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Seven Oak, Lacomb Capital Projects Move Forward

The Lebanon Community School Board held their monthly meetings on May 16 and June 6, seeing updates on major projects and more. Several budget committee members, as well as chair and vice-chair were appointed to various terms.

LCSD is seeing an “all-time high” graduation rate, though concerns were raised regarding inadequate funding that doesn’t allow for maintaining service levels. For example, the state has capped LCSD’s special education funding below student needs, leaving the schools unable to meet mental and behavioral health needs for students despite pulling resources from multiple grants and careful handling of salary increases.

It was reported that, due to “years-long planning,” employee contracts and raises are covered while avoiding any potential fiscal drop-off, despite lower budgets from lower enrollment; their budget is based on enrollment stats.

Unemployment rates are uncertain with new laws in place that allow classified staff to apply for unemployment benefits during school breaks.

Mary Northern, director of Sandridge and Sweet Home charter schools, told the board that despite being ranked the number-two charter school in Oregon, they get limited funding.

“I’m (working for) the community, for my families, for my staff,” Northern said. “The district adds our numbers with theirs and then are paid from the state and federal dollars, and then we get a portion of that.”

Jay Jackson, a Sandridge Charter board member, encouraged the LCSD board to approach the current numbers from a “standpoint of equality and equity” in regards to the education provided by the district.

“I think that there should be some consideration in terms of your return on investment,” Jackson said. “Where are you getting the best return for the dollars that are being distributed by the district?”

He detailed the 14 programs excluded from the state school fund before the charter school even gets a decision regarding funding. They’ve asked for the average cost of educating a student, but have not received a clear answer as of yet while receiving 58% of what’s allotted per student.

“I think this board needs to ask itself about the equity of the situation,” he said. “Are the children at the charter school really only worth 58% compared to other children in the district?”

The board voted to approve the adoption of the ELD Curriculum–an English language proficiency curriculum.

Supt. Jennifer Meckley recognized Ralston Academy, which provides a more individualized experience for students needing a setting outside of a large public school. She also recognized Jennifer Schmidt, a social studies teacher at Seven Oak who was named this year’s Oregon James Madison Fellow, which comes with a $24,000 scholarship for grad school.

The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians provided $6,000 to help students experiencing homelessness access school supplies, clothing, culturally-appropriate food and more.

“With close to 700 students being served by the Welcome Center since August of 2023, this funding is much needed and 100% of every penny will go directly to local kids and families,” Supt. Meckley said. “Thank you to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians for caring for and contributing to the lives and well-being of the students.”

Students also were able to enter the Earth Day poster contest from the National Energy Technology Laboratory thanks to Elaina Dowdy, a Hamilton Creek art teacher, and “swept up” the awards with their theme of  “Planet vs. Plastics.”

Zone 3 candidates were introduced and interviewed for the vacant board seat, with Aubree Molina ultimately being appointed to the position. Molina has three daughters and works as a hairdresser in Lebanon.
Hannah Shooting Bear, a member of Indigenous Now, spoke in support of continuing Native education in the LCSD, and pressed for official recognition of Indigenous People’s Day.

“We’re going on our fifth year fighting to have Indigenous People’s Day as a non-school day, and as a holiday for all of our students including all other non-indigenous and non-native, as well, to learn our histories during this time,” Shooting Bear said.

According to Shooting Bear, the Oregon Education Association and also the Oregon Indian Education Association are in support of this as well.

The Superintendent Contract, currently held by Meckley, expires at the end of June. The board had already expressed intention of renewing Supt. Meckley’s contract, and one change regarding vacation payout options was approved 3-1.

The new building at Seven Oak has gone through electrical and mechanical tests, and been granted a certificate of occupancy; furniture, flooring and fitness equipment have been ordered.

The Lacomb School roof replacement is moving forward, having completed a pre-construction meeting with the vendor; rooms were being cleared for a June 17 construction start date.
The Lebanon Schools Foundation has 36 endowments adding up to around $2 million, 33 of which are scholarships. As restricted endowments, they will be spent according to the donors’ wishes.

It was clarified that the state school fund is based on weighted average attendance, not a per-student number.

Sandridge Charter requested their contract be changed to 10 years, provide more reimbursement funding, and removal of instruction beginning in August. The district is reluctant to make changes as funding requires exact numbers regarding enrollment and staffing to avoid being penalized. If unable to come to a resolution, they will default to the previous contract.

Students were recently able to take part in a fishing trip, where they learned about different kinds of fish, practiced tying knots and more. LCSD first-graders had the chance to participate in The Gift of Literacy, a program intended to encourage reading, with each first-grader receiving a book at the event.

A $5,000 grant was awarded to Riverview Elementary from the Laura Bush Foundation, designated to purchase more library books for their collection. Librarian Carrie Bane was credited with securing the grant.