Board: Lacomb School principal’s position to remain full-time

The Lacomb School principal position will remain full time for the 2017-18 school year, though Tim Geoghegan, the current principal, will move to Lebanon High School.

The matter, which was part of an action item on the School Board’s consent agenda on its May 11 meeting, was moved toward the start of the meeting after several audience members expressed concerns. Board members also had received some letters and emails before the meeting.

In addition to moving Geoghegan to an associate principal at LHS, Superintendent Rob Hess’ plan involved transferring Kim Fandino, an LHS Spanish teacher who also is the administrator of Beyond LHS and Oregon iSchool, to part-time principal of Lacomb, and transferring current Hamilton Creek principal  Geno Bates to principal support at Lacomb.

“While Mrs. Fandino is a great high school Spanish teacher, as far as I know, she has never worked at the elementary school level,” said Jodee Eickmann, Lacomb PTC member. “There is a big difference in how you handle a problem with a 16-year-old versus a 6-year-old, and I believe it takes years of experience to know how to handle it.”

Eickmann said the move also did not make sense to her because Lacomb is the best-rated school in the district.

“It is the combination of students, staff, parents, and administration that make Lacomb such a great school,” she said. “The children all know and respect Mr. Geoghegan and I guarantee he knows every student by name.”

She stressed the importance of having a steady authority figure for students, rather than “a revolving door of people who have other commitments.”

Separately, the Lacomb School PTC submitted a letter, along with 64 signatures, about the splitting of principals between Hamilton Creek and Lacomb.

“First, by splitting a principal between the two schools, you are putting the staff in a difficult situation,” the group wrote in the letter. “You are asking the staff to take on roles they are not equipped or trained for.”

Another concern was a possible delay in principal response time to certain situations because both schools are somewhat remote.

“Lacomb School has worked hard to build a positive environment for our staff and students,” the letter stated. “This is a high standard that has been set forth from the principal position on down and we don’t see that continuing with a part time principal. Not from lack of effort but from lack of time.”

The PTC also addressed administrative staff-to-student ratio in the district.

“We are concerned about one person overseeing 513 students in a K-8 environment,” the letter stated. “No other principal in the school district is asked to oversee that many kids by themselves without support from a vice principal, let alone on two different campuses with middle school-aged kids.”

Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, a one-time School Board chair herself,  also sent a letter that expressed concerns about a part-time administrator at Lacomb.

Sprenger acknowledged the difficulties of dealing with budgets but said she is concerned about the principal’s position becoming essentially half time.

Among the concerns are the principal’s opportunities for interaction with parents and substitute teacher support.

“The state budget has not been built yet, and the projected state school fund may be premature,” Sprenger wrote. “I urge you to withhold a decision on reducing the principal’s hours at Lacomb School until the budget information is more certain.”

Jennifer Raymond read Sprenger’s letter to the board at the May 11 meeting.

Applause followed each of the speakers and some comments from board members.

Board chair Russ McUne addressed a comment about lack of transparency in the way the proposed shifts were presented.

He said the only way they can talk about proposals, as a board, is to put them on an agenda for a public meeting.

“I think we should have something controversial every time just to get more people here,” McUne joked.

Hess said he was trying to get creative.

“I was in Springfield where they had part-time principals in middle schools,” Hess said.

He said he could see the angst people were feeling about the proposal and had received a lot of calls and emails.

“If I didn’t think this could work, I wouldn’t have proposed it,” Hess said.

He said he has no intentions of closing down Lacomb.

“I’ve always been an advocate for small schools,” Hess said. “This has not been easy to look at this as a solution.”

Board member Richard Borden asked Hess what other solutions had been thought of and what input he had gotten from Geoghegan, Bates and Fandino.

Borden pointed out that they are still looking at the budget and hadn’t considered contractual obligations in a year administrators are looking at the teachers’ contract while on a bare-bones budget.

Hess said one of the difficulties of building a budget is that they don’t know the final numbers.

The shift to part time principal would be for the 2017-18 school year.

“I’ve seen cuts, but I’ve never seen an addition,” said board member Kellie Weber. “Knowing the staff, they will carry on and next year, we’ll just let them keep carrying on. Once we cut it they’re never going to get it up.”

Board member Mike Martin, whose teaching experience ranges from elementary to high school, said one of the key points to finding a principal for Lacomb is someone who has experience with elementary school-aged children.

Borden said he got the sense that the community doesn’t want Geoghegan to move.

Bates said he would rather be full-time at Hamilton Creek, where he is currently, McUne said.

“I don’t decide, I propose,” Hess said.

Borden said while he has full confidence in Fandino, “I think we need to head back to the drawing board. I know I’m asking a lot. I don’t have a solution.”

Assistant superintendent contract

The board voted 3-2 to approve a contract for Assistant Superintendent Bo Yates.

Yates will receive $125,000, a 9.4 percent increase from his previous annual salary of $114,240. Additionally, his travel stipend increased from $250 to $400 per month, and 25 sick days, which he may cash out if unused. He also will receive a $600 per month contribution to a 403b retirement account of his choosing.

When the action item came up for a vote, Yates moved to sit facing the board.

“Dr. Hess and myself are the only ones who negotiate for ourselves,” Yates said.

He said he tried to be thoughtful about the process.

“I make $120,000. It was over $400,000 for the same job that was being done previously and I do the job better,” Yates said. “You guys can decide. I don’t want to give Bo a raise and that’s fine. I want you to know my feelings before that decision. I work real hard.”

He said his raise is smaller than what any other group has received, but also acknowledged the current budget crunch.

“This is the first opportunity I’ve had in six years,” Yates said. “I’m asking for 1 percent a year.”

Some board members had concerns about the increase during a time of considering budget constraints, PERS liability and teacher contract negotiations.

Borden said Yates’ work ethic is unquestionable and that what he has asked for is reasonable.

Martin was concerned about cashing out unused vacation days and payments to the 403b and added that the contract proposal should have been submitted last year.

“That’s probably our bad,” McUne said.

“How do you think I feel?” Yates asked. “I don’t feel like that was my mistake.”

Weber pointed out the difference in the way Hess’ contract approval was handled, with little discussion.

“I find it interesting that we are making him fight for everything,” Weber said.

It seemed appropriate, she said, but wondered why it was different with Hess.

The board approved the contract, with Martin and McUne voting no.