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Camas, WA — About 50 members of a local group called Open Camas Schools rallied for several hours today at the Camas School District (CSD) administration building and alongside Everett Street.

Their intention is to encourage CSD to start opening up more classes to in-person learning. Camas schools have been mostly closed to in-person learning since March, with the exception of special education and a handful of other students totaling about 600 district wide.

Open Camas Schools is a grassroots group of parents and some teachers who are greatly concerned about students falling behind academically, as well as the mental and emotional challenges emerging from continued isolation from peers, academics, and sports.

”I’m here to support Camas schools,” said Mike Hubbell, a concerned parent who helped organize today’s rally. “I want to see our kids back in school. I believe there’s a better method than how we’re currently teaching our kids — to sit and just watch a screen.”

Is the timing right now challenging given the lockdown?

“I think there’s always going to be challenging times,” he said. “When you look at the opportunity we are missing with our kids there’s nothing more important than our kids being educated. The biggest challenge is seeing my kids in sports, and how that’s affecting their ability to play sports, their ability to practice sports, and the whole camaraderie that people see when they play sports. Kids love to play with other kids. They’re missing out on those opportunities right now, and that’s a big part of what our lives are about. The hard work, the dedication that comes with that. Parents don’t get together anymore.”

He also said the schools are the hubs of community.

“The moment you destroy schools, you destroy sense of community.”

Mike Hubbell, Open Camas Schools

He’s also very concerned about the mental well being of students.

“Too much screen time is dangerous,” Hubble said. “What kind of message are we sending to our kids?”

Heather Wynn was also in attendance.

“We’re here as parents asking the district to hear us,” said Wynn. “Online learning is not working for many, many students for many reasons, not just academically. It’s harming them mentally and socially. So, we are here to say it can be done safely. Once the lockdown is over let’s get on this. Let’s get them back in school happy and healthy.

“We know this lockdown has put a damper on things, we’re not tone deaf, but we did plan this weeks ago. We’ve done car rallies, and we’re just getting nowhere with them (CSD Administration). They’re not listening to us. They are using one metric, and this metric is not meeting the needs of the children.”

What’s the metric?

”Case numbers per 100,000,” she said. “It has to be 75 or under and it’s the only metric they are using. They’re not paying attention to other statistics from other school districts that have been open. So, we believe all those things have to be put on the table. We are here to ask them to look at other schools who are doing it safely, even here in our local area. And, then make the decision based on that. Look at what the children are asking for. How many are failing? I personally know of two children — not in this area — who have committed suicide.”

Wynn wants CSD to open up schools once this current lockdown is over. She’s not asking all families or teachers to come back to school.

“I don’t want them to go against what they believe,” she said. “You can see people are saying we need these in-person options for our kids. We want our children to be better served. It can be done safely. They have the space in the buildings. Follow all the protocols. Do a hybrid model. To teachers we say we need you in the classroom.”

The Open Camas Schools Facebook page has 922 members as of this writing.

CSD Statement

Dr. Jeff Snell, Superintendent of Camas Schools, issued this statement today:

“We recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone and appreciate that the pandemic has affected all of our families uniquely.  We understand the value of in-person learning experiences and have been incrementally increasing the number of students served that way within the recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health.  We also value input from our community – students, staff, and families.  Last night, we held another town hall to engage the community in a conversation about remote learning, increasing in-person learning opportunities, and the current transmission rates in our community.  My hope is that we can rally together in our community and every other community on behalf of our students, drive down transmission rates and get all of our kids back in school.”

The Town Hall was virtually attended by about 200 people. Here are some resources CSD posted today from the event.

 *   Town Hall Recording<https://camas-wednet-edu.zoom.us/rec/share/AqkBv7RuEDngRF1nvRYEGVYeIuHBoenB9XZfh71nSsDPl86WtDLs95usXn3io9MZ.1oufgBhpi2iQ-bYU>
 *   Presentation Slides<https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1BGyVnno1sR-b_534495KBEkD9vU0IecvgLKX1t7fhzg/edit?usp=sharing>
 *   Thoughtexchange prior to Town Hall<https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/9f1740ee28e0a23b0b9b1ad48369f555> – read community members’ concerns and questions that we used to help plan the Town Hall
 *   Thoughtexchange during the Town Hall<https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/f8f583c4132ba1bf6002d3f6dc3e4ebf> – read participants’ questions and concerns captured at the end of the Town Hall Meeting.

Open
Open Camas Schools rally in front of the CSD Administration building.

Camas Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Snell, explains in today’s letter that Camas School District is one of eight Southwest Washington school districts to recommend at-home learning when school resumes for the 2020-21 season:

CSD Families,

We have been working this summer through all of the different scenarios for starting the 2020-21 school year with the goal of having students return to campus in some form. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new recommendations for schools last week which stress the importance of onsite experiences.  I think we all agree how important it is to have our students back on campus.   The CDC also suggests “Administrators should coordinate with local public health officials to stay informed about the status of COVID-19 transmission in their community.” The guidelines also advise us to monitor “COVID-19 transmission rates in the immediate community and in the communities in which students, teachers, and staff live” (CDC, 7/23/20). 

Unfortunately, conditions in our community are not trending in a positive direction.  We have been working with Dr. Melnick, director of Clark County Public Health, as a region to determine the best course of action for schools in our community.  As the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases continue to trend up in our region, it has become clear that the safest way to start the school year is a more robust fully remote learning delivery model.  The growth rate trends need to change in our community before being able to bring students and staff together on campus. Without those changes we risk rapidly spreading the virus between students, staff and throughout our community with the reopening of schools. More detailed information about our current trends in Clark County can be found at Clark County Public Health Novel Coronavirus.

What does this mean for my family?

Over the next four weeks we will refine plans based on this decision and begin communicating specific information to you from your student’s school.   We have taken student, staff, and family feedback from our experience last spring to provide a more robust remote learning experience for students.  

Our hope is to start to transition from full remote learning to a blended delivery model with some version of on campus learning as soon as possible.   The timing for this transition is dependent on regional health indicators.  Our learning delivery models stages are below.

School
www.annrivers.com

Learning Delivery Models Stages

  1. Remote Learning – all student participate in distance learning
  2. Remote Learning transitioning to Blended Learning – students identified through a set of district/school developed criteria in greatest need of additional support participate onsite with in-person instruction.
  3. Blended Learning – all students participate onsite with in-person instruction a minimum of two (2) days a week.  Transition to more on campus days for students as conditions improve.
  4. On Campus Learning – all students and staff participate onsite with in-person instruction five (5) days a week.

What if my student prefers a full online model regardless of the health trends in our county? 

If your preference is a full online model for your student, we have developed the Camas Connect Academy.  This program will not shift through the phases above.  It will stay online throughout the year.  It will operate as a separate school/program within our district with district staff and the same learning standards.  We will provide more information about the Camas Connect Academy in the coming weeks including a Q&A session prior to the enrollment window. 

What if I need emergency childcare during learning delivery models 1 through 3? 

We recognize that each family is in a unique situation and may need support.  We are trying to develop options for families in these situations.  Please contact us using this LINK

What if my family relies on school breakfast and/or lunch services?

We will develop a similar process to how we provided these meals in the spring during remote learning.  

We have all been on a rollercoaster ride since early March as we’ve collectively tried to manage through a very different world.  School is a big part of everyone’s lives.  We had hoped to provide you with a return to on campus school this fall.  Our staff is committed to provide the very best educational experience possible for your students no matter what the learning delivery model. It will not be without challenges and there will continue to be opportunities to improve.  We will continue to engage with our public health partners to help determine when we can safely shift to more on campus learning.  

Sincerely,

Jeff Snell

CLARK COUNTY, WA – The superintendents of eight Clark County school districts are recommending to their school boards that a return to school this fall should happen through an improved version of remote/distance learning. The recommendation is based on reviews of the latest health and science data on the Covid-19 virus, discussions with health department leaders and input from staff and families.

These are the eight school districts recommending remote/distance learning:  

  1. Battle Ground
  2. Camas
  3. Evergreen
  4. Hockinson
  5. La Center 
  6. Ridgefield
  7. Vancouver
  8. Washougal

According to state guidance, school boards must approve a district reopening plan two weeks prior to the official start of the school year and before any plan can be implemented.

“Clark County Public Health supports school superintendents who have made the very difficult decision to recommend starting the 2020-21 school year online,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s Public Health director and county health officer. “We all agree that in-person education is best; however, the data and science of COVID-19 suggest it’s just too dangerous to head back to the classroom right now.”  

“The virus growth trajectory in Clark County and our surrounding region makes it clear that resuming school in-person this fall could result in more widespread infections,” said Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Steve Webb. “That’s a risk we simply cannot take. Protecting the health and safety of our students and staff is our number one priority.”

A peer-reviewed study recently released by Seattle-area researchers for the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) concluded that the relationships between reopening community, workplace and schools are intertwined—as community activity rises, so does the level of infection within a community. Further, the study estimated that if community activity were to rise above 70 percent of pre-COVID activity, no amount of intervention in schools (masks, physical distancing and hand washing) would prevent the virus from spreading rapidly in the community. Additionally, recent data collected since the report was drafted indicates that levels of disease activity following counties moving to Phase II are too high to support the reopening of schools at this time. 

In preparation for the possibility of remote/distance learning, Clark County school districts have enhanced their remote/distance learning 2.0 plans. After receiving feedback from families and educators, districts have made the following improvements:  

  • Streamlining education apps and tools for more seamless content delivery,
  • Investments in remote learning infrastructure that support internet connections, updated devices and online-friendly curriculum for students,
  • Providing additional training on best practices for remote instruction to educators.

“Distance Learning 2.0 is an improved and more accountable model than the version experienced by families and students this past spring,” said Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton.  “Clark County educators are committed to ensuring students continue to make progress in their learning during the pandemic, and Distance Learning 2.0 reflects that commitment.” 

Clark County school districts also will follow requirements from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to:  

  1. Work with community partners to identify child care options for school-aged students whose families don’t have the option to stay home with a child each day;
  2. Address gaps in connectivity and technology access so each student has sufficient opportunity to continue their learning outside of the classroom;
  3. Continue providing school meals to the students who rely on them; and
  4. Utilize local data to determine which of their students need additional intensive learning supports, and provide those supports remotely if possible or in-person when that is the only effective delivery method.
  5. Have weekly schedules for each student, daily engagement or assigned work for each student, and requirements for daily attendance.
  6. Meet the number of instructional days and hours required in state law, consistent with the State Board of Education’s rules on the definition of an instructional hour.

“School districts will continue to work closely with public health departments to transition eventually to a hybrid learning model, which combines in-person learning with remote learning,” said Ridgefield School District Superintendent Nathan McCann. “The transition to in-person education will depend heavily on how much the virus is spreading in the community and the steps we take now to slow the spread of COVID-19.”  

School superintendents recommend using the Washington State Safe Start Phases as a framework for returning to in-person instruction. Phase III would enable districts to begin transitioning to limited, in-person instruction (a hybrid model of some in-person and some remote/distance learning). Phase IV would enable districts to adjust this hybrid model to include more students.

“We all play a role in stopping the spread of the virus and helping schools to return to in-person learning,” said Dr. Alan Melnick. “By wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distancing and washing our hands frequently, we can help get kids back in the classroom.”

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
Family Law • Business Law • Employment Law • Criminal Law • Estate Planning • Call today: 360.502.7022

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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!”

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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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