Three out of four district priorities are now met.

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Superintendent Tony MannThe Molalla River School Board has restored music programs to the district’s elementary schools.

At its Oct. 24 meeting, the board voted unanimously to hire two full-time music teachers for the four schools, with each teacher assigned to two schools.

Matters related to finance, class size, community values, enrollment and district priorities were all part of the discussion.

“It was a tough decision,” said board Chairman Ralph Gierke. “We were in a tight spot, trying to figure out the financial situation. In particular, we had to cut so many programs in the past, and that has been very frustrating. While the board felt strongly about trying to return some programs that we had cut, we were looking at predictions on where we are financially. We looked at it thoroughly to walk that fine line and get the music program back into the grade schools.”

The decision was based on a community survey made last spring regarding district budget priorities, said Superintendent Tony Mann. Among all groups surveyed, four priorities were consistently high. Those were k-12 class size, elementary core skills such as reading, restoring elementary programs like music, and restoration and expansion of secondary class offerings, including career technical education.

Mann said that by maintaining historical average class size targets, by adding reading specialists to the elementary school program, and by restoring elementary music, there is a clear focus on student achievement with stakeholder input.

Secondary class offerings will continue to be a consideration as the district moves forward, and providing for an exceptional education for all students remains the primary purpose, he said.

by: MOLALLA PIONEER  - Molalla School Board Chairman Ralph Gierke“Any time the school board makes a decision like this, they have to take into consideration so many variables,” Mann said. “Last year, the board and budget committee approved our proposed budget, which included the addition of elementary reading specialists, so every school could be in a better position to make sure all kids had those core skills. The budget proposed last year also maintained the commitment to the class sizes that were in place in the district for many years, and they also made sure to keep a full school year. Class sizes continue to be a priority.”

Now this year, as result of PERS reform and special legislation, education funding in the state created the opportunity for districts across the state to restore cut days.

“The responsive conservative practices in our district continue,” Mann said. “And the adopted budget last year did not assume that legislation in PERS reform would move forward—we took the conservative planning route. And that led to restoration of elementary music in our district. So now three of those priority areas are fulfilled.”

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