School Board discusses security in wake of Texas shootings

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
In light of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Supt. Bo Yates took time at the June 9 school board meeting to discuss the district’s policies regarding weapons and school safety.
For more than a decade, the district has been working with the I Love You Guys program for crisis response protocol. Each school in Lebanon has a team that performs drills, security cameras, and access to the district’s student resource officer.
Each of the schools, Yates noted, have different buildings and security needs, so staff are working on determining strategies to strengthen each of the school’s needs. As such, the district can’t guarantee things are not going to happen, particularly due to the fact there are multiple instances when children are out in the open.
“There are so many variables that we just cannot control,” Yates said. “What we want to try to do is learn from things that have happened in other schools.”
As the board bounced around ideas regarding security, board member Tammy Schilling said she’d like to see more of a human component to the strategy.
“We’re talking about doors, we’re talking about fences, we’re talking about hardscape, but you can’t ever get away from the benefit of volunteers on the premises,” she said.
Earlier Yates had mentioned he received several emails from concerned parents following the Uvalde incident, and one community member suggested he could round up his veteran friends to volunteer time guarding the schools.
Board Chair Mike Martin asked if the district had a volunteer coordinator, to which Yates responded there was none, particularly due to the fact that now volunteers must be vaccinated. Schilling said it seemed silly to her when the district was short bus drivers and she couldn’t help take some of her kids’ softball members to a game because she’s not vaccinated and fingerprinted.
“Everything we do, it’s to keep parents out,” Schilling said. “I’d like to start thinking about parents in and around the building.”
Asst. Supt. Jennifer Meckley responded that the district’s protocols are in place to keep kids safe from adults who are in contact with students.
The board adopted the 2022/23 budget for $84,809,616, approved a resolution imposing and categorizing the district’s current $4,242,002 bond debt, and necessary budget transfers.
Martin asked if it was possible to bump up the amount allotted for elementary enrichment, which he believed was set “really low” at $7,500 in the General Fund.
“I look at enrichment as, if you open the eyes of kids when they’re between age 5 and age 10 and 11, is that can propel them almost through their life, and I’d like to see that investment be quite a bit more.”
Business Director William Lewis III explained the $7,500 was specifically for after-school enrichment for elementary, and the middle and high schools have separate enrichment budgets. Still, Martin asked for an increase.
Board member Tom Oliver asked if there are other funds outside of the General Fund set aside for enrichment, and Lewis replied there are “other pots of money,” such as SIA and ESSER, that aren’t specifically called out for enrichment but might be going into projects that provide enrichment during the day. Meckley added that the schools have their own budgets that include money set aside for enrichment activities.
“We desperately want to have some programs to make things a little more interesting for our kids and to get them out and to find the joy of school and learning a little bit more,” Yates said.
The district wants to meet with the school principals to come up with some program ideas, but they haven’t had time to do so yet, he said.
Martin also pointed out the district spends “hundreds of thousands” on special education, but on the Talented and Gifted program they spend “almost nothing.”
“We have to, as a district, recognize the value of what we put in and what we get back,” Martin said.
Lewis said that since he and Yates took their jobs, they’ve doubled the size of the TAG budget.
“My perspective is all students are TAG,” Martin responded. “They all have something great to offer, and we just need to bring it out of them.”
In other business:
♦ The board heard a report from Brandon Weist, director of alternative education, regarding the Social Emotional Learning program, including the district’s first results with its Devereux Student Strengths Assessment. One of the district’s new tools to implement social and emotional support to its students is DESSA, a screening tool that measures the student’s SEL competencies.
The DESSA Fall 2021 data revealed 15 percent of 509 students need SEL instruction, and Spring 2022 data revealed 11 percent of 307 students need it. Weist added that most students in K-8 showed a growth in their SEL.
More information about SEL and DESSA data can be found in the board meeting packet at http://lebanon.k12.or.us/media/2022/06/NEW-UPDATED-Board-Meeting-Packet-6.9.22.pdf;
♦ Heard a summer school update. To date, 386 K-4 students signed up for summer school at Pioneer and Lacomb to include three hours of academics and 90 minutes enrichment. Most of the enrichment will be provided by high school students, and Lacomb students will have to be bussed in to Lebanon to participate in enrichment. Registration numbers for middle school and high school summer school attendees was not given. Ralston Academy had 29 students signed up for a five-week session.
Schilling expressed disappointment that the Lacomb students could not access enrichment on-site. Yates mentioned the shortage of staff to keep a full program at Lacomb, but Schilling quickly responded that they’re still in the school district and they deserve to have the same opportunities.