Sweet Home schools, city develop plan after Foster shooting affair

By Benny Westcott
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

Sweet Home city and school district officials have come up with a plan to improve communication following an incident in which the public was kept in the dark for more than a month after a neighbor of Foster School shot bullets that struck the school building on the morning of Sunday, March 19.

City Manager Kelcey Young told school board members at their May 8 meeting that she met with Supt. Terry Martin, District Business Manager Kevin Strong and Sweet Home Police Chief Jason Ogden to discuss ways to improve communication with the community after the district and city received public criticism for taking 40 days to inform the public about the incident.

As of May 1, the individual thought to be responsible for the gun shots was still being evaluated by mental health professionals, according to Ogden, who said the reason why the man’s name had not been released was because he was apprehended on a mental-health hold.

“I appreciate both you and Kevin [Strong] and how quickly we were able to talk about a communication plan once all of this came forward,” Young told Martin at the meeting. “I really enjoyed working with the school district, and I think that the communication plan that we’re working on is just to make sure to communicate with the community if an incident like this occurs again.”

Young, who was named city manager last August, added, “Hopefully, since this is an incident where no children were in danger, we can keep it at that level, and nothing worse ever happens. But it’s nice to know that we at least are putting all of those pieces into place, and this actually is serving as — I won’t go so far as to say a wake-up call — but as a bit of an opportunity for us to make sure that we have a strong communication plan moving forward.”

Also at the meeting, the board:

n Heard from Sweet Home High School counselor Lisa Malabago that seniors Avery Nelson and Quinton Schamp received the Ford Scholars Program Scholarship for post-high school studies, which pays any unmet need, including tuition, fees, and housing up to $40,000 per year. According to the foundation, the students selected for the scholarship “have shown exceptional potential and motivation to succeed in college. They have also demonstrated care for their community, a strong work ethic, leadership potential, and an overall outstanding character.”

Both Nelson and Schamp plan to attend Oregon State University in the fall.

An unnamed student received the Pathway to Oregon scholarship through the University of Oregon, with an additional scholarship that covers her additional fees, including housing and food.

“Her entire education for all four years, including living on campus, is covered,” Malabago said.

The counselor added that another unnamed student received the Presidential Scholarship at Pacific University, good for $30,000 a year. This student also earned another $9,000 in scholarships.

Another student, bound for Willamette University, received The Director’s Scholar Scholarship as well as several academic scholarships, totaling $52,500 per year for four years.

Another student planning to attend Arizona State University received a Provost Scholarship and a Hagan Scholarship, which totals $27,000 a year.

The school board also:

♦ Unanimously voted to adopt a new K-12 math curriculum for the district. The new curriculum, which will be taught for the next seven years, will be Reveal Math by McGraw Hill for K-5, Ed Gems by Shannon McCaw for grades 6-8, and Big Ideas by Larson Texts, Inc. for grades 9-12.

♦ Heard from Martin that “We’re really doing well with our hiring. We told the principals to get after it, and lit a fire underneath them, and they responded. So our hiring is going very well.”

♦ Saw the attendance trophy for the month of April awarded to Hawthorne Elementary School.

♦ Heard from Strong, in his budget update, that 10 months into the fiscal year, year-to-date spending is just above $18.8 million, an increase of almost $1.8 million over the same period last year. Strong said that higher labor expenses were the primary reason for the increase but that the district was still on track to stay within this year’s budget.

♦ Approved the following hires for the 2023-24 school year: Serenity Wilson, elementary teacher, and a job share between Hailey Schilling and Amber Rosa, Hawthorne Elementary; David McNeil, science teacher, and Robbie Ellis, math teacher, Sweet Home Junior High; Stefani Brown, elementary counselor-mental health support, Sweet Home School District; Isabelle Rice, kindergarten teacher, Holley Elementary; Brian Brands, director of student services; Annika Zeigler, language arts teacher, Christy Vough, biology/life science teacher, and Spencer Hart, biology/life science teacher, Sweet Home High School.

♦ Approved the hire of Lisa Collins, Extended Year Services special ed teacher for the 2023-24 summer school program.

♦ Accepted the resignation of Taylour Stanley-Valdez, language arts teacher at the high school, effective May 19.