The West Linn-Wilsonville School District officially swore in two new members at a special meeting Monday, July 10, welcoming Ginger Fitch and Dylan Hydes to the board of directors.
Hydes and Fitch take 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 new board tackled a few items of business during its first meeting together, starting with the election of officials for the coming 2017-18 school year. Reynolds nominated Fitch for board chair while Molatore nominated Martin. Molatore said, regardless of the candidate, she was hesitant to vote for a first-time member as board chair because of the learning curve the job presents, but Reynolds said she had worked with Fitch in many capacities over the years and that she had proven to be an intellectual and effective spokesperson.
"This is an opportunity to reflect on the last couple years and the work that we've done as a board, and some of the things that I'm proud of since I started," Martin said. "I have put a lot of energy into improving our superintendent review process with the help of the board, and I've also put an emphasis on seconding motions to promote open discussion. ... I hope that this board will continue to work on those efforts, and I will continue to show up with that spirit of open dialogue and respect, regardless of who that (chair) is."
Fitch received three of five votes, making her chair for the coming year, while Martin was unanimously voted vice chair.
The board also approved a resolution designating district officials for the coming year, received a budget update from Business Manager Doug Middlestetter and planned for its upcoming board retreat. Among appointed officials, the board approved Mersereau Shannon LLP as the district's attorney and Pauly Rogers and Co., PC as the district's auditor, but Reynolds suggested it might be time to select a new auditor. She said the Oregon School Boards Association recommended routinely rotating auditors, which WL-WV hasn't done for more than a decade.
Middlestetter said he was already preparing to look at other options for the 2017-18 school year, but that Pauly Rogers and Co was already midway through the 2016-17 audit and that it made sense to wait on selecting a new auditor until the fall. The board agreed it was a good idea, asking Middlestetter to include any Washington auditors who are licensed in Oregon to create a bigger pool of candidates.
Middlestetter also shared recent budget updates following the state's approved budget of $8.2 billion, which was $400 million more than the $7.8 billion that WL-WV originally budgeted for back in June. Middlestetter said that while the set revenue means an additional $4.56 million in funds than the district planned for, it will also be spread out evenly over the next biennium, which is different than the allocation of 49 percent in year one and 51 percent in year two that school districts have grown accustomed to in Oregon. Middlestetter added that the district has already added 11 new staff — primarily teachers — in light of the additional revenue, and that they would revisit staffing as enrollment becomes clearer across WL-WV.
"It was a goal during the budget process to build up that ending fund balance a little bit. But, and I will say this adamantly, that doesn't mean that we're done spending for this year. It means that we've done a little bit of a realignment based on additional revenue," he said. "We still are looking very closely at student counts and funding, and things we do to make sure we're adequately staffed. Fortunately we have a little bit of money that came in so that we can do what we need to do."
The board also planned for its annual board retreat, tentatively planning to meet either Aug. 7 or Aug. 8 to prepare for the upcoming year. The board agreed to invite an OSBA mediator to the retreat to make the meeting as efficient as possible, also prioritizing topics they plan to work through.
Molatore said working through a board operating agreement — establishing best practices for board interactions and processes — was one of her primary objectives, while Hydes said taking a look at board and district transparency was at the top of his list.
"My top priority is transparency. It's something I've put a lot of thought into already and I think it's a topic we could probably handle in less time than goal setting and some of the other ones that are obviously super-important," Hydes said. "Things I would look at are changing the nature of the minutes that are kept, the idea of changing how we notify the public of meetings, making sure that any materials for presentations that are given at meetings are shared publically or online, possibly having a school board Facebook page ... not as a way of having public discussion, but just as a way to notify of what we're doing."
The board also agreed goal setting was a top priority, as well as revisiting its superintendent evaluation process among other topics. Following the retreat, the board will reconvene for a regular meeting Monday, Aug. 14, starting at 6 p.m. in the district administration office.