (CEA) ratification meeting at Camas High School, 391 teachers voted 100% to approve their union’s tentative agreement.

The tentative agreement, which was reached Sunday evening, avoided a teachers strike and helped Camas buck the Clark County strike trend.

But, what’s in it? How long does it last? And, how does it affect the overall Camas School District (CSD) budget over the next two to four years? How does the McCleary law affect the CSD budget?

We spent considerable time with CEA lead negotiator, Mark Gardner, and CSD Superintendent, Jeff Snell to analyze the two-year deal, which is the first of its kind (for Camas) under the new McCleary public school funding model.

 

So, what’s in it?

  • Pay increases of 9.3 (minimum) to 12.6 percent for some at the top end. There has been a total overhaul of the salary schedule, which is based on experience and continued education credits.
  • Compensation structure changes: Changes TRI base, adds three voluntary inservice days, and a Personal Development (PD) flat stipend.
  • Creates longevity mentor stipend.

For year 1, teachers at the low end of the salary scale get a 9.3% increase, and those on the high end receive a 12.6% increase. In year 2, there is another 4.6% increase for the low end, and 2.6% for the high end. The total cost to taxpayers is approximately $37 million in year 1, and approximately $38 million in year 2.

Under the new model, CSD is eliminating most of the TRI pay and building that into the base salary. But the important points are total compensation.

Starting Teachers

The new deal will pay starting teachers, with a Bachelor’s degree, a total compensation package of $50,727 in year 1. So how does that break down?

Year 1 base salary: $47,431 + 3.3% TRI or $1,565 + 3 voluntary inservice days + Personal Development (PD) Stipend = $50,727, which is an overall increase of 9.28% over last year. Year 2 brings their total compensation to $52,868.

Experienced Teachers

Experienced teachers (16+ years), with a Master’s Degree fare better, and will receive a total compensation package of $97,528 in year 1.

Year 1 base salary: $89,339 + 3.3% TRI or $2,950 + 3 Voluntary inservice days + PD flat stipend = $97,529, which is a 12.6% increase over last year. Year 2 brings their total compensation to $100,110.

Teachers

The teachers left the CEA ratification meeting very happy.

The new deal also creates a longevity mentor stipend, which was a concept the district brought to the table. That’s how the negotiators were able to get to the six-figure salary offer for teachers at the high end. Gardner believed that CSD couldn’t get to six figures, as he insists the district is “over-staffed,” meaning they exceed the state standards for full-time employees.

“They are very common throughout the state, but Camas has never had it,” said Gardner, of the longevity mentor stipend. “Historically, teachers at 16+ years of service remain stagnant in their pay, so this is a way to reward them for their service. The longevity stipend offsets that. The district is shuffling some of that pool of money and rewarding those veteran teachers so we can retain and attract experienced teachers.”

Snell said that it was clear that a competitive top end salary was a priority for CEA and they had to be creative in finding a way to get there. The longevity mentor stipend is a different way to provide compensation that is not applied to the entire salary schedule. “We have an outstanding, veteran staff,” said Snell. “This was a way that the district and CEA were able to come together and figure out a way to honor the service they provide.”

“We did a top end stipend for longevity, which was a creative way to get there,” Snell said. “It gives us capacity in the future. Longevity mentor stipend is a separate funding source that got us to mirror other districts. We have veteran staff so it costs us more to apply to the whole schedule. We looked at the top end and figured out a way to honor them. It means that if you’re at the top end, it allows us to get to six figures.”

Veteran teacher Andrea McCarty is thrilled. We spoke with her right after the ratification vote.

”I’m so happy with this, but I’m still digesting the details,” said McCarty, a veteran Camas teacher. “It’s nice to know we’re appreciated.”

Teachers

Camas Superintendent, Jeff Snell, at Prune Hill on the first day of school.

 

Budget issues

The new McCleary funding model also brings with it serious CSD budget issues.

At their CSD School Board budget review session on August 13, budget forecasts revealed a 3.8% layoff projection, which was based on a pay raise of 3.1%. This is the reality of the new McCleary model. So, what does a 9.3-12% pay increase to do the budget?

Snell says the new two-year agreement gives the district time to come up with solutions, however, he adds “we have a tough road ahead under the new funding model.”

We’ve done a thorough analysis that shows major budget deficits in two to three years — if nothing changes. The data analysis has been backed by multiple third-party reviews. The next article focuses on public education funding in the new McCleary era, the size of those projected deficits, and will examine the very real challenges that CSD needs to resolve in the next two to three years.

Stay tuned.

For now, Snell is happy schools are in session, and he looks forward to resolving the challenges that are coming.