Mudrow hesitant to make reconfiguration decision

A group of parents are pressing the Estacada School Board to make a decision about reconfiguration of the schools before the board hires a new superintendent.

The heated discussion happened during the Wednesday, Feb. 12, school board meeting.

Nichole Adamson said it would be a mistake to wait, adding that she’d like to see the board form an official committee dedicated to working on a three- to five-year plan for the district.

“Honestly, the morale of the community is very frustrated with this looming decision where we just keep having all these rumors,” Adamson told the board.

School Board Chairman Rick Mudrow said reconfiguration decisions are typically developed at the superintendent level then considered by the board.

The district does not have an active superintendent.

This winter, the board accepted longtime Superintendent Howard Fetz’ proposal to “take a step back” and assume more of a “consulting role” while he finishes out his contract, which expires June 30.

During the Feb. 12 meeting, Mudrow explained how the board had made a conscious decision not to appoint an interim superintendent as they search for a new one.

But Darian Krieter said she’d like to know what the schools will look like next fall, and that she hopes the board won’t wait to consider reconfiguration until after a superintendent is hired.

“I feel like our elementary schools in particular are broken and we need to address it, and I don’t think we should wait,” she said.

“How would you feel if you were a superintendent and you had to come in and that was the first thing you had to do was make that kind of a decision?” Krieter added.

Angie Nelson said she fears the board will wait until July to make a major decision.

“We feel that the discussions aren’t resulting in anything except us discussing it,” Nelson said.

“There are a lot of balls in the air that we need to really look at very closely. And we need time to do that,” said board member Leslie Andre.

Mudrow brought up a survey that was disseminated in January designed to measure public opinion on a long-term plan for the district.

The survey contained questions specifically directed toward reconfiguration of the schools.

One such question asked, “To gain the greatest efficiency in balancing student class size and staffing, would you agree with a proposed conversion of one primary school building (eg. k-3, k-2, p-3) and one intermediate building. (eg. 4-6, 3-5, 4-5).”

Another question asked directly whether the respondent would support closing Eagle Creek Elementary and centralizing the student body into the cluster of schools in Estacada.

The survey attracted responses from 632 people, but the results have not yet been released.

When contacted later for comment on a rumored long-term plan in the works by the district’s administrators, Clackamas River Elementary Principal Seth Johnson said, “Just like the parents who spoke last night, we definitely want a long term plan.”

During the board meeting, Mudrow said one of the findings from the survey indicated that people were tired of so many frequent changes to the district’s education model.

“I think people are tired of so many changes without a long-term plan,” Adamson said.

In a later interview with Estacada News, Mudrow explained that over the last few years the district has taken on a major change every year.

There were blended classrooms in all three elementary schools, then the closure of River Mill Elementary and then blended classrooms at Eagle Creek and standard classes at Clackamas River.

“We need to make decisions like this with great care,” Mudrow said as to why he’s hesitant to take on the reconfiguration question at this time.

Mudrow admitted that the closure of River Mill Elementary didn’t exactly “pan out the way we thought” in regard to the realization of projected savings and Clackamas River Elementary’s ability to absorb more students.

“I wouldn’t say it was a bad decision, but it’s a decision that could have used additional thought and preparation,” Mudrow said.

“The board won’t move very quickly on a major decision until it’s been thoroughly thought through,” Mudrow said. “It’s really not a matter of not liking some of the things that have been proposed. We’re hoping to find a visionary superintendent that leads us and not one we proscribe,” he added.

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