Oct. 3 SLSD board meeting notes

South Lane School District sees growth, public comments, need for academic support

The South Lane School Board met on Monday, Oct. 3. District Superintendent Yvonne Curtis announced that the district had grown by 88 students compared to this time last year. Compared to the 2019-2020 school year, the district is roughly 200 kids short and from 2018-2019 the district is 244 students short of where they were at the time. But the board remains optimistic about its growth in the last year.

“This starts a really good trend. Getting at least a third of what we thought we had lost back is really great,” Curtis said.

She also reported the state is still behind 30% in enrollment.

Brian Parsons, teacher at London school, opened the meeting’s public comment section time, speaking to the board about the Menstrual Dignity Act, which created the requirement for schools to provide free menstrual products for all menstruating students in public schools in the state of Oregon. The act opened the door for menstrual products to be available in both boys’ and girls’ restrooms in schools.

“Proving hygiene products to girls is an indisputable good. But those products will also be placed in boys’ bathrooms,” Parsons said. “This invited biological girls into the boy’s restroom and by extent biological boys into the girl’s restroom. I believe all students should be treated with respect and dignity but this transgender policy is not safe for our students, including those who are transgender. Society arrived at the idea of sex separated bathrooms to prevent assault and rape. I ask each of you to push back on the menstrual Dignity Act, using your voice and you’re influence.”

The next public comment came from Sheila Heley, who works for Lincoln Middle School and is a representative of classified employees in the district. She spoke of challenges they were facing in regard to compensation issues they have faced over time.

“Classified employees are the lowest paid in the district and a lot of these individuals live paycheck to paycheck. When they don't receive a paycheck, or their paycheck is incorrect, or their HSA or insurance accounts are messed up, they are traumatized as to how to feed their families, keep a roof over their heads, or how to even afford gas in their vehicle to make it to work the next day,” she said. “Something needs to change or we're going to lose a great deal of dedicated hardworking employees, many who have been with the district for over 10 years.”

Haley said leadership sent a letter to the school board on Sept. 23 asking for change and resolution.

“Our leadership has not yet received a reply. This is disheartening when we continually hear the board and district leadership say that they value our classified employees because without us, our schools couldn't operate. It's time to step up. And show them that they are truly valued,” she said.

Later in the meeting, Curtis responded, “I want all classified staff to know that you are our backbone and we deeply value you. I want to apologize for the challenges that have created more anxiety for you.”

Curtis went on to speak about new staff being trained among other solutions in order to ensure payroll and other relative issues do not occur in the future within the district.

“I don’t think I could ever say sorry enough, not just to those of you who are representing your colleagues, but also to everyone in the school district,” she said.

Among the topics covered in the meeting, Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) Principal Kevin Herington spoke about the challenges that students faced with lack of academic support time. He said the school did a survey to try and figure out best how to help. In the survey taken by staff and students, 91% of teachers said their students would benefit from built-in academic help during the school say. Of the students examined, 85% said they would use academic support during the day.

“One of the things we heard loud and clear was that students and staff needed more time for academic support within the school day. One of the things we learned over the pandemic was that students went into the workforce. They didn’t necessarily have the available time they used to, to do homework and other things. The other thing we gleaned from the information from that survey was that there was a lot of stress associated with moving so quickly and rapidly from period to period. So, with all that in mind, we went back and forth and landed on a 4X4 block schedule.”

CGHS classes are now 80 minutes long and an advisory period is held multiple times a week for 35 minutes to allow students to access support.

In an online statement, the school stated, “This change means that students will only have four class periods per day [except Wednesdays when the school has early release days]. This change will give classes a longer amount of time for deeper learning, while adding more opportunities for students to take more CTE, arts and elective courses, as well as experience a career choice or get additional help from staff.”

The school plans to continue with the 4X4 schedule for the remainder of the academic year, then will take another survey and get feedback.

To view the meeting, visit www.slane.k12.or.us.