School board approves calendar, receives financial update and reviews potential capital improvements

Superintendent Bill Rhoades on Monday presented the school board with a draft charter agreement between the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and the charter school it sponsors, Three Rivers. The draft charter includes two changes the school had sought: increased enrollment and greater per-student funding.

The board voted unanimously in November to renew the school’s charter, or contract, and representatives from the school and the district have been meeting to discuss the new charter terms.

Three Rivers’ board of directors had asked for two major changes to its current charter, which will expire in June. Both requests were based on the school’s desire to reduce the amount — $3,900 — it asks each student to contribute annually.

The first change was to increase the number of students attending, from the current 100 to 150. In its current location at 4975 Willamette Drive in West Linn, the school can accommodate about 120 students.

The second change involved the amount of funding the charter school receives from the state school fund, under a complicated formula known as ADMw or average daily measurement, weighted. State school funds are channeled through charter schools’ sponsoring organizations. Since the charter school opened in 2001, WL-WV has provided the school with the minimum amount of funding required by law, 80 percent of ADMw. The school asked to increase that amount to 95 percent.

The draft charter presented Monday represented a compromise on those requests. The new charter will allow enrollment to rise to 105 in the 2014-15 school year and to 110 in 2015-16. The five-year charter does not allow for further expansion.

Also, the charter share would receive 85 percent of ADMw in the 2014-15 school year and 90 percent in 2015-16. That number would rise to 95 percent for students with disabilities or disadvantages.

Under the proposed charter, WL-WV would provide financial assistance for the school’s facility, $25,000 in 2014-15 and $50,000 in 2015-16. The charter school’s current lease will expire at the end of the 2015-16 school year, and at that time, the two boards would renegotiate in hopes of finding a way to reduce costs. One strategy might be to lease the school district-owned space, Rhoades said.

WL-WV also would provide substantial support to the charter school in terms of technology if the two boards approve the proposed charter. Rhoades was unprepared to quantify that support for the board at the meeting but promised to do so.

“It’s a fairly substantial financial commitment,” board member Rob Fernandez said. “There needs to be specificity in terms of what these contributions are.”

Rhoades thanked board member Regan Molatore for her work on the charter renewal, characterizing the negotiations as “positive and productive.”

“We got some good work done,” he said.

Three Rivers’ board indicated satisfaction with the draft charter.

“We share common goals with the district to increase student diversity, increase program sustainability and decrease the level of fundraising necessary to sustain the (Three Rivers) program,” the school’s board said in a statement. “As a result, for the first time in 13 years, (Three Rivers) will receive greater funding from the district.”

The board will vote on the charter agreement at its May 5 meeting.

Calendar set for 2014-15

In other business, the school board voted to adopt a calendar for the 2014-15 school year. Important dates include the following:

Sept. 2, first day of school.

Dec. 19 to January 5, winter break.

March 23 to 27, spring break.

June 12, last day of school.

The 2014-15 school calendar comprises a full year for instructional days, Human Resources Director Kathe Monroe said. Students will receive 172 days of instruction in primary schools, 173 in middle schools and 175 in high schools. The calendar includes 191 contract days for teachers, as outlined in their bargaining agreement.

If the district declares school closures due to inclement weather, a decision will be made at that time whether to extend the school year to compensate.

Budget news

WL-WV Business Manager Doug Middlestetter updated the board on the schedule of meetings for the school district’s budget committee. The committee is scheduled to meet May 5, 12, 19 and 27, with public comment allowed at the May 12 meeting. The committee will present the 2014-15 budget June 9.

Rhoades delivered an overview of the district’s financial prospects, citing the following positive influences:

The biennial split, whereby the district receives 49 percent of its two-year state funding in the first year of the budget and 51 percent in the second year.

Legislative action that increased statewide school funding by $100 million last spring.

Higher tax collections this spring.

A recalculation of the state’s poverty rate, based on the current census.

Increased enrollment calculations for WL-WV.

A decrease in the number of students statewide, which would increase the amount of funding available on a per-student basis.

“All of these things are working together (to create) a higher fund balance than we might have predicted,” Rhoades said.

Rhoades described investment considerations, returning often to his theme for the district of stability and sustainability. For example, the district added 24 teaching positions for the 2013-14 school year only after determining that it would be likely to retain those positions going forward.

“We’re optimistic about sustaining (those positions) … and we look forward to opportunities to hire additional staff,” Rhoades said.

The district’s improving financial outlook could reopen a discussion about financial reserves, something the district has not had lately.

“As a board member, I don’t think I’ve ever seen numbers going up,” Steele said. “And I don’t know how to react.”

Fernandez urged Rhoades to include two considerations in its calculations.

“I’d like to see an investment in staff professional development,” he said, citing changes in curriculum such as those prompted by Common Core requirements. He suggested providing support especially to assist teachers in implementing new technology they are being asked to use. His second request involved the potential for reduced funding in the future.

“If we’re faced with a situation where our resources are seriously diminished in a 2015, ’16 time frame, what we might do,” he said, suggesting the board “frame some of the decisions we might make, just to get in front of it.”

The meeting concluded with a presentation by Operations Manager Tim Woodley regarding long-range planning and bonding capacity.

Middlestetter said that the district has a bond capacity between $78 million and $84.5 million. Both scenarios would keep the bond rate at or below the current rate of $3 per $1,000 assessed value and would employ a 20- to 22-year repayment schedule. The current bond, passed in 2008 and worth $98 million, expires in June.

The district currently is working with an outside organization, The Nelson Report, to develop a public opinion poll regarding a potential bond. Polling results could be available in early May, Woodley said.

Woodley shared concept plans for four potential projects, while noting that each was only a concept that might be developed if the school board places a bond measure in front of the public and if the public votes to approve it. The projects discussed included a 450-student replacement facility for Sunset Primary School, a renovation of the “700 building” at West Linn High School, an expansion of the performing arts facilities at Wilsonville High School and a possible combined middle and primary school off Advance Road in Wilsonville.

The school board meets for a work session April 21.

The next regular meeting will be May 5. The board meets at the district office building, 22210 SW Stafford Road. Meetings are open to the public. For more information, visit the district’s website:

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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