Committees likely to be fused into one following a Nov. 14 meeting of the board of directors

The Newberg School District board of directors approved Nov. 14 the inclusion of about 25 people, including staff and community members, on the first of two planned bond committees, but has already taken a step back and is now re-evaluating its process for formulating a possible bond offering in 2019.

The initial plan was to convene both a bond exploration committee and a long-range facilities planning committee, with each having different approaches and areas of focus before consolidating into a smaller bond planning committee after concluding their work.

But after Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza and Assistant Superintendent Dave Parker met with a bond consultant Friday, they have decided to change course and will likely form only the facilities committee to begin with.

The district has not yet hired any consultant in regard to the bond, as that would require board approval, but has notified the board of the change and will present an update at its next meeting Dec. 12.

The move represents a quick pumping of the brakes after eight of the people named to the bond exploration committee met for an informational meeting Nov. 15 and were expected to begin meeting with staff at each school in December.

That committee was expected to take input from the long-range facilities committee as part of a broader evaluation of district needs and considerations that could be addressed by a bond.

Following the advice of a consultant, which has helped several other districts in the Portland metro region pass bond measures in recent years, the district will instead start with the long-range facilities planning committee. That group had not yet been formed officially through the school board, but is likely to retain many of the people recruited to the bond exploration committee and won't begin for another month.

"We're grateful for these community members who have pledged their time to help us look at what we need to serve all students better," district communications coordinator Autumn Foster said. "We do know that committee work likely won't start in earnest until January as we start looking at long-range facilities planning."

Final decisions have not yet been made, but Foster added that much of the focus for two original committees was to be on facilities, so it likely won't be a major change for those members who had already been approved by the board.

The Nov. 15 meeting was mostly informational so that members could consider if the committee was the right fit for them and if they would be able to make the time commitment.

Emily Garrick-Steenson, a parent volunteer at Dundee Elementary and leader of the parent group at Chehalem Valley Middle School, was one of the four community members in attendance, with LeBlanc-Esparza, Foster, instructional technology coordinator Luke Neff and NHS athletic director Tim Burke among staff named to the group.

"We also spoke about who else should be involved," Garrick-Steenson said. "I really appreciated them being open to that and making sure that they had the right people at the table."

She said there was a good level of excitement in the room and that her experience with fundraising for and implementing some safety upgrades at Dundee Elementary were one reason why participating was an "easy yes" for her.

"I like to see how things are working," Garrick-Steenson said. "I like all the information, so for me, this is a very interesting process, but I think there definitely need to be lots of stakeholders at the table and I think having a parent voice at the table is really important and I'm happy to lend that view."

Carr Biggerstaff, director of the Chehalem Valley Innovation Accelerator and a participant in the high school's efforts to upgrade its CTE and design programs, was also at the informational meeting. He said he seen great success in educational projects that emphasize great equipment and great instruction, like at Newberg High School's new Integrated Design Studio course, which has taken a part of the building that was only being used for storage and transformed it into a maker space for students.

"That's the hat that I want to go in with," Biggerstaff said. "How can we take the part of the building that is maybe old and worse for the wear, spend a little money there and turn that into the maker space, where we have a kind of win-win instead of having to spend a massive amount of money on the structure?"

Other community members named to the bond exploration committee include parent leaders like Emily Chlumak, Mardo Nunez, Angel Rodriguez II and Don Griswold, former school board member Polly Peterson, recent school board candidate Ines Pena, former district communications coordinator Claudia Stewart, Lori Bergen of Providence Newberg Medical Center, Dundee City Administrator Rob Daykin, Habitat for Humanity's Rick Rogers, Newberg Community Development Director Doug Rux and city councilor Denise Bacon.

At the recent board meeting, chairman Bob Woodward and Todd Thomas volunteered to serve on the facilities committee, with Brandy Penner opting for the bond exploration committee. It's not clear who will represent the board on the facilities committee moving forward, but it is likely Parker will continue to lead it, with LeBlanc-Esparza, who led the exploration committee, stepping aside.

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