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Editor’s Note: School Board acquires Underwriters Laboratories site for future educational programming funded in part by impact fees. Funding for this property purchase comes from funds not part of the Camas School District operating budget.

At its regular meeting on June 24, the Camas School Board approved the purchase of Underwriters Laboratories, located at 2600 NW Lake Rd, Camas, for use in educational programming. Centrally located in Camas, the nearly 58 acre parcel and 115,000 square foot building are tax assessed at $19.5 million; the District will purchase both for $12 million.

Funding for the purchase will come from a variety of sources:

  • $3.3 million in impact fees: Impact fees come from private dollars (typically from construction companies and developers) as new homes and neighborhoods are constructed. School districts receive these fees because of the impacts new developments have on communities. These funds are currently sitting in a CSD bank account to be used only for capital projects and improvements. Annually, CSD receives $500,000 from impact fees.
  • $3.7 million from the District’s capital projects fund: This is bond money set aside for property acquisition, which is currently in the CSD capital fund bank account. These monies remain in the capital fund, for projects such as the Garver Theatre remodel.
  • $5.0 million in a non-voted limited general obligation bond: This is a bank loan. According to CSD Business Services Director Jasen McEathron, CSD would take out a loan from a Pacific Northwest bank who invests in these type of securities. It is usually paid back over 10 years. The loan is currently being secured and will likely be ready in 60 days.

Monday’s unanimous school board vote approves a resolution to move forward with this purchase sale agreement — and it gives Superintendent Jeff Snell the authority to sign it.

McEathron noted the District anticipates being able to pay for the non-voted limited general obligation bond without impacting the general fund by using state forest funds, future impact fees, or in a future voter-approved bond. These funding sources cannot be used to pay for daily operational costs including staffing and compensation.

“It is important to understand that while we’re currently reducing our operating budget due to the State’s shift in school funding, the revenue streams we’ll utilize for paying for property are legally separate. We can’t use bond dollars or impact fees to pay for staff,” commented McEathron.

“We’ve had a challenging year related to our budget shortfall and resulting reductions in staffing, and it may seem counterintuitive to purchase property at a time when our operating budget is in decline,” said Superintendent Jeff Snell. “However, long-range planning points to continued growth in our community and compels us to act when presented with extraordinary opportunities that will benefit students.”

Underwriters Laboratories
Find us at www.Arktana.com

The Underwriters Laboratories land borders the Skyridge Middle School campus, making the location amenable to future expansion. The district intends to lease the building initially and is exploring the possibility for shared use partnerships with industry and higher education. Work is underway to update the district long-term strategic plan and district leaders are excited about the opportunities the UL property presents for future generations.

“It could be another comprehensive high school, and could be something else entirely, ,” said Snell. “Whatever we decide to do from a programming standpoint, we’d have to get stakeholder and community input first. This could be several years away. We may lease it out for a period of time, and we are also looking at sports fields conversions on the 58 acres. This is an opportunity to address whatever needs the district has moving forward.”

“This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is extremely rare to find a flat parcel of land this size in the center of town that is surrounded by fully developed neighborhoods,” said CSD Board President Doug Quinn. “The existing building provides an opportunity to repurpose for school use if needed for less cost than constructing a new one. This is a win for our students and Camas taxpayers.”

This purchase marks the second instance where the District obtained an existing business property. In 2016, the District purchased a 39-acre parcel and 54,000 square foot building from Sharp Microelectronics for $12.5 million. The building was converted to Odyssey Middle School and the 2016 bond-funded Discovery High School was built on this site. The conversion allowed the district to gain an additional school beyond what was a part of the bond program.

Snell said the costs to retrofit a school have been considered and CSD has learned how to best do that given their experience with the Sharp building conversion.

“We know how to do it and what to expect,” said Snell.

UL has operated at the Camas site since 1994. Their headquarters in is Northbrook, IL.

Discovery High School Principal, Aaron Smith, addresses Common Themes and Myths:

Discovery High School does not have AP courses.

Myth buster alert! While Discovery may not offer as many AP courses as a large, comprehensive high school, we have selected a handful of AP courses which all students will experience. Our AP courses are less about covering a tremendous amount of content and more about themes and processes, thus being more accessible for all students. They are also much more adaptable for a project-based environment (like the real world). Beginning next year, all Discovery freshmen will take AP Human Geography as their social studies class, while our sophomores will have AP Seminar for their English class and AP World History for social studies. AP Seminar is an interdisciplinary course that encourages students to demonstrate critical thinking, collaboration, and academic research skills. A perfect fit! In addition to having the option to take the AP exam at the end of the term for possible college credit, our AP for all approach will result in a 100% participation score for AP offerings at Discovery. Why is this important? A 100% participation score is more attractive to universities when compared to a lower participation score at a school with many AP courses. Bonus! 

It is not possible to take four years of math at Discovery. 

Wrong again! Our students will have the same math pathways and opportunities as our other high schools, including pre-calculus and calculus.  

Discovery High School does not have as many electives.

There is no getting around it. A smaller high school program cannot offer as many electives as a much larger school. However, we will continue to add options as we grow and have other flexible and personalized pathways. We will continue to offer Spanish as a world language and hope to add Mandarin as well. Additionally, we have courses such as coding, music production, guitar, and multimedia and film where students can spread their creative wings. We also offer design and engineering courses operating out of our world-class fabrication lab led by Bruce Whitefield, the highly successful Camas Mean Machine Robotics coach. Lastly, our commitment to passion projects gives students the opportunity to dive deep into an area of interest and to explore possible career paths. 

Discovery High School
www.AgentJeremiah.com

Discovery is not a high school for college-bound students.

This one is absolutely false. Ultimately, colleges and universities are seeking students with a high GPA, competitive SAT scores, and additional interests outside of their classwork. Discovery High School graduates will receive a transcript with a traditional GPA that looks like any other high school. In fact, Discovery students have more opportunities to improve their GPA based on our standards-based and growth-mindset approach. In other words, we believe students should have multiple opportunities and avenues to demonstrate their learning and growth, versus a more rigid approach focusing on homework completion and one-chance exams. Lastly, institutions of higher education are looking for students who can demonstrate skills beyond memorizing content. A portfolio of projects and an ability to articulate Discovery’s emphasis on developing their success skills of collaborating, communicating, creating, critical thinking, and time management will help our students stand out in a crowd of applicants. Just ask one of our model schools and mentors, High Tech High in San Diego. High Tech High is a well-rounded project-based school that has been around since 2000. They also have a 98% success rate when it comes to college admittance. 

Running Start

Due to the nature of our flexible schedule and focus on collaboration, the learning experiences at Discovery High School are not designed to support part-time students. However, students may attend Discovery High School until their junior or senior year and then transfer to CHS if they wish to go the Running Start direction. This would not impact their credits or path to graduation. Our Discovery juniors and seniors will focus on internship opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.

These are questions that Lacamas Magazine asked Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Jeff Snell regarding the considerations from the special volunteer budget committee, which was organized to analyze how to best resolve the district’s $8.2 million budget deficit. Here are his answers.

What steps are being taken based on budget committee considerations?

First, we looked across the system for efficiencies, reducing supply budgets and things like that. We talked in the budget committee about distributing reductions across the system so we looked at certificated, classified and central office staffing, as well as unrepresented staff.

In the committee, we explored the state prototypical school funding model. We’re overstaffed in certain areas by state standards such as certificated staff, but we feel we’re staffed appropriately. We looked at TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignments). These positions are not funded by the state so there’s a reduction there. We looked at the elementary, middle, and high school class sizes which are addressed in the teachers’ contract. At elementary that’s 24, then 30 for middle school, and 31 for high school and we run schedules with those targets in mind. We found capacity in that while keeping those targets in play. We realized some reductions there.

Camas School
Camas school teachers and supporters during bargaining sessions last summer.

From a student and family standpoint, we might be from 21 now to 23 in the ratio of students to certificated staff in a school. We’ve been able to run a small highly specialized class as needed, and it makes it more difficult to do that now.

Overload occurs when we exceed those class size targets as defined in our collective bargaining agreement. On a spreadsheet the students are divided evenly, but the reality is that doesn’t always happen. We may have more kindergartners than first graders, for example. Teachers can get a variety of remedies to address overload such as additional staff assistants. Each year overload is something that needs to be addressed. It may become a bigger problem next school year. In August, it’s possible that more students will enroll than anticipated. If that’s the case, we would need to consider adding staff.

Classified. We’re not really overstaffed based on the prototypical model. It was challenging to find efficiencies there. We looked specifically at retirements and resignations. If we have a custodian retiring, could we possibly not fill that position recognizing services would be reduced? In transportation, we are finding savings by adjusting some routes.

Scholarship
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Our facilities are well taken care of. We have a great crew, but, again, we may have to change the level of service moving forward.

Most of the certificated reductions will be addressed through retirements, resignations, and staff who were on one-year contracts.

Twenty-two FTE teaching positions are being eliminated. It’s spread across the levels, elementary, middle and high school and teachers on special assignment.


Six central office staff positions are being eliminated. Six support staff positions are being eliminated.

We don’t have the number on non-instructional staff.

To balance the $8.2 million deficit, CSD is eliminating $4.6 million in position and non-staff reduction, and we are taking $3.7 million out of the fund balance, which leaves our fund balance at about 5 percent, which is approximately $5 million.

All the details have to be worked out by May 15, and we’re working with CEA.

Budget Deficit
School board members listen to budget committee members Monday night.

How does SB5313 affect Camas? Will it increase levy authority for CSD in 2019? Do we know yet how it will affect us?

What it does is it raises our authority to collect additional local funds to $2.50 per $1,000 assessed value. It’s a change from the model that was rolled out last year. We also receive some state subsidy dollars for levy called Local Effort Assistance that may be affected in the change. We are waiting for clear direction from the state about this.

We have an approved levy in place and we want our citizens to know what’s happening. We want to be transparent with the public about where their tax dollars are going. We will get guidance on how to use this new authority. January 1, 2020, is when we could start collecting on the new levy, should the school board determine to do so.

Regarding the school employee benefits board decision, between now and then more information will be need to be made public.

Did the legislature fail to fund special education this session? My research shows they don’t include special education under basic education.

It initially looks they funded more special education dollars, but there’s still a gap. OSPI estimated $240 million more was needed to fully fund special education. We think the new legislation could give us $500,000 to help fund special education in Camas, but we’re not sure yet. The details should be available in the coming months.

Agencies will help interpret the legislation first. ESD 112 has provided a lot of support to us.

What are the major parts of the 2019 Legislative session that disappoint you?

Special education — such a common need across the state. I was hoping there would be more revenue in that. Overall, the session didn’t significantly change our situation for the short-term.

We planned for the worst, and I don’t think the worst happened. A couple big variables are still ahead of us that we need to navigate including levy authority and the impact of the new model for school employee benefits.

Our budget committee has invested a ton of time trying to sort through this, and they gave us guidance through a very complicated situation. We’ll keep coming back to them as we navigate those variables in the future.

To learn more, visit www.camas.wednet.edu

You can also visit https://lacamasmagazine.com/2019/04/camas-schools-budget-committee-9-considerations-to-balance-8-2-million-deficit.html

As Camas School District (CSD) grapples with an $8.2 million budget deficit, the School Board listened to a budget committee update Monday night that outlined nine major considerations to resolve the challenging financial issues.

Mike True and Mary Tipton, who volunteer on Superintendent Jeff Snell’s special budget committee, explained in detail the methodologies used to analyze the thorny issues in front of them, as well as their commitment to finding the best possible solutions.

The special budget committee was formed to take a deep dive into how CSD spends its money, find ways to reduce expenses, and ultimately provide Snell with overall considerations on how to balance the budget, which was thrown into chaos following “McCleary” legislation, legislative fixes, loss of voter-approved levies, and collective bargaining agreements. Approximately 225 of the state’s 295 districts are dealing with similar budget deficits.

School board member Connie Hennessey said that although the process is painful, she also sees this as an opportunity to shine light on inefficiencies throughout CSD. Seventeen community members, from various and diverse backgrounds, are on the committee who meet regularly to find solutions. The urgency of their work is in part because the current bargaining agreement stipulates certificated staff must receive layoff notices by May 15.

“We’re dealing with extraordinary circumstances and I appreciate everyone on this committee,” said True. “This isn’t easy work, but we don’t want to bury our heads, this is our community, and we want you to know our desire is to preserve as many programs as possible — we don’t want to cut programs entirely as they will be hard to bring back.”

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He also emphasized this is a year-to-year approach, as CSD doesn’t know how future legislation could change the funding model.

True addressed the first four points, which are as follows:

1) Use of Fund Balance:
a. Using fund balance allows CSD to address the budget gap over two years.
b. Access fund balance in year 1 (2019-20) at a reasonable level, but could potentially lead to additional reductions in 2020-21.
c. The committee believes it’s important to maintain the fund balance at 5 percent of the annual operating budget. This allows for emergencies and 2-4 weeks of continued operations in the event the state doesn’t provide funding in a timely manner.
d. Future justified uses of fund balance may include preservation of programs, additional of staff to reduce overload, where justified and appropriate, and short-term opportunities where there is a known strategy to refund.
e. Future uses reducing unrestricted fund balance levels below 5 percent are not recommended for addition of programs, addition of staff, or compensation increases for existing positions.

2) Advocate for legislation that provides sustainable district funding.

3) Work towards preservation of CSD program opportunities for students during the funding model transition, which includes the following:
a. Avoid cutting entire programs.
b. Establish program evaluation metrics for future analysis of impact and efficiency.
c. Pursue opportunities to enhance program support funding from PTA/CEF/Boosters and other supporting organizations and initiatives.

4) Preserve student access to counselors.

Budget Deficit
School board members listen to budget committee members Monday night.

Tipton addresses points five to nine, which are as follows:
5) Close staffing alignment to the state prototypical school funding model while preserving the goals of CSD. Reduce teacher on special assignment staff to a minimum level that keeps support for target district initiatives.
a. Protect class size — contractual class size target
Elementary: 24
Middle School: 30
High School: 31
b. Manage staffing to avoid increased overload, as defined in collective bargaining agreement.

6) Maintain appropriate security levels and protocols.

7) Reduce non-staff expenses: 7.5 percent reduction goal.

8) When pursuing capital projects, continue to consider the impact on operating expenditures.

9) As future funding becomes available, consider the following:
a. Prioritize service levels to our students, community and staff.
b. Prioritize program and extracurricular funding for students.
c. Growth of fund balance to appropriate levels.

“This is our report about our guidance to Jeff, who will be finalizing his recommendations to the board in the next few weeks,” said Tipton. “We’ve had a board member at every budget committee meeting, for which we are grateful.”

True said the committee members all come from different places and levels of understanding.

“I’ll go on the record and say that Mary and I have made a three-year commitment to be a part of this,” said True. “As processes move on, we’ll continue to look at fund balance and uses within that fund balance. It’s not an enjoyable process. There will be reductions.”

School Board member, Corey McEnry, said: “We’re thankful for so many stakeholders as we wrap our heads around this.”

Budget committee members present in the meeting acknowledged the challenges they face with making the considerations. “It’s really hard to understand,” said one member.

The School Board voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 12-03, which is a Modified Educational Program that authorizes Snell to move forward with a budget model.

Snell said he will continue to work with legislators advocating for better funding, and that CDS staff will work through the budget committee’s considerations to draft staffing models for the upcoming school year.

The Hockinson School District (HSD) Board of Directors has selected Steve Marshall to be the district’s new superintendent.

Marshall was one of four candidates who visited HSD on March 4 for a series of interviews with teachers and classified staff, Hockinson High School students, principals, district office staff and the School Board. The finalists also participated in a community forum where they answered questions posed by attendees.

He currently serves as director of Educational Resources at Camas Public Schools.

“The Board is thrilled with the selection of Steve Marshall and thankful for the community’s and staff’s enthusiastic and significant participation in the interview process,” said Dave Olson, chairman of the Hockinson School Board.

The Board will work to formalize the details of the superintendent’s contract, which is expected to begin July 1, and hopes to approve it at its March 25 regular meeting.

Marshall served as Camas High School principal for nine years, finishing his service in 2017. He is very involved in the local community, serving on the Downtown Camas Association board, and working with the Camas-Washougal Rotary. He’s been a great champion of the community, and most recently engaged citizens to support Downtown Camas in their Small Business Revolution efforts.

Insurance
AgentJeremiah.com

Camas, WA — Most haven’t seen the interior of the brand-new Lacamas Lake Elementary School, located in Fern Prairie, so Wednesday is your chance! There are also two more dedicatory events on January 24.

All are welcome to the dedication of Lacamas Lake Elementary School, which includes an open house and building tours for current students, former students of Lacamas Heights Elementary, CSD families and friends, and community supporters. It’s going to be a very special night!

What: Lacamas Lake Elementary Dedication
When: January 23 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM
Where: 4825 North Shore Blvd., Camas, WA 98607

For more information, contact the school at 360-833-5740.

Dedication

The Lacamas Lake Elementary library.

 

 

Dedication of Nan Henriksen Way and Discovery High School

All are welcome to the dedication of NW Nan Henriksen Way and Discovery High School on the Camas School District’s Project-Based Learning Campus! Attend one event or both – we’d love to see you there.

ABOUT NAN HENRIKSEN WAY
In honor of Camas School District alumna and former City of Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen, we’ve renamed Sharp Drive “NW Nan Henriksen Way.” This special renaming honors Henriksen’s foresight and innovative thinking, which helped usher in a new technology sector in and around the campus where learning now thrives.

What: Nan Henriksen Way Dedication
When: January 24 at 5:30 PM
Where: 5125 NW Nan Henriksen Way

ABOUT DISCOVERY HIGH SCHOOL
Thanks to the vision and support of our community, in the fall of 2018 the doors to Discovery opened and 115 9th graders kicked off the inaugural school year. DHS is now the third high school option for students of Camas Schools and could eventually serve 600 students. The school offers a small, personalized learning environment and project-based approach, as does Odyssey Middle School, which opened in 2016 and resides right next door.

What: Discovery High School Dedication
When: January 24 from 6-8 PM
Where: 5125 NW Nan Henriksen Way

 

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.”

Image Gallery

Camas, WA — At Tuesday’s Camas School Board meeting, supporters of the district’s Equity Policy, which is currently being drafted, spoke passionately about the need to improve relationships in Camas schools, and to ensure all students feel welcome in the classroom.

“We have to ask ourselves and look at the demographics and see are outcomes proportional to the demographic?” said Hayes Freedom High School teacher, and Camas Education Association Lead negotiator, Mark Gardner. “And so if a segment of our population is not represented in roughly the same segment of an outcome there’s a suggestion that we have some systemic issue. When our special education students and Hispanic males are excluded at double the rate that really got me thinking. I realized that equity begins with teacher practice so I encourage you to adopt this policy, and then to hold our staff accountable for what we do as professionals …”

CSD has had a focus on serving each student as part of their 2020 Strategic Plan, and CSD Superintendent Jeff Snell said “it’s become clear that we have students that are not being served as well as they should.  We launched an equity committee to better understand what’s happening in order to ensure we are serving each student.”

Veronica Copeland, a longtime school volunteer, spoke passionately about racism in Camas schools, and said she’s being forced to move to a place “because they (her daughters) don’t have women to look up to here.”

Equity

Hayes Freedom teacher and CEA lead negotiator, Mark Gardner, talks about racial issues in Camas.

“This community has its issues, of course, and I have faced it in my own house,” said Copeland, an African-American woman. “Let alone my girls facing it, but they’re at this age where they notice people’s color and race. I appreciate the teachers, they make the girls feel loved and supported. I knew my girls would need a guard around them, I knew they would need someone to always make sure someone listened to them, watched for them, and they’re twins, and they look very much alike, and (the teachers) know it’s important they can tell them apart because they are not the same person, and that right there is equity. I have twin girls who are not identical, they’re just Black, and they look alike, and everyone thinks they are identical, and it ends up giving them a complex …”

“I have told many parents about this equity policy and I’ve gotten more “why” and to know that I’m moving because my girls don’t have equity somewhere is sad, and I love you guys.”

Snell said the driver of the Equity Policy is to ensure each student feels welcome and supported in Camas schools.

“Experiences like Ms. Copeland described in our schools and community are not acceptable,” said Snell. “Community members are passionate about moving forward with language that describes what welcome and supported means.”

Snell said the aim of equity work in CSD is to facilitate paradigm, practice and policy shifts so that every student is seen, respected, and celebrated in a way that promotes love of self and love of learning.

Outcomes/Outputs:

  • Share common language, definitions, and general approach regarding equity work in Camas School District
  • Facilitate opportunities to hear from stakeholders regarding their hopes and concerns with respect to equity in order to shape the work
  • Conduct opportunities for stakeholders to learn together with respect to equity
  • Provide concrete strategies and recommendations for stakeholders to use in order to eliminate oppression, marginalization, and predictable disparity

“The equity policy was an action items from the committee,” said Snell. “We will have the policy ready for board review at the November 26 School Board meeting.”

Budget Woes

CSD is also holding a budget process workshop on November 26 to address ways to overcome the district’s $3.2 million deficit problem. It’s a deficit that Gardner, who as the lead union negotiator during the bargaining sessions, said was “a scare tactic by the District.”

The deficit is a reality now.

Equity

Addressing the Camas School Board.

Washington state Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced a capital gains tax in his 2019-21 budget Tuesday, which addresses the funding gyrations and looming budget deficits in many districts across the state as a result of the new public school funding model.

Capital

Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal.

His proposal includes additional funding for students with special needs, nurses and dual language programs, which have historically been unfunded by the state, requiring local districts to implement levies.

“Our students deserve an education system that does not allow opportunity gaps to persist,” Reykdal said in a statement. “That can only happen if our system provides equitable opportunities and individual learning pathways for each student.”

Reykdal’s budget proposal is funded by an 8 percent long-term capital gains tax that would raise $1 billion annually. His goal is to reduce the state property tax by 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This would affect approximately 53,000 households. Single filers who earn $25,000 from capital gains annually or couples who make more than $50,000 will be taxed.

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Would it affect sales of residences? No, said Reykdal.

The objective is to reduce the burden on homeowners so school districts can increase levies as they’ve done in the past.

The state legislature, in their response to the McCleary Supreme Court decision, capped the amount of levy money schools could collect to whichever was less: $2,500 per student or $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. This decision reduced Camas School District levy capacity by 50 percent, and is a chief cause of projected CSD deficits. Districts all over the state are dealing with similar issues, which Reykdal readily admits.

“Without critical changes, the reduction in levies will leave some districts in a very tough financial situation,” Reykdal said in a statement.

The rest of the capital gains tax would go towards these public school funding areas:

  • $150 million for special education
  • $46 million for mentoring and professional learning
  • $45 million for career and technical education
  • $38 million for institutional education
  • $38 million for counselors
  • $20 million for dual credit programs
  • $14 million for dual language programs
  • $13 million for nurses
  • $13 million for mental health and school safety
  • $10 million for expanded learning opportunities
  • $9 million for family and community coordinators

Reykdal’s plans has critics from both Republicans and Democrats.

“The capital gains tax is basically an income tax,” said Clark County Assessor, Peter Van Nortwick. “If we have one Fisher Investments will be gone. You let a new tax in and it expands. The State brings enough in sales and other taxes.”

Retiring State Representative Liz Pike thinks it’s a terrible idea that tries to fix bad legislation with more bad legislation.

”School districts should not have given raises they had no way to pay for,” said Pike. “It was financially irresponsible. I’ve said all along the WEA orchestrated these strikes with Democrat operatives in order to justify a new state income tax. The Capital Gains Tax proposed by OSPI Reykdal is a back door to a new state income tax.”

The capital gains tax was floated by Governor Inslee two years ago, and most recently by House Democrats in this last budget cycle.

“I’m opposed to any new tax structure,” said candidate Larry Hoff, a Republican who is running for the 18th Legislative District, Position 2 seat. “McCleary needs to be fully implemented prior to suggesting that major changes are necessary.”

Hoff’s opponent is also against the capital gains tax.

“I’m disappointed in his proposal,” said Kathy Gillespie, a Democrat who is running for the open 18th, Position 2 Legislative District seat. “It ignores the huge property tax increase passed in 2017 and also ignores the levy swipe contained in that deal. After a summer of strikes and sky-high property tax bills to boot, I don’t think taxpayers will have an appetite for another ‘fix’. The idea has been around for a while. It’s not new, and it’s still a bad idea.”

 

 

 

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.”

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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.

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Math Study