Quite necessarily, much has been said about the impacts of these last few years on students, but less so about what’s happening for teachers. Some of that fallout went on display at last week’s School Board meeting as the district’s teacher union president, Christa Schmeder, took the mic, reporting, “The staff is just really exhausted.”
In sometimes tearful comments, she relayed experiences of local teachers having to work second jobs, while others are seeking career changes. She relayed communicating with teachers that feel drained, and teachers that are worried they’re not taking care of their own health, or that they are worried about how they’re parenting their own children.
Click here for the video, Schmeder’s comments take about six minutes, starting at 39:00 minutes.
Housing, Schools, and Possible Help: One challenge teachers are facing along with everyone else, according to Schmeder, is the ability to live in the district they’re teaching in.
Schools become communities, and after hours extracurricular doings are an integral part of a healthy dynamic. Right now, given how unaffordable Corvallis housing has become, many teachers are having to choose between not participating, or paying the toll the commute takes on their time with family.
So, next after Schmeder came Corvallis Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Brigetta Olson with a plan for tax breaks to developers willing to build affordable housing.
It’s a City of Corvallis plan, but it needs approval from the School Board because the tax breaks would impact public school revenues. School board member Vince Adams says he supports the idea even if it does cost some property tax revenues because the affordable housing would mean more younger families could live in Corvallis, and with those families would come per-pupil funding from the state.
Ultimately, it appears the Board will lean toward being supportive of the proposal.
In Other Board Business: It was a good thing the school construction bond proposals voters approved had a contingency in them. The bad news is that inflation and supply chain issues have indeed increased the costs of all the planned projects. The good news is, the Board is now in possession of a report that the contingency is enough to cover it all.
Search Early for a Preschool: Wait lists have been long as of late, so most of the locals we’ve talked with suggest starting your search early. The other thing we heard is that not every preschool, even an exceptional one, is a perfect fit for every kiddo, so you’ll want time to check out the options on your own, along with more time later to swing by top picks with your kiddo.
Also, to help you get started, we asked a few local education types for a checklist of what to look for in a good preschool – and most everyone one of them said to ask Brenda Daigle. Brenda has years of professional experience in early childhood learning and care, she is the Director at Corvallis Community Children’s Centers. Here’s the checklist she offered:
- Be practical.
- Look at programs that have hours, prices, and a location that meet your needs.
- Right now, waitlists are lengthy so get added to several.
2. Do your homework.
- Visit a few places to compare. One will stand out!
- Have a list of questions prepared to ask each place you visit.
- Make a note of a point of contact at each place so you can easily reference who you spoke with.
3. Take a tour and ask questions.
- Tour the center, meet the teacher and director, see the classroom, and take a peek at the playground. If you can, join in on circle time and see how your child responds to the teaching style of the teacher.
- Watch how the teacher interacts with your child. Do they get down at your child’s level? Are they kind and compassionate? Are they inclusive? Do they seem to like their job? Are they happy and positive? Is the atmosphere cheerful?
- Ask about behavior guidance policies, pricing, how parents can be involved, family-oriented activities, philosophy on outdoor play, free play, teacher directed activities, and what you are expected to provide for your child (diapers, wipes, blanket, extra clothes, water bottle, etc.).
- Talk to the teacher about lesson plans and curriculum. Does it look fun and engaging? Do the other children in the class look like they are enjoying themselves? Is there art posted in the classroom?
- Talk with the director about the process of enrolling, paying tuition, communication, safety precautions, newsletters, meals, outside activities, and how parents can be involved.
- If your child has allergies or needs milk/meal accommodations, discuss those and see if and how they can be accommodated.
4. Check references.
- You can check the records of Licensed facilities via an online portal.
- If you are looking at a nanny or family-home business, check references. Even at a center, parents who have their children in care are good points of contacts.
5. Trust your gut.
- Go with the place that you and your child feel the most comfortable. There will be one place that stands out and your child just fits into better than the others.
Equal Class Time for Children with Disabilities: Some Oregon students with disabilities have been denied access to learning opportunities and class time that is guaranteed under state and federal law, parents say.
Several spoke at a meeting of the state Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, and several more submitted written testimony in advance, outlining the lengths they had gone to get their children even a few hours of school time each week.
To address these inequities, Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, D-Corvallis, has proposed legislation to clarify the rights these students have to their full school day with a licensed instructor. The proposal, which has bipartisan backing, would give the Oregon Department of Education and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission the power to investigate and sanction districts and superintendents that do not comply.
Children with disabilities in more than 70% of Oregon school districts have been put on shortened school days at some point, Jake Cornett, executive director of the nonprofit Disability Rights Oregon, told lawmakers.
SENATE BILL 819
Under federal law, students with disabilities are entitled to a “free and appropriate public education,” that guarantees them the right to equal educational opportunities and to be educated with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.
Senate Bill 819, which includes Gelser Blouin and six other senators as chief sponsors, including Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend; and Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego; would clarify that language. It would specify that students with disabilities are guaranteed to receive full-time instruction with a licensed teacher or a classified staff acting under a licensed teacher. It would mandate that if a school wants to give a student with a disability a shortened school day or days, the parent or guardian would have to consent. Currently, a school can send a child home or put them on shortened school days for an indefinite period without the agreement of a parent or guardian.
One parent testified that earlier this school year, her son with a disability was taken out of his classroom as the district worked to place him in a setting with more one-on-one care that would be safer for him.
District officials told the mother it would take two weeks to place her son.
“It’s now been three months,” she said. “We agreed to the placement only because we thought we could get more support. He has not been in school since October.” Chelsea Rasmussen, a mother from Grants Pass, told lawmakers her daughter, who is medically fragile and nonverbal, though communicative, was denied schooling because the district lacked appropriate staff. Her daughter was put on shortened days and even weeks during the spring of 2022. This year she is being homeschooled.
“She continually shows me videos online about school and the things that she wants to learn,” Rasmussen said of her daughter. “She sits by the door with her communication device pressing the buttons ‘go’ and ‘school,’ and cries when she’s told that she cannot attend at this time.”
PROPOSAL INCLUDES DISCIPLINE
Under the legislation, if a student’s access to school were not restored within a week of a parent or guardian petitioning the district to put the student back in class, the Oregon Department of Education and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission could investigate and discipline the superintendent for misconduct and neglect under the law.
The only opposition to the bills came from the Oregon School Boards Association and the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators. A lobbyist for the school administrators coalition told the senators that special education directors are concerned that parents could refuse to have their child placed on a shortened school day, even if it were unsafe or the school lacked staff to provide proper care, or if the child were taking medication or getting medical treatment that made a full school day untenable.
A lobbyist for the school boards’ association, Richard Donovan, testified in writing that the bills would move investigation rights from school districts to the state education department, which he said could be costly.
The education department’s director, Colt Gill, submitted neutral testimony, agreeing in part with Donovan’s concern.
“ODE would require additional resources to implement the investigations required by this bill,” Gill wrote. But, he said, the ultimate goal of the agency is to ensure every student has an inclusive and meaningful education.
“The concept behind this bill moves Oregon closer to this goal,” he wrote.
The bill resurrects Senate Bill 1578 from last year’s short session. It died on the Senate floor after Gov. Kate Brown told Gelser Blouin there wouldn’t be enough time to vote on it.
Gelser Blouin said she is waiting on a records request filed months ago with the department of education that might illuminate why the agency, education groups or other politicians might not have wanted it passed at the time.
The education department most recently told her it would cost $5,000 to fulfill the records request, she tweeted this week.
Gelser Blouin said she wants to get her latest bill to Gov. Tina Kotek to sign by the beginning of spring break so students who have been denied weeks and even months of class time this school year can resume their education like other students.
By Advocate Staff and Alex Baumhardt of Oregon Capital Chronicle covering state legislation