Reflecting on local schools in 2017
It's that time of year again: a time to reflect. As the new year approaches, think back on all that has happened in the last year. Every year is unique, and each year brings different challenges, frustrations, opportunities and accomplishments.
And wow, was 2017 a year for change.
From the construction and completion of new schools to a wealth of new hires, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District accomplished some serious projects and welcomed several new faces.
Below is a recap from the school district's top happenings in the year 2017:
The boundary issue
There's no doubt, parents with children attending school in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District remember the several board meetings, work sessions and public meetings needed to work through mapping new middle school boundaries because of the addition of a fourth middle school.
The boundary adjustment was the result of the district's newest school, Meridian Creek Middle School in Wilsonville. The district formed a Boundary Task Force in September 2016 — consisting of administrators, stakeholders, teachers and parents from both West Linn and Wilsonville — to craft boundary scenarios.
The district held meetings in November and December of 2016 to share updated information regarding upcoming adjusted school boundaries for all four of the district's middle schools — Rosemont Ridge, Inza R. Wood, Athey Creek and Meridian Creek.
Administration held the public meetings to include parent and community input for the different boundary scenarios. Community response at both meetings, however, was largely negative, as parents were upset with both proposals for a variety of reasons.
Come February 2017, the board voted to adopt map 9A. The district's final proposal gave families living within the primary boundaries of Cedaroak Park, Stafford and Bolton a choice to attend one of two middle schools — Cedaroak Park and Bolton families could choose between Rosemont Ridge and Athey Creek while Stafford families could choose between Athey Creek and Meridian Creek. Sunset and Trillium Creek families would attend Rosemont, Willamette families would go to Athey Creek, Boeckman students would be assigned to Meridian Creek, and Lowrie and Boones Ferry families were set to remain at Wood.
But still, this decision didn't come without challenges, as enrollment and middle school capacity numbers caused some stress. The board then passed an additional resolution during the Feb. 6 meeting, choosing not to participate in Open Enrollment this year and thus accept no new out-of-district students. The district had participated in Open Enrollment all five years since the law came into place — allowing a decreasing number of students in the last couple years — but decided it made sense to take a break with high enrollment numbers across WL-WV.
In with the new
The start to the 2017-2018 school year was definitely exciting for the community as the construction of the new Meridian Creek Middle School and the newly rebuilt Sunset Primary school finished up as part of the 2014 capital bond project. The school's doors swung open and immediately welcomed students, staff and the community to dedication ceremonies and beginning of the year events.
Meridian Creek was the largest and most expensive of the bond projects, with a total budget of $44 million. Sunset was budgeted to cost just under $26.5 million.
The construction of the new middle school also included a public improvement project. That project was part of the district's Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Wilsonville, which was a condition of the site's building permit. After acquiring right-of-way easements and acquisitions from property owners bordering Meridian Creek on Advance Road and 63rd Avenue, the district agreed on a $2.9 million contract with K&E Excavating, Inc. to complete the project, which involved building a new street and turnaround, updating water and sewer in the street and working with franchised utilities around the roads.
The project also included the implementation of a fully signalized intersection at Boeckman, Wilsonville, Advance and Stafford roads, and while the district was leading the project, the City payed for 53 percent of the contract, or $1.5 million.
As far as Sunset goes, the community reminisced on the old building's history while saying goodbye. The school's bell, which sits out front now, as well as artwork and other items were preserved and placed in the new building.
And while Sunset was the most worrisome in terms of opening on time, both schools pulled through.
It was a good summer for West Linn-Wilsonville Superintendent Kathy Ludwig. Her contract was renewed with a 3.25 percent raise in June 2017.
The WL-WV School Board and Ludwig agreed on a three-year contract that pays $164,167 annually, with a $1,000 per month tax shelter annuity and a small stipend for cell phone and mileage expenses. Board Vice Chair Regan Molatore said the raise was in line with the salary increase other district administrators received during contract negotiations.
The board conducted a yearlong superintendent's review, a change from the past, tasking Molatore with the assignment of meeting with Ludwig monthly to gather information and provide feedback. Using a rating system of "ineffective," "developing," "effective" and "established," the board collectively decided that Ludwig rated as at least effective in nine different categories that they looked at. They were pleased with her work.
Schools see new faces
As of Aug. 21, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District was able to hire 74 new teachers and district staff for the 2017-2018 school year.
Aside from the wealth of new hires to the district, there were teachers replacing retirees and WL-WV teachers changing schools within the district, all adding up to many new faces walking the halls the beginning of this school year.
Out of all the schools that welcomed in new faces, West Linn High School welcomed the most with 14 new hires: Language arts teacher Anna Crandall was joined by Spanish teacher Melissa Eseppi, advanced math teacher Kenny Ewbank, language arts teacher Conor Greany, counselor Carly Halverson, advanced math teacher Molly Hurtado, language arts teacher Ian Lamont, choir teacher Aubrey Patterson, language arts teacher Lindsey Spadoni, counselor Krystal Toderick and language arts teacher Amarou Yoder. The teachers were also joined by three assistant principals: Paul Hanson and Anya Hershberger and Trevor Menne. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Bolton Primary was the only WL-WV school with no new hires this school year.
On the administration side, the district hired 11 new employees over the summer.
WL-WV School District welcomes new board members
While every year promises new faces and experiences, 2017 welcomed two new West Linn-Wilsonville School Board members in July: Ginger Fitch and Dylan Hydes were sworn in to complete four-year terms after winning a May election that featured six candidates.
Hydes and Fitch took the vacated seats left by longtime members Keith Steele and Rob Fernandez, joining re-elected member Regan Molatore as well as existing members Betty Reynolds and Chelsea Martin.
The annual budget
The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board's final meeting of the 2016-2017 school year was by far its busiest of 2017. The board approved the budget for the 2017-18 school year, awarded five different construction contracts and gave a new policy its stamp of approval among other items of business last June.
The proposed budget included a general fund of $101.6 million, which was built around projected state revenue of $7.8 billion. But because the state's Joint Committee on Ways and Means passed a recommended budget of $8.2 billion earlier in the week, revenue projections showed the district would likely receive an additional $3 million in state funding, with the possibility for even more.
The board approved the proposed budget 4-1, and also awarded construction contracts for five different capital bond projects that took place last summer. Those projects included district-wide roofing at Rosemont Ridge Middle School, Boeckman Creek Primary, Willamette Primary and Wilsonville High School. Two separate contracts were for special roofing work at Inza R. Wood Middle School and Athey Creek Middle School. A fourth construction contract was given for a reconstructed entryway at WHS. The final contract was awarded for security fencing at Cedaroak Park Primary.
The board then moved to approve a policy surrounding video surveillance at the district's middle and high schools.
Enrollment on the upswing
The West Linn-Wilsonville School District saw a steady growth in enrollment in 2017. In October, the WL-WV School Board and administration analyzed enrollment numbers and class sizes. As reported on Sept. 30, there were 9,902 students enrolled in the district — 134 more than last year and 377 more than 2015. With the addition of preschool, the total was more than 10,000 students.
The addition of Meridian Creek Middle School also caused enrollment numbers for middle schools in the district to shift as well. Inza R. Wood has about 556 students enrolled, which is 253 less from last year; Rosemont Ridge has 47 less and Athey Creek 40 less.
But because of enrollment increase, class size became a concern and something the district has to keep an eye on.
Record number of graduates
Spirits were high at Arts and Technology High School in June 2017 when a record number of students graduated. Parents, family, staff, administration and most of all the students had smiles spread across their faces when they watched a record number of 33 students graduate at the Clackamas Community College Gregory Forum.
Principal Saskia Dresler first addressed the graduates before Superintendent Kathy Ludwig took the podium.
After words of appreciation and encouragement, it was time to hand out diplomas. Art Tech teachers took turns calling students up to the podium one by one, offering personal words about each student, before the official turning of the tassels, celebrating the rite of passage.
WL-WV students shine
as young scientists
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) brought the world's top young scientists to Los Angeles in May 2017.
Students from 78 different countries and about 1,800 high schools shared groundbreaking projects they worked on over the year leading up to ISEF with industry professional judges. Six of these students were from West Linn-Wilsonville Schools: Wilsonville High School's students Nathan Tidball, Kristopher Wieland, Jared Wieland and Jareth Anderson were joined by West Linn High School's Jessica Yu and Daniel Tang in the competition portion of ISEF, while WHS's Michelle Stevens and Hannah Budroe attended as observers.
Tidball won a Third Award in the Environmental Engineering category for his project titled "Single Chamber MFC: Filtration of Arsenic with an Exoelectrogenic Biofilm." He also received $1,000 in scholarship money.
Tidball's work in particular centered on microbial fuel cells and toxic waste remediation — essentially looking for a bacteria to filter arsenic out of ground water.
He said his main research was on the bacteria's tolerance to certain toxins like arsenic.
Yu received an Honorable Mention from the International Council on Systems Engineering for her project titled "Safe with Me Now: A Novel System to Prevent Vehicular Hyperthermia in Children."
Yu's work was a continuation of a project she started as an eighth-grader. She noticed an alarming rate of children mortality on the news from being left in hot cars. She decided to design a device that would prevent this tragedy.
She said most of those products were variations of car seats, and that the two flaws were that there was no way to detect whether a child was alone in the car — if they crawled out of the car seat — and that the devices only alerted the parent or guardian. Yu decided to solve those two flaws, engineering her own device to account for those two scenarios.