Board to seek counsel on supervision

The Lebanon School Board voted Wednesday evening to authorize newly elected Chairman Tom Oliver to seek further legal counsel from district’s attorney, Hungerford Law Form, and that may include further consultation with an attorney specialized in labor law to determine whether the district is in compliance with state law regarding public officials supervising a relative or member of a household.

According to board member Russ McUne, the situation has already been reviewed by the Hungerford Law Firm, the district’s insurance company and the Oregon School Boards Association.

He said that documents from Hungerford and the OSBA show the district is in compliance with state law, while board member Mike Martin disagreed.

The discussion hinged on a romantic relationship between Supt. Rob Hess and Pioneer School Principal Tonya Cairo.

In a response to a Democrat Herald reporter’s request for the documents, attorney Nancy Hungerford told the board in a memo that the district would be in compliance with state law “if the district were to contract with another agency employing TSPC-licensed administrators who would provide the supervision and evaluation of the relative or member of the household of the superintendent.”

She said a number of school districts with this issue contract with local education service districts to provide supervision and evaluation, and the  ESD-assigned administrator would need to make recommendations regarding that employee’s renewal or non-renewal and promotions.

The state law, ORS 244.179, prohibits a public official from directly supervising a person who is a relative or a member of the household. It does allow public bodies to adopt policies specifying when a public official acting in an official capacity may directly supervise a person who is a relative or member of the household.

Board Policy CBA says that the superintendent supervises central office administrators and school principals and through them all district personnel.

The district has contracted with the Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District to evaluate the principal’s performance.

The district’s agreement with the ESD has never had “supervision” in it, Martin said. For years, it’s been for “evaluation,” although the word “supervision” is slipping into the discussion now.

The ESD is contracted for 5 hours of administrative consulting, Martin said. The principal works 40 to 50 hours per week, 2,200 per year. That consulting time amounts to one-quarter of 1 percent of the principal’s annual workload.

“How could we think as a board that could be supervision,” Martin asked. “Nor could it be evaluation.

“Things in here don’t indicate to me that we are in compliance.”

In his review of the state statute, Hess told the board that the key words are “directly supervise.”

In general, he said, he supervises everyone in the district; but “I don’t directly supervise principals in their work.”

For finances, the principals go to the business administrator, he said, to human resources or other administrators as needed.

He directly supervises just two areas for principals, Hess said:  Smart Goals and evaluations.

He told the board he is open to suggestions for how to proceed.

“We just need a policy to address this,” said Nick Brooks, board member. It needs to be some sort of clear policy, and “I don’t think that’s tough to do.”

“It’s an area we could use some help developing,” Oliver said, noting that the state does not define “directly supervise.” It’s a relatively new law, so not a lot of case law has developed yet.

He suggested going back to the OSBA and Hungerford for guidance and then checking with someone who specializes in employment law.

“We don’t know how it’s being done now,” McUne said, suggesting that the board find out how it’s working now, come up with a policy to address the situation and have it reviewed.

Define the practice, understand the statutory component and bring it back, Oliver said.

McUne said getting a fourth opinion is “kind of silly” since the board has already received three opinions the the district is in compliance with the state law.

Martin asked him to read where the documents say the district is in compliance.

Hess said, based on Hungerford’s opinion, if the district is contracting for supervision and evaluation, then the district is in compliance.

But supervision isn’t involved in the agreement, Martin said.

“We need to define that,” Brooks said, whether the board members agree the district is in compliance. “I want to fix what we have right now.”

The best way to do that is go get that fourth opinion, he said. If the district is out of compliance, “let’s fix that.”

The board voted 5-0 to direct the chairman to to seek further legal counsel.

Voting yes were Martin, Oliver, McUne, Borden and Brooks.

In other business, the board:

n Voted 4-0 to appoint Oliver as chairman and Brooks as vice chairman, with Oliver and Brooks abstaining respectively. Oliver and Brooks were sworn in during the meeting along with Martin, an incumbent reelected in May.

n Voted 4-1 to rescind a policy it approved last month to allow early entrance into kindergarten.

Last month, the board approved it after hearing about a girl who was born an hour into the cutoff date for kindergarten, Sept. 1, to late to enter kindergarten this year.

Since last month, the district has had four emails or calls from people who wanted to find out how to use the program, said Nicole Hundley, executive secretary in the superintendent’s office.

The policy went to the OSBA for review, and Hess recommended Wednesday that the board not allow early entrance into kindergarten.

The district did allow early entrance in the past, Hess said. The district tracked students who used it, and there were more times it didn’t work than it did work.

“It did more harm than good,” he said. “There’s a lot of anecdotal stories.”

McUne had a success story, Hess said, but in other cases the reality is “kids who struggle with their grade emotionally.

“It really comes down to emotional development, and we really saw more struggles than successes.”

The board considered revisions that outlined a testing process and criteria for allowing a child to enter kindergarten early, but the board chose not to approve the policy and rescinded its decision from June.

Oliver said he liked the bright line of Sept. 1 as a cutoff date, although he could sympathize with the girl who missed it by one hour.

McUne said that holding back a child who meets the criteria in the policy proposed Wednesday would be a shame.

If the district waives the date for entry, Borden wondered, why not waive other criteria.

Martin said he was disappointed for the girl, but “the  district went through this before and moved away from it for a reason.”

The testing would help weed out families just looking for a babysitter, McUne said. “A lot of parents do know best,” and the board should at least give them the option.

“When we have need in the district, we’re shorthanded as it is,” Brooks said, concerned that children who are not ready and will struggle may burden the district.

McUne moved to approve the updated policy, but the motion died for lack of a second.

The board voted 4-1 to rescind the board’s decision last month. Voting to rescind were Martin, Oliver, Borden and Brooks. McUne voted no.

n  Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Lebanon to maintain the school grounds inside the city.

n  Citing primarily difficulty hearing the board, decided to hold board meetings at the Central Office this school year. Last year, the board met in different schools.

n  Heard Hess report that Lebanon High School has completed its transition to its new symbol.

In a memo, LHS Principal Brad Shreve said the school is transitioning this year “from the use of Native American imagery for our mascot. We will still be the Lebanon warriors. Effective June 30, 2017, the LW will be our symbol throughout the school and one that other communities and schools will recognize.”

The school began the transition, Shreve said, when the gymnasium floor was refinished with the LW symbol. The football turf also has the LW.

“The whole school is currently being transitioned to comply with the state legislative and the Oregon Department of Education rulings on Native American mascots,” Shreve said. “The large sculpture of the Native American on the horse on the front of the school will remain as a piece of art but not representing our mascot.”

n  Approved  the hiring of Whitney Connolly, principal, Lacomb; Cami Beatty, .5 full-time equivalent  math, LHS; Ariana Bender, kindergarten, Cascades; Lisa Canaday, math, Seven Oaks; Rachel Cannon, special education, LHS; Caroline Cote, sixth grade, Pioneer; Abigail Davenport, kindergarten, Pioneer; Luis De Luna, .5 FTE art, LHS; Dara Docherty, language arts, Seven Oak; Moria Golub, counselor, LHS; Ashlea Leighter, second grade, Casacdes; Jaclyn McGuire, second grade, Cascades; Laura Felton Rosulek, speech language pathologist; Aaron Smith as a temporary, band, LHS; Jorden Swanson PE, Riverview; Christopher Tasner, math, Seven Oak; Robert Tatum, welding, LHS; Allison Thompson, special education, Riverview; John D. Trimble, science, LHS; Shannon Webb, music, Hamilton Creek and Lacomb; and Breeane Wyatt, fourth grade, Green Acres.