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School Board adds tweak to volunteer fingerprint requirement

During the second reading of a policy update last week, the Lebanon School Board adjusted a previous proposal to require background checks of all volunteers and fingerprinting of volunteers who have direct unsupervised contact with students. 

The policy will include coaches, overnight chaperons and volunteers designated by the superintendent. 

The board considered the proposal during its regular meeting on Nov. 8, where a number of people voiced concerns that it would reduce the number of volunteers due to cost and inconvenience. The board will consider the policy again at its regular meeting on Dec. 13, with it possibly taking effect prior to the spring sports season because winter sports programs are already getting under way.

The board first considered the policy during its regular meeting in September. Its regular meeting in October was canceled due to a lack of quorum. 

Director of Human Resources and Community Relations Jennifer Meckley compiled a report about volunteers in the district following the September discussion when the board discussed conducting background checks and fingerprinting all volunteers. 

According to the Oregon School Boards Association and Oregon Department of Education, Meckley said, only a few districts fingerprint volunteers with direct unsupervised contact, and they were unaware of any districts that fingerprint all volunteers.

“The only people that are getting fingerprinted in any districts are the ones with direct unsupervised contact,” Meckley said. 

Meckley said that Lebanon High School has 40 to 50 volunteer coaches each year. They undergo a background check and complete five required training sessions through the Oregon School Activities Association and the district.

The district had between 170 and  328 individual volunteers per month last school year, Meckley said. Volunteers gave 17,387.7 hours  of service throughout the district.

“Fingerprinting everyone would be pretty cumbersome and costly,” Meckley said, adding that “I know that the cost doesn’t outweigh a risk.”

Based on the information, she recommended that  the board inform and train staff on expectations that volunteers not have direct unsupervised contact with students and that the district fingerprint those volunteers who do have direct unsupervised contact with students. 

Board members agreed that the school district should pay for background checks and fingerprinting for volunteers.

Present at the meeting were board members Tammy Schilling, Chairman Tom Oliver, Nick Brooks and Mike Martin. Richard Borden was absent. 

In other business, the board: 

  • Received state testing data for 2017-18. 

“These are things we’re looking at with administration,” said Supt. Bo Yates. “This is kind of how we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to support kids and where we need to support them at.”

Among the data, 42 percent of Lebanon third-graders were at or above grade level in math, a decrease of 4 percent, compared to 47 percent statewide. In language arts, 46 percent were at grade level, an increase of 2 percent, compared to 48 percent statewide. 

In math, “32 percent of our kids were level 1,” Yates said. Those are students  “way below grade level.”

“That’s a huge concern,” he said. “A third of our kids are a grade level behind. That kind of begs the question: How do we fix that? What do we need to do? That’s the conversations we have with our principals and what we’re looking at. How do we spend  some of our funds to get some extra support for these kids and build a year-round program to try to get them back up to grade level.”

Martin asked whether they were at that level entering school or if there was a point after entering school that they fall behind.

“Until we get to the point where we can track every single kid every single year, measure their growth,  measure their achievement,” Yates said. “That’s the direction we’re going, and  that’s where  we want to be in the next three years.”

“We have the ability to start doing that,” Brooks said. 

“We’re still going through and looking at our curriculum and aligning our curriculum to make sure that we’re teaching what we should be teaching and putting our assessment in line with what we’re saying kids need to know,” Yates said. “We are going through that process right now, but that is where we need to be. A parent needs to know where their child is. The teacher needs to set goals with that kiddo, this is what we need to learn, how do we need to apply our resources to help kids be successful.

“This is information from last year. We’re just now  kind of finalizing and getting it. What we want to have is information and the teachers want information that’s ongoing and accurate, but we’re not 100 percent sure right now what our curriculum is and how it’s aligned to standards, so we’re going through that process.”

“How can we do that quickly enough so that we’re not basically falling behind daily?” Martin asked. “To go another round of  alignment could be another year and a half.”

It won’t be a year and a half, Yates said. “We’re working on it right now, Mike. We kind of have an implementation plan of bringing teachers in to identify and align our standards and the holes in our curriculum so we’re all addressing those issues in like ways.”

The first step is to look at language arts kindergarten through sixth grade, Yates said. A curriculum map exists but doesn’t necessarily identify the standards the district is prioritizing. 

“If nothing else we want to eliminate some of the things that are on there, so we’re teaching more to the major topics that we need to teach to,” Yates said. “We want to simplify what we’re doing, and then we want to refine it as we go.”

It’s the process of education, Yates said. It’s a continuous cycle of learning and adjusting.

Elsewhere among the data, at grade five, in math, 41 percent of students were at or above grade level, an increase of 6 percent, compared to 40 percent statewide. In language arts, 47 percent were at or above grade level, an increase of 3 percent, compared to 56 percent statewide.

In grade eight, 35 percent were at or above grade level in math, an increase of 1 percent, compared to 41 percent statewide. In language arts, 52 percent were at or above grade level, an increase of 9 percent, compared to 57 percent statewide. 

Among high school juniors, 29 percent were at or above grade level, a decrease of 3 percent, compared to 34 percent statewide. Some 43 percent were at level 1 in math. In language arts, 61 percent were at or above grade level, an increase of 3 percent, compared to 72 percent statewide.

The Oregon Department of Education released district and school report cards in late October. 

The report card has been redesigned by a committee, with input from parent and family focus groups, to make it “more accessible and meaningful to parents.” It is designed to be easy to read and emphasize key factors that emphasize progress through relevant and actionable data. 

The district’s report card shows that 80 percent of kindergarten through second-grade students were considered regular attenders, attending more than 90 percent of their enrolled days in school.

Some 46 percent of third graders met state grade-level expectations in language arts, an increase of 2 percent. 

For third- through eighth-graders, year-to-year progress in language arts and math was rated at the high end of average. 

For eighth grade math, 35 percent met state grade-level expectations, an improvement of 1 percent. 

Seventy-eight percent of freshmen were on track to graduate, while statewide, 85 percent were on track. 

The on-time graduation rate was 72 percent, an improvement of 1 percent, while the statewide four-year graduation rate was 77 percent.

Lebanon had a five-year completer rate of 80.1  percent, while state had an 83-percent five-year completer rate. 

In other action, the board: 

  • Following a second reading, approved a policy update governing the use of drones. 
  • Updated a policy for reimbursable meals and milk program, keeping the program in alignment with the national program. 
  • Approved the hiring of Elizabeth Seagrave, counselor; Catherine Avilez, third-grade teacher; and Jeremy Gibson, language arts teacher. 
  • Approved a leave of absence for secretary Julie Campbell.
  • During a special meeting on Oct. 25, hired Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA) to conduct a superintendent search. 

The board received three proposals from search consultants, including HYA; McPherson Jacobson, LLC, and Ray and Associates, Inc.

HYA handled recruitment  for the Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District and is handling Albany’s recruitment. 

“I think all of them would do a very good job for us,” Oliver said, but he leans toward HYA.

The board voted unanimously for HYA. Borden was present at the Oct. 25 meeting. 

  • During a special meeting on Oct. 25, approved the hiring of Jessica VandenBos, special education teacher,and William Lewis III, director of business.