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Dr. Jeff Snell, Superintendent of Camas School District, recently answered several questions about that state of the district as it navigates this COVID-19 pandemic.

How has this transition from in-school to at-home learning been going?

Overall, I think we’re happy about the transition. We just had a two-day window to convert. We are learning a lot. Each teacher has learned a lot. It’s a work in progress.

Some things are working well, some are not.

You have to try and take risks to get to success. I’m glad that families and students are taking risks. The class meetings have been successful, and it’s good to see each other’s faces. The ability to record lessons and drive home key concepts is what we’re excited about. We are working toward personalizing things for students. 

For example, if a teacher is doing a math lesson and there’s a key concept about finding the Y intercept of the line that teacher can make mini-videos about how to do that. Students will then be able to go back and learn. During the school year, it’s hard to find the time to do that. This has created a pause to help make different building blocks to help them learn. They are thinking differently.

I think every teacher is working harder than they’ve ever been. You take a job you’ve done for 20 years and everything is flipped upside down.

What’s the status of Food Services? Are we meeting the need? 

We have a couple of separate programs going on.  One is our food services program through our schools.  They are serving breakfast and lunch to students through pick up locations.  The number of students we’re serving has grown each week as we find new families.  We have about 10 bus routes that deliver meals and our food service staff prepares those meals.  We have been averaging over 5500 meals a week and will top the 50,000 meal mark on Monday. 

We also have a food bank type of program going on at the Jack, Will, and Rob center.  Our community has stepped up and been so generous with their donations. Our current inventory is good, and the needs continue to grow.  We’ve receive money donations and have about 10-12 volunteer shoppers that go out and purchase items to keep the inventory up to date. 

What’s happening with graduation?

We are delivering a virtual graduation for June 12-13 for both high schools. We’ve been making a lot of other plans with students and parents, and we are trying to be creative by meeting those needs. Phase two gives us a little more flexibility. Depending on whatever phase we’re in we’re hoping to be able to scale up the activities.  Many have shared how important it is to them to walk across a stage and receive their diploma so we’re looking at a date in early August to hopefully be able to do that. We are also targeting Homecoming in the Fall to start some new traditions like a grad walk before a football game. We are trying to have multiple dates and opportunities so we can try to meet the needs of graduates and their families.

How has the pandemic affected the Camas School District budget?

We engage with our local elected officials and we’re on weekly webinars with the state superintendent, and from what they’re saying the budget deficit continues to grow. I think the next three to four years could be very difficult. Public education is more than half of the state budget. We’re at the mercy of enrollment and the state budget.  There could be a special session this year, and there will likely be an impact in the coming school years so it’s important for us to be thoughtful about our spending now and how we save for the future too.

I think everyone is a little worried about what the future holds. We try to do the best we can given the budgets we’ve been given. We want to maintain the staffing levels going into next year, because of the need of students.  It is likely that we will need to help catch students up a bit, and we’ll need each of our staff to do that, so our plan for next year’s budget is to really maintain our staffing levels.  The 2021 legislative session will be the first year of the biennium with new budgets that most likely will be impacted by the pandemic, so we could definitely have to address reductions at the state level in planning for the 2021-22 school year. 

What will Camas schools look like this Fall?

The state has set up a task force to address that and what they’ve been looking at is a range of seven models. They look at all spectrums from where we are now, and what it might look like in late August. They have told us in June we will get some guidelines from them, so we’re looking at these issues with leadership and staff. We will be having a Town Hall on June 4 to share some of our planning work and listen to ideas and concerns from the community.  We want to be thoughtful about planning for the future, recognizing how significant the events this spring have been for everyone.

What about mental health and supporting parents with at-home learning?

This is a really important focus for us.  We started off communicating with families a lot about the logistical what and now  we’re shifting to tips for conversations with students and more the how.  We’re learning a lot about what’s working and what’s not and we want to share that information. 

Regarding students in crisis: We ask teachers to reach out to each student and monitor how they’re doing.  If we don’t hear from them we’ve been trying do the phone call or even go and knock on doors to make sure everything is OK. Everything is amplified in the home.  It’s hard right now as parents are trying to figure out work, the future and help their students.  We are trying to pay attention to that. I feel like right now it’s pretty similar to what we were experiencing before. If it was on the radar before, it’s on the radar now. When you physically see students in the classroom you had a sense of the situation, but not virtually we don’t have that so we have to really pay attention to students who may be in need. 

We have a great staff; they’re working really hard. It’s been very challenging for everyone. We have the opportunity to re-invent. You see some kids flourishing in these challenging times. We will come through this as a better school district.

Snell is going on his fourth year as Superintendent of Camas Schools. To learn more what is happening in Camas schools, visit www.camas.wednet.edu

In his Friday update, Camas School District Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Snell, said the following:

Dear Camas Community,

It may be overstated, but we are in the midst of extraordinary times. Our staff is committed to supporting students and families as we work through the state-wide school closures.

Our school system is built on human interactions. Relationships that staff members form with students are critical to the learning process.  It’s not just about technology access, but access to staff members in the moments of learning to monitor and adjust instruction. It’s a new world with a new context for learning. We cannot replicate the experience in the classroom, but we can provide content and learning experiences in different ways.  Shifting to a remote learning system in two weeks while in the midst of a public health crisis is a great challenge for all of us. For the class of 2020, our focus is ensuring they graduate. For all other students, the focus is on making the most of the opportunity we have.

We want to help students grow in meaningful ways and be ready for whatever the next stage of learning looks like. Our staff is creatively embracing this challenge. Please be patient with them as they embark on this journey with your students.  Please help us by supporting your students as they engage in remote learning opportunities safely, responsibly, and respectfully. We also greatly appreciate your support in helping students find some structured time at home. We are all learners in this together!

Below is our school year, organized into the different sections we’ve experienced and will be experiencing. In each section, there is a high-level description of the learning and assessment provided during that time.  On Monday, April 6, teachers will be starting the next section of our school year. They will be connecting with you and your student(s). Our goal is to use the three weeks for meaningful learning and then transition back to school on April 27.  We are doing our best to lead through this challenge with flexibility, grace, and heart. As we have all seen over the past month circumstances can change quickly, requiring us to adjust plans, and making those leadership qualities essential. 

Please take care of yourself and each other.  We will continue to regularly provide you with updates.

Sincerely,

Jeff Snell, Superintendent

2019-20 School Year: Learning Activities & Assessment

9/3/19 – 3/13/20: Traditional learning engagement and assessment/grading practices

3/16/20 – 3/27/20: Transition time with the announcement of state school closures; staff members exploring and learning more about remote learning options; continuing the learning that was planned prior to the closure; making connections with families to assess student needs.

3/30/20 – 4/3/20: Spring break

4/6/20 – 4/24/20: Staff members will deliver learning designed to continue student growth in all subject areas. The primary focus will be on providing learning opportunities and meaningful feedback for students rather than grading. Staff members will document the level in which each student is involved with the learning to monitor progress, not in a way that negatively impacts grades.

While technology will be a key resource used in this phase of learning, other options will be available to accommodate students who have limited access to the internet. Staff members will continue to develop opportunities for students to engage with learning and demonstrate their understanding.

Staff members may enter scores into Skyward for tracking and communication purposes. Those scores will not negatively affect a student’s grade.

4/27/20 – 6/19/20: If we are able to return to school, staff members will help transition students back to school with opportunities for students to re-engage with learning considering their ability to access instruction during the closure.  In order to assess student learning, staff members will blend pre-closure and closure learning experiences to determine proficiency and/or grades. Students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning.

IF THERE ARE CONTINUED SCHOOL CLOSURES BEYOND APRIL 24: Staff members will continue to provide learning experiences, and will begin to shift to a proficiency-based assessment system of prioritized learning standards for students through remote instruction.  Students will be given multiple ways to demonstrate their proficiency.

High School:  Teachers will consider overall assessment in two phases: prior to closure and during closure in determining credit.  For classes that require a grade, we will determine a process that accounts for the extraordinary circumstances. We will also develop a process for students to recover credit and learning opportunities if they were unable to access learning during the closure.

Camas School District Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Snell, sent out an update today regarding the following issues as the district deals with life during the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Meals
  • Childcare
  • Graduation Requirements
  • Learning
  • Stories from Camas

Meals for children

We are providing free breakfast and lunch grab-and-go meals for all children, even if they are not yet school age, in our community. Here are the locations:

  • From 9-11 AM (it was 9-10 AM, but we’ve expanded it) at Liberty and Skyridge middle schools;
  • At our AM elementary school bus stops; and
  • Starting tomorrow morning, buses will be parked at Dorothy Fox, Prune Hill, Grass Valley, and Woodburn from 7:45 – 8:30 AM in order to provide service to students who live in walk zones and don’t have a bus stop. 

For more information about routes, please contact our Transportation Department at 360-833-5585 between 6 AM and noon.

Providing childcare, especially for families of healthcare workers or first responders

We are working to accommodate requests for emergency childcare in the questionnaire that went out Friday.  We are also trying to plan for additional requests as healthcare workers and first responders continue their vital services in our community.  

Graduation requirements

High school students, especially seniors, have the additional pressure of meeting graduation requirements and other related activities. OSPI and the State Board of Education are working to provide statewide guidance.  We’ll share information as soon as we receive it. We want to make sure we support high school students with their concerns throughout the closure and will be sending a message to them directly later this evening. High School Student Message, 3/17: (http://bit.ly/2UcEQRm

Learning

During these weeks prior to spring break, teachers will be communicating with students/families with the goal of assessing student access and needs.  That information will be helpful in our planning for learning after spring break. Teachers may also be continuing any learning that was going on prior to the closure when appropriate.  

Our Story

We are launching a site that I hope can become a place to connect called Stories from Camas (http://bit.ly/39XdAx2). Stories can create opportunities for us to come together.  They allow us to share experiences, discover common ground, be curious and interested in learning more about each other.  We are in the midst of a very unusual time where we don’t get to interact with each other in the typical ways. Perhaps coming together around stories can help us all.  During our school closure, this will be a hub for our collective stories. Check it out and send me any ideas at [email protected].  

Jeff Snell, Superintendent
Camas School District

The Camas School Board voted unanimously Monday night to approve Levy Rate Resolution 1902, which restores the 2017 voter-approved levy, and brings an additional $4.05 million in district revenue through 2021.

The levy calls for $2.15 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and becomes effective January 2020. The 2018 McCleary legislation cut the Camas School District levy authority in half, which contributed to budget deficits and staff reductions. In 2019, the Washington State Legislature authorized school districts to levy up to $2.50. The current levy is $1.50.

“If we stayed at $1.50 there would be no added revenue,” said School Board member, Connie Hennessey. “At $2.15, it brings in an additional $4.05 million, which puts us at the amount voters approved before McCleary.” 

School Board member Tracey Malone said “We have to be good stewards of the taxpayer money” while School Board member Erika Cox felt “very comfortable with $2.15.”

“We had authority by the state to go to $2.50 but we felt $2.15 honors what the taxpayers approved in 2017,” said CSD Communications Director, Doreen McKercher.

The board also voted unanimously to increase contingency funds for The Heights Learning Center Seismic Upgrade Project, as well as approve final acceptance of Energy Services Agreement for district-wide projects.

WSSDA Conference

The board spent November 21-24 at the Washington State School Director’s Association (WSSDA) Annual Conference. Superintendent Jeff Snell addressed topics learned at the conference, which include the following:

  • Budget process
  • Communication with community
  • Social emotional learning
  • Changes in law/requirements/procedures
  • Best practices related to inclusion, highly capable, pathways to graduation
  • Hot topics around the state
Levy
The resolution was unanimously passed by the Camas School Board.

Legislative Priorities

Snell also identified CSD’s legislative priorities:

  1. Continue progress towards fully funding special education: Ensuring students served through special services have full access to their basic education, continues to require the use of CSD’s local enrichment levy. Possible solutions are 1) increase the multiplier for each special education student; and 2) lower the threshold required to attain safety net funding.
  2. Sustain regionalization: Regionalization factors for some districts begin declining in 2020-21, 1% per year. It is unclear why this is the case, and this is challenging CSD give the cost per employee will continue to rise annually. Possible solution: Do not phase out funding using “regionalization” existing factors over time.
  3. Update staff allocation formulas: The staffing allocations in the Prototypical School funding need updating. Not only are schools staffed beyond the allocations in important areas such as mental health and safety, the cost of each staffing unit exceeds the funding received. This is particularly evident in funding school administrators. Possible solutions: Begin phasing in updated ratios to achieve more realistic state-funding staffing levels and increase funding levels to better reflect market rate for positions; and follow recommendations of OPSI prototypical workgroup.
  4. Monitor the impact of School Employees Benefit Board (SEBB): As the new employee benefits system is implemented, assess the additional costs for school districts and the impact of enrichment levies. Possible solutions: Fully fund the cost of employee health benefits for all eligible employees; and, if unable to fully fund employer costs, adjust eligibility to reduce costs and align revenues and expenditures for SEBB.
Levy
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Monthly Budget Report

Jasen McEathron, Director of Business Services, presented his monthly budget report. In the August 2019 Budget Status, preliminary vs. final, the numbers are: 

  • General Fund: Minor accrual adjustments
  • Revenues: August revenues increased about $118,000.
  • Expenditures: August expenditures increased $317,000.

September 2019 status:

  • Capital Projects Fund — LGO Bond revenues of $5.27 million were received to reimburse the fund used to purchase the Underwriters Laboratory property.
  • Debt service — normal 

October 2019 budget status:

  • General Fund: Local tax revenues of $3.62 million.
  • ASB Fund: Normal activity
  • Transportation vehicle fund — normal activity

Enrollment: 

  • Head count: 7,407
  • Basic enrollment continues at about 2.2 percent.
  • Running Start is up 10 percent this year.
  • CTE numbers are holding strong as well with over 7 percent growth in 9-12.

The CSD School Board meeting is held twice a month.

Shelley Houle, President of the Camas Education Association (CEA) answered several questions about the upcoming Camas School District (CSD) layoffs.

22 FTE positions are being eliminated. Have all 22 teachers been notified?

As Superintendent Jeff Snell said it looks like most of those layoffs will be taken care of through attrition. Nobody has been contacted about being laid off, which happens on May 15. Human Resources has those details.

How will these layoffs affect the classroom?

It’s still a loss of FTE so I do fear it will impact students when we have less teachers overall. Classroom size could be impacted, but it will still be below what our cap is. It’ll depend on enrollment.

Did the budget committee make enough non-teacher cuts?

I was only there for half of the budget committee meetings. What we discussed is there shouldn’t be cuts in just one place. There was a shared vision that this would be done equally. I had two other members from CEA that were there, Jenelee Hurz (Math TOSA) and Miranda Jarrell (teacher at Dorothy Fox). We weren’t there to represent any special school or class type, we were there to be part of it, to listen and learn and to advocate for our members, and to advocate against impacts that affect children. We weren’t there to save particular jobs, and we had a student-focused approach to it. We spent many hours in with the committee, and I feel like we were well represented.

I’m disappointed that we don’t know the impact to SB5313 (bill that increases school levy lid) yet. I would loved to have pushed the pause button and see the impact of that levy lid. The May 15 date affected our decisions. Maybe some cuts will be reversed when we get more money from the levy lid.

Layoffs
www.Arktana.com

What happens with the levy lid in 2020? Will that help CSD?

That’s where the SB5313 could increase the capacity to collect what is already approved. I think we’re all waiting to see what that means. I predict there’s the potential to collect $6 million more dollars, but we have to be careful about what we ask our constituents to do. CSD has some hard decisions to make. We hope we can the reverse the cuts to be able to increase FTE in areas where we feel some negative impact from loss of teachers.

CSD is waiting for direction from OSPI.

Is Camas above the prototypical model?

Yes, because we use levy money because we do more than the state funds.

Did CEA ask for too much in raises last year?

No, it’s what our teachers deserved — a professional wage. If we go all the way back to August, we assumed layoffs would happen. This is because we go above and beyond the prototypical model. We want all of our members to stay and earn the wage for the work that they do.

Editor’s Note: This is what CEA Lead Negotiator, Mark Gardner said on September 3, 2018 regarding layoffs: https://youtu.be/Lu4DGMN5rl He didn’t think there would be layoffs but was concerned CSD was above a sustainable teaching staffing level.

Houle continues: The state really pulled a big one by changing the funding model. It really created a challenge for everyone to figure out how to best make it work. We would have loved an increase in special ed funding. You’re not fully funding education if you don’t fully fund special education. Jeff and I had shared Legislative priorities — funding for safety positions like counselors and nurses.

It was interesting going up there. I think progress was made in several of the bills. Delinking 10th graders passing the state tests was a good thing. They didn’t make complete fixes, though. Some needed changes were made like SB5313 with the levy flexibility will help many districts.

The number of 22 layoffs was not surprising to me because we did need to stay close to prototypical.

We’re all in this together. I feel that PSE (classified staff), CAEOP, and CAP (Gary Moller) are all part of this. We have a shared vision in that we wanted our students to be minimally impacted by those decisions.

The lingering effects of the McCleary legislation and subsequent “fix” are leaving school districts across the state with massive budget deficits, and Camas is no exception.

Camas School District leaders have been very public for the past year that the new state funding model would have draconian budget effects, and CSD Superintendent Jeff Snell reports the district is officially grappling with an $8 million shortfall in the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

“An $8 million deficit is the reality,” said Snell. “Layoffs are coming. There has to be a reduction in force, there’s no way around it. We will send notices out on May 15 for certificated staff, and June 1 for classified staff. Sometimes you have to over-inform people that they may not have a job.”

Snell wishes this wasn’t the case, and regrets having to layoff valuable employees.

“This is just the model that we’re in because of the timing of the Legislature,” said Snell.

To deal with the upcoming shortfall, CSD is taking several actions now, which include tightening the belt, and organizing a community-based budget committee.

Tightening the belt measures:
• Reduced non-staff budgets (supplies) by 3%.
• One-year contracts for any new district employee hires.
• Cabinet raises start mid-year.

Critics say more needs to be done before laying off teachers and staff. The budget committee meets regularly to work out considerations which will be presented to Snell at the end of April. Snell will then review those considerations, and make recommendations to the School Board.

Camas School
Camas Superintendent, Jeff Snell, discusses legislative updates.

“They’ve been working hard and report to the School Board about progress,” said Snell.

“These seem like logical steps to take when facing tough budget decisions and are areas that do not impact student learning,” said Shelley Houle, president of the Camas Education Association (CEA).

CEA will be working closely with CSD during the layoff process.

“CEA works closely with management and follows a process that is set in our current bargaining agreement,” said Houle. “Ultimately CSD makes the final decisions, but CEA makes sure the process is followed.”

So, what is that process?

“There is a seniority factor found on page 39 of our contract,” said Houle. “The first step, though, is for the board to adopt a reduced educational program. Then there are steps to make sure that remaining positions will be filled by educators with the proper certifications, endorsements, and/or licenses. This section is quite detailed, but must be decided before looking at seniority. Then at the top is seniority in Washington State, followed by Camas School District, and then years in the profession. Following that is credits earned beyond BA or MA, flexibility of certification, and then lottery.”

During bargaining sessions last summer, lead CEA negotiator Mark Gardner dismissed talks of layoffs, claiming they were district scare tactics aimed at denying teachers the full promise of McCleary.

So, should CEA have settled for the 4 percent raises offered early in the negotiations? Is CSD misinterpreting the law?

“2019-20 was projected to be a dip year when levy changes were being felt the most and districts are planning on how to manage that,” said Houle. “McCleary significantly increased public education funding including money for compensation. The state was not doing its paramount duty. Legislation passed that greatly changed the structure of funding. I wouldn’t call it a misinterpretation. Districts must now restructure and reprioritize based on the new model.”

Camas School
CEA at their general membership meeting in August 2018.

If the new model ends up laying off teachers all over the state how is that helping things?

“I can’t make a hindsight decision on our negotiations,” said Houle. “We bargained on the current conditions for the increased funding that McCleary provided. The state had failed in its paramount duty which included compensation. With a new model comes a shift in how money is spent. We have a teacher shortage in our state and country. With increased compensation comes better recruitment and retainment. But first, budget decisions have to be made. We hate to see any reductions in staff because we value our colleagues and the important work they do every day for students.”

So, knowing the new model would result in layoffs, of which they were very transparent, why did CSD agree to last year’s CEA settlement?

“There were very strong political forces at play, financials in a new model, and we were still trying to understand the impact of the new model,” said Snell. “There was a massive infusion of cash and as those come out you try to come up with solutions that are going to work. And, we felt it was our job to get classes started on time. Teachers needed to be teaching.”

“These are the realities. When you look across the landscape, our raises were consistent with other districts. You have to have a workforce that’s competitive and is compensated fairly. We feel like we have a great staff, but we also have this big conundrum we’re trying to work through. Trying to be very thoughtful about the entire problem. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve been given. Because the models change, either the Legislature has to do things differently, or we have to make major cuts.”

Camas School
Camas School Board at a recent meeting.

He said the process doesn’t just happen with one decision point.

“It’s an incredibly complex new funding model, and it took several months to really understand it,” said Snell. “I care about our schools and staff and I want the best for everyone there. I try to be as transparent as possible, and that’s why we started the budget committee. You walk this fine line of is that it’s so complex it’s really hard to explain.”

Senator Ann Rivers said the problem with the legislation is that it put all the money out in one lump sum.

“When we agreed to the bill it was meant to release the funds over time, in a more gradual way, but they changed it at the last minute, and all these billions went out at once,” said Rivers. “It was like dragging a doughnut through a fat farm! Everyone wanted a part of it, and suddenly the Washington Education Association (WEA) started talking about 25 percent raises — and it wasn’t true.”

Rivers said once the unions put that out about 25 percent raises, it galvanized their membership, and pushed them to issue strike threats.

“The WEA misled their teachers, the public, and some school districts felt like they were extorted — forced to give teachers raises they knew they couldn’t afford.”

Did Snell feel like he was extorted?

He said no.

“I have a role to try to find balance and see our workforce costs and compare them to what we need to offer,” he said.

And, Snell also discussed the complexities of budgets in this new funding model.

“Budgets in public schools are very challenging because you don’t know what the revenue is from the Legislature,” said Snell. “We can see right now there are all kinds of bills out there that can change things. There are changes but it’s within a similar structure. The challenge has led to confusion and different interpretations and you see negotiations that are really challenging. You have a Legislature that is still wrestling with this.”

Did the McCleary legislation unintentionally create more harm than good?

Eric Engebretson, president of the Washington Association of Educators (WAE) said the Washington Education Association (WEA) played a key role in pushing the Supreme Court decision and in lobbying for the legislation that is causing today’s havoc.

“The legislation had good intent, but it also has a mixed message,” said Engebretson. “It’s not as clear as we would have liked to have seen. It’s tied the districts hands in some ways, it’s tied the union’s hands in some ways … some think it’s pass-through money and others say they can do what they want so we hope that everything gets revisited soon …”

Snell said the teacher’s unions are about taking care of the teachers.

“If you have a union that’s responsible for wages for your group, then you need to change the model for more capacity,” said Snell. “The WEA forced the system to change the model. They created a crisis in the system that then prompts increased funding, that’s what the McCleary decision did, and so it disrupted this system and created a new system. I don’t know if WEA is worried about the system. They care about their teachers. The WEA is in charge right now. I understand there are forces at play with different interests.”

Snell calls it a conundrum.

“Raises caused this problem, but raises also retain amazing staff members,” said Snell. “Here we are. There’s a deficit. We’re trying to make good decisions. Good decisions are always challenging.”

Houle said, “The WEA’s mission is to strengthen public schools. And yes, the legislators need to continue fixing the law and decrease the havoc!”

Camas School
Camas High School 2018 Graduation ceremony.

Can this be resolved before layoffs happen?

Eighty-six percent of the CSD budget is personnel, and with the need to cut $8 million during the next school year, it’s likely dozens of teachers and staff will be laid off — if nothing changes.

“The legislature is listening. They talk about levy, about special education funding, and increasing that to help balance things,” said Snell. “The Governor’s budget has relief for us, but that’s just one component. What are the changes to the model for the 2019 year? We don’t know.”

Houle is spending today in Olympia.

“I am meeting with other WEA political action committee board members for a legislative update and for more training,” said Houle. “I was up there on Presidents’ Day lobbying and will be doing so again later this month. All in all, we want schools to remain a safe place for our students to learn. CEA will continue to lobby for increased special education funding, levy flexibility, and increased funding for safety (counselors, nurses, etc).”

With layoffs looming, was it right for the School Board to give Snell a 5 percent raise?

The school board approached Snell with a 5 percent raise offer, from December on.

“In my mind, it’s 3.1 percent because it started mid-year,” said Snell. “I have a $163,000 base salary. It’s an important job.”

What’s next?

Snell said the district leadership will be working closely with union leadership and talking to them about the process, and trying to be as transparent as possible knowing that it impacts the CSD fund balance. He said it’s essential to start to change the model, and that expenditures need to line up with income.

“What happens next is the committee develops considerations for me, and I will develop a budget and present it the school board,” said Snell. “This will happen at the end of April with the Legislature and we’ll then do our best guess to speculate what the Legislature will do, and then we’ll formally adopt it in August. Before all that, we have contractural obligations and we have notification dates for employees.”

“Non-personnel cuts includes supplies, travel, utilities, gas, buses, contracted services through special education,” said Snell. “There’s a lot there. We would probably look at a percent applied to those things. We need to realize savings to those costs. Look at extracurricular expenses, which are paid through levy and student fees. Do we hold those? In the short term, I don’t want to make decisions that remove programs. Our desire is to maintain programming. In year two or three if you see the revenue is not coming then you might have to reduce programming. Regarding buses, we try to keep on depreciation cycle because we get funds from the state.”

Camas, WA — Following last year’s historically significant and what many call flawed school funding legislation, known as “McCleary,” which led to teacher’s union strikes, months of intense labor negotiations, and projected budget deficits, school districts are navigating their way through it now — and are dealing with unique financial realties.

Vancouver Schools last week reported an $11.4 million budget deficit and they are taking measures to deal with it. Camas is dealing with the similar issues, but on a smaller scale — $3.2 million. Districts across the state are in the same boat.

“The way McCleary is written, it leads to a lot of local interpretation, and it’s creating chaos in school districts all over the state,” said Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent, Jeff Snell, last August, at the height of labor negotiations. “We’ve been warning residents it will create budget deficits in Camas, which will result in cuts.”

At the time, Camas Education association (CEA) lead negotiator, Mark Gardner, a Hayes Freedom teacher, said Snell’s statement was a “scare tactic.” Gardner didn’t believe a deficit would materialize, and said Camas hires more staff than the state mandates.

Senator Ann Rivers said the law was designed to create equity over time, but what happened at the end of the session is that it took out the steady ramp-up in funding.

”All of the structure and guidelines that we put in were removed,” said Rivers. “So when that happened it became a big pot of money and all contracts were opened up. That’s where the strikes came from. I hope not to offend any of you, but this big pot of money was like dragging a doughnut through a fat farm. People dove in and they wanted it, and then you had the union reporting a 25 percent increase in pay, which was not truthful. Then other teachers saw that, and they wanted it. It was all based on mis-information. There was never a 25 percent increase, but that became the standard, so all of the structure that would have involved a steady ramp up was removed.”

Gardner’s perceived “scare tactic” is now reality, as CSD Budget Director, Jasen McEathron, stares down a $3.2 million deficit in 2019.

“I think we all have a good idea of what’s on the horizon,” said McEathron. “Cuts are coming. Next year, we’ll dip into reserves.”

McEathron has been warning the CSD School Board for months, and Snell has been warning the public since last Spring of McCleary’s impact.

“The CSD board established a budget in August based on best information we had at that time,” said McEathron. “Subsequent to passing that budget different labor contracts were settled. We’re analyzing that now, and looking into what kind of budget extension will be required.”

He continued: “Looking ahead to next year and beyond under the current funding formula we see the need for adjustments. That’s why we’re having the superintendent budget committee, which includes our labor groups, PTA, PTO, school board, co-chairs Mary Tipton and Mike True (CPA), Boosters, CEF, three members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), and three community members.”

In total, 25 people are meeting every other Tuesday beginning January 15 at 5:30 pm at JDZ Conference Room B. These meetings are expected to last four months, and they are open to the public. Tuesday’s meeting was more about background and “how we got here,” said McEathron.

Their objective is to create a set of considerations for Snell on how to best manage the budget deficit, and look to the future.

“It’s designed to bring a diverse set of stake holders to gain a better understanding of district finances,” said McEathron.

Doreen McKercher, CSD’s Communciations Director said: “We want create ownership and have these committee members be there for three years. We identified groups and then invited them.”

Adding to the mix is the current labor negotiations with the Camas Association of Educational Office Professionals (CAEOP), which is in their second mediation, and represents 34 staff members.

CSD didn’t get into CAEOP negotiations until after teacher’s negotiations were completed. Following that will be contract negotiations with the Public School Employees (PSE) union, which is for all Classified staff: bus drivers, custodians, maintenance, para-educators.

“In the February or March timeframe we will do a budget extension,” said McEathron. “We will have to dip into reserves, and the amount hasn’t been determined. Legislatively, we do have priorities for the region, which is through ESD112, and we will be advocating for changes to the funding model, and one of them will be special ed funding. We have seen in the Governor’s proposed budget they are suggesting changes to levy limits and increasing those. Both take a nuanced approach to that. We want clarity around regionalization, from our perspective it doesn’t make sense that we need it, but then don’t need it in two years. So, we have some funding factors, with state funding going up at an inflationary factor of 2 percent, but then it’s offset.”

Town Hall

From left: Representative-elect Larry Hoff, Senator Ann River, and Representative Brandon Vick. Local education leaders plan to address funding concerns with elected officials.

Some districts in the state qualified for enhanced funding to compensate for the experienced staff that they had. Camas, which has a veteran teaching staff, didn’t receive that enhanced funding. They will seek additional funding there.

Gardner said he expects Shelly Houle, CEA president, to work closely with Snell to lobby local legislators to address holes in the legislation.

At the end of the CEA teachers contract ratification meeting last September, Gardner said: “One of her goals [Houle’s] is to march shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. Snell to let legislators know exactly what their inaction or pantomime action has done to districts throughout the state, that’s one of her goals …”

On the Washougal side, their Washington Association of Educators leader, Eric Engbretson, said “the McCleary legislation was originally funded by the WEA and some of the state unions to get that decision passed to fully fund education to fulfill the constitutional mandate by the Supreme Court … but with that they had good intent, but what came out was not a mixed message, but not as clear as we would have liked to have seen, and I think it’s tied the district’s hands in some ways, it’s tied the union’s hands in some ways, so that could have been part of the issue for some of the tensions, but we fully believe this is pass-through money, other districts are saying ‘no, no, no we can use it how we want’ so we hope that this gets revisited soon so we don’t have to do this again.”

Going back to Camas, there’s also been a lot of talk about attrition, said McKercher.

“It seems unlikely we’ll have to manage budget deficits through attrition alone, so the budget committee will come up with considerations to the Superintendent,” she said.  “Logistically, the Superintendent is charged with providing a budget to the school board for their approval. The committee makes the considerations. The School Board will be present at the budget committee meetings.”

The budget committee will look at attrition, but they’ll also have to see where they can cut three to five percent, and they’ll have to find answers to several questions:

  1. What are the tough decisions for the long-term?
  2. How do we continue to serve a growing community?
  3. How do we be innovative while meeting the expectations of the community that have grown over time?
  4. Where will we be in 20 years?
  5. What are the infrastructure requirements to support a growing population?
  6. What are the required funding amounts to open new buildings in the future? Camas doesn’t get funding from the state to open new buildings. A lot of research goes into specifications for those new school buildings.
  7. How many more schools will be needed to serve a growing population?

“We’ll have a budget extension of the current year, and then for next year they will need to set staffing in April for next year,” said McEathron. “Middle of May is the deadline for CEA.”

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Camas, WA — At Monday’s Camas School Board Meeting, Jason McEathron, Director of Business Services for the Camas School District (CSD), addressed the $3.2 million budget deficit the district faces in this current school year, and his plans to form a budget committee to resolve the issue.

“The anticipated budget deficit is $3,212,141 by end of this school year,” said McEathron. “Expenditures are also trending above our initial budget. Labor costs are higher than expected at $4.9 million.”

He said the fiscal issues are primarily a result of the new funding model mandated by the State Legislature — issues that CSD has been open about for months.

Other contributing factors are headcount (which is 2.7 percent higher than budgeted) and Running Start (which is 25.5 percent higher than budgeted).

CSD warned in August that a 3.1 percent teacher pay raise would create deficits, and likely cause layoffs in 2-3 years. Teachers received 9.3 – 12.6 percent pay increases in their negotiated settlement, which last for two years.

At the time, Camas Education Association (CEA) negotiator, Mark Gardner, called it “a scare tactic by the District.” CSD Superintendent Dr. Jeff Snell defended the numbers and has been meeting with schools and the public for months alerting them of the projected deficit. The new funding model cuts the CDS levying capacity by 50 percent, which will result in a nearly $5 million loss within 12 months.

McEathron said expenditures currently outpace revenues, but this is typical during start-up of a new school year. A full end-year report is due by the end of this week.

“We are looking for other areas to sharpen the pencil to adjust the budget,” said McEathron. “We will work to shrink the deficit down. We can’t dip into fund balance because that’s not sustainable.”

To address the deficit, McEathron is creating a public budget committee.

“So, we really want to have a budget committee that involves stakeholders,” said McEathron. “Let’s shed the light on this and let’s work together as a community. We will do this together.”

He said other similar districts across the state are dealing with these same issues. The state is currently $600-900 million short of fully funding education statewide, and that will hit in the 2019-20 school year.

The district will be on the front end of dealing with the state budget, and will work with OPSI, the Governor’s office, and the Legislature, which McEathron said is dealing with a McCleary hangover.

State Representative Brandon Vick, LD-18, responded to the issue in a private interview at the Camas Youth Advisory Council Candidate (CYAC) Candidate Forum.

“The Legislature feels we’ve done our job by fully funding education as mandated by the Supreme Court,” said Vick. “There isn’t much appetite right now to address this. I voted against the bigger McCleary law because I knew it would cause this problem, but I did vote for the fix, which we passed earlier this year.”

About 30 minutes later, Vick publicly said the following at the forum:

“We dealt with McCleary. I voted against the first law. McCleary is a big bill. Does McCleary get the job done? The answer is yes. This was a very good piece of legislation. I think what we did made a lot of sense. We funded McCleary to those salary numbers that were recommended.”

Candidates at the forum were asked about McCleary, and several citizens responded afterward that they wished the candidates for the State offices would have had more to say about the issues the legislation is causing.

McEathron expects to have the CSD budget committee started in November.

 

Deficit

CSD is forming a special Budget Committee to address a $3.2 million deficit.

Camas, WA — At their latest meeting on Monday, the Camas School Board heard from administrators and teachers who discussed major issues, including a bus driver shortage, a comprehensive math study, and budget cuts.

In their Board Communications session, board member Tracey Malone, who also serves on the board of the Cascadia Tech Academy, reports that Cascadia still isn’t getting funds from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and that the academy leaders are very frustrated. She said certain portions of the academy need renovation. Cascadia provides technical learning experiences for students from all Clark County-area high schools.

Superintendent’s Report

Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Snell, said they are awaiting their first bargaining session with the local principal’s union. When those sessions are completed, CSD will be able to report a more exact annual budget, and report more details on four-year forecasting.

Snell reported that he spoke with State Rep. Paul Harris, who said he’s very concerned about the small school districts — and that they are nervous about financial sustainability past one year under the new state school funding model.

“There’s a lot of angst out there,” said Snell. “Harris said there is more legislative work to do.”

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Snell added: “We have major challenges with recruiting and maintaining bus drivers. It’s becoming a safety issue, and we need to do something about it. Our pay is lower and our bus driver contracts are tied to that. We need to align pay with Evergreen and Vancouver. It’s affecting transportation to athletic events in other districts, and we have mechanics driving now. It’s a fun place to be (as a bus driver), but these are unique hours. It’s a big complex problem that doesn’t have easy answers.”

Snell said he continues to attend staff meetings to reinforce the message about budget impacts from McCleary.

Math Track Study Update

Dr. Charlene Williams kicked off a conversation about a Math Track Study, in which she hopes will gain support and momentum.

Williams explained the purpose:“Camas School District’s Problem of Practice and Theory of Action are aimed squarely at building the conditions and capacities to ensure that each student is seen and served. Ultimately, our goal is equity, and we will know we have met that goal when the factors that predict any student’s success or opportunity are no longer correlated with any group identity.”

Board

Dr. Charlene Williams explains the study’s timeline.

Dean Strawn addressed tracking and acceleration.

“Tracking places students into different levels of the same course, with the levels identified by tags such as honors, advanced, regular, or remedial.”

Acceleration provides opportunities for students with exceptional mathematical promise, and educators want to ensure that opportunities are available to every prepared student and that no critical concepts are rushed or skipped, Stawn said.

As new common core curriculum enters secondary schools, they are launching this study in our community to address concerns from teachers, families and students about our current math tracking system — and specifically they are addressing a perpetual cycle of math anxiety.

Cycle of Math Anxiety

Lack of confidence > Math anxiety > Avoid math > Poor performance is the cycle that educators see — and it’s one they’re trying to break.

“We have seen the benefits of tracking a small percentage of students who meet or exceed the acceleration expectations,” said Stawn.

CSD teacher, Jenna Lee Harrison, said she learned a lot from math issues affecting San Francisco Unified School District.

“We learned a lot from San Francisco, and we can glean a lot of things from them,”Harrison said. “What is the current research? Marginalized groups fall into lower math tracks. We need a rich math environment for every one of our students.”

The CSD Board agreed to proceed with the study, which will last through the school year.

Monthly Enrollment/Budget Update

Jasen McEathron discussed enrollment and said a revised budget is in progress.

He said the new CSD enrollment headcount is 7,243, which is 2.3 percent higher overall than budgeted, and that the largest growth this year is in 5th and 6th grades. Kindergarten enrollment is the smallest at 458. First and tenth grades were the only grades below budget.

“We have to continue to be diligent in looking at the demographics in the community,” said McEathron. “We need to take a closer look at the number of kids who have left and those who we’ve accepted on boundary exceptions. Special ed is tracking below budget.”

Budget Outlook

  • McEathron addressed the following during his presentation:
  • CSD is expecting a budget extension will be necessary for 2018-19 to accommodate the additional cost of the CEA contract (teachers union).
  • The revenues from enrollment growth, cost avoidance measures, and fund balance will be used to cover the additional cost in 2018-19.
  • Immediate measures to curtail expenditures include 1) non-personnel cuts of 2%; 2) all new hired positions are temporary/one-year that are historically hard to fill.
  • More significant changes will be necessary for 2019-20.

Board

Math Study

Camas, WA — At the eleventh hour, negotiations between Camas School District (CSD) negotiators and the Camas Education Association (CEA) ended in a tentative agreement — to avert a strike — that will be voted on by union members Monday, September 3, at Camas High School.

“We’re very excited, said Camas School District Superintendent, Jeff Snell. “We are grateful we could find common ground and move forward.”

During our interview with CEA President Shelley Houle, she said: “Just in time for Labor Day, CEA and CSD achieved a Tentative Two-Year Agreement that brings total individual educator compensation in year one ranging at entry from $50,727 to a maximum of $97,529 for educators with 16 or more years of experience as well as a Master’s Degree plus ninety college credits. The salary range in 2019-20 is from $52,868 to $100,110 with 15 or more years of experience and a Masters plus ninety college credits.”

Please see our in-depth YouTube interview with Houle: Interview with Shelley Houle

The CEA will be meeting for a private association meeting to review and ratify the full Tentative Agreement on Monday (Labor Day), September 3rd at 5 pm.

Snell can’t speak to the details until the CEA ratifies the agreement, but said he’s very pleased they arrived at a settlement before the new school season begins on Tuesday.

“We came to an agreement around the parameters that CEA wanted,” said Snell. “We know it’s going to be hard in the future. It’s going to be hard because of the new state model. We really tried to mirror those demands fairly. I feel good about it. The details will come out tomorrow. Camas bucked the trend in Clark County.”

He said each district is very unique.

“We are just fortunate we came to an agreement on both sides,” Snell said. “We hope other districts will get it done, as well. What happens is they ratify and the School Board will approve the next contract at their next board meeting. Districts around the state are starting to move a little more, which will create a lot of energy.”

Details of the settlement will be revealed Monday evening.