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Meeting covered elementary schools, safety and security, Special Education Audit

Lake Oswego School District's new superintendent Dr. Lora de la Cruz presided over her first full school board meeting Monday. As it was the last school board meeting of the 2018-19 school year, de la Cruz and the school board members had plenty to discuss.

Items at the meeting included a proposal for a clothes closet program in the district, an update from the Elementary Task Force, notice of safety and security upgrades and action on the Special Education Audit.

"I just want to express gratitude for being here. It's been a wonderful few weeks," de la Cruz said at the start of the meeting. "I'm really looking forward to working with the board. I'm so impressed with the work that's underway…I'm just happy to be here."

A new resource?

A newly formed group called iLoveLakeOswego presented a proposal to the school board to create a clothes closet for Lake Oswego families.

"Not everyone conforms to the stereotypes and the wealth that is associated with our city," said iLoveLakeOswego member Ella Fuentes. Fuentes said that she and her mom are members of the National Charity League, and have volunteered at clothing places that provide clothing to families in need. "We were talking to people, and realizing LO didn't have that (resource), but we have two Title 1 schools," she said. "So we started wondering, how do those kids afford clothes?" Title 1-A is a federal education program under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 2010. This program provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers or high percentages of low income children to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.

The members of iLoveLakeOswego asked for the school board to work with them to find about 150-200 square feet in the district to house their clothes closet. "We would like to establish a relationship with the school district in order to receive direct referrals," Fuentes said.

The action item proposed by the organization was for de la Cruz to work with them to find the space — it was passed unanimously.

"I feel like this is a gift for my last meeting," said outgoing school board chair Bob Barman. "Every child should be able to feel welcome, they should be able to have nice clothes."

Evaluating elementary schools

Next, the school board's focus shifted to the Elementary Task Force, which has been working on how to best move forward with the district's crowded elementary schools. They were tasked with determining which elementary school configurations, boundary changes or alternative solutions the district should consider to "harmonize elementary programs, facilities and productive learning based on guiding principles, district strategic plan, and the district's decision-making model."

The committee weighed the following options: balance the enrollment among the existing six elementary schools; continue to operate six schools while using Uplands as a temporary satellite for River Grove; open Palisades as a magnet immersion school; open Palisades as a neighborhood school that would support a magnet strand; open Uplands as a magnet immersion school and designate another school as the swing site (to be used when schools are under construction); and operating eight elementary schools.

Ultimately, the Elementary Task Force recommended developing a plan to open a seventh elementary school. "The Elementary Facilities Task Force recommends that Lake Oswego School District open either Uplands or Palisades as a seventh neighborhood elementary school," read their recommendation. "By opening a seventh elementary school and redistributing enrollment, the District will be able to operate all elementary schools at a maximum of 80% capacity. This will provide adequate space at each school to meet class size goals while accommodating enrollment bubbles, programmatic changes, and flexible use of learning spaces. While the seventh elementary facility should operate primarily as a neighborhood school, it may also include classroom strands in support of a magnet program."

The committee also advised that the district research options for future elementary magnet programs, and determine the long term use of the Uplands facility. The recommendations were presented at the June 3 board meeting, and further considered at the most recent meeting.

The school board decided to have the Elementary Task Force meet with the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee before making any final decisions.

"In order to fully build this into the bond, it makes sense to feed this into the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee to consider," board member Sara Pocklington said.

"We have some complexities to consider," agreed de la Cruz. "I think it makes sense to join the two committees, as well as bringing in some consultation as far as our needs and boundaries… and the implications of all of those options."

The board agreed to have the two committees work together, and develop long term recommendations by Dec. 1, 2019.

Safety/security upgrades on track for 2019-20

Assistant superintendent Jennifer Schiele presented an update to the board about upgraded safety and security procedures set to go into place at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

"We have decided to go with Raptor visitor management system for our schools," Schiele said. "I'm excited to say we're going to have a visitor management system in place by the start of school in fall."

Raptor's infrastructure will require first-time visitors to a school to talk face-to-face with school staff. Prior to gaining entry to the school, the visitor's ID will be scanned and run through the national sex offender database. The second time a person enters the school, they will only need to sign-in on a computer at the entrance of the school.

"This is obviously very important," said school board member John Wallin. "We do have a very informal system, and it's pretty easy for people to just breeze on by. I'm certainly guilty of that myself."

School board members also stressed the importance of fully informing the community what the system is and why it's being put into place. "I just don't want any barriers to entry for parent volunteers," said board member Rob Wagner.

The Raptor visitor management system will be installed at all district schools except Lakeridge Middle School this summer. Lakeridge Middle will receive its system once the rebuild of the school is completed.

Special Ed Audit revisited

Also at the meeting, school board member Sara Pocklington presented an update on the Special Education Audit. The audit was done by the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative Education Development Center, and commissioned by the district to identify improvements in its treatment and programming for students with special needs. The audit found that while the LOSD has made strides in supporting students with special needs, there is major room for improvement.

"We've had the special education now in front of the board for a few months. Our SSPAC (Sepcial Services Parental Advisory Committee) has had an opportunity to thoroughly review and do outreach within their broader community and get feedback," said Pocklington. "I really wanted to take this opportunity with Dr. de la Cruz at her first official meeting as superintendent, to really ensure that as a board we are giving clear direction on how we would like to move forward.

Pocklington then made a motion. "The Lake Oswego School Board is directing the superintendent to develop a comprehensive plan to fully remediate all of the findings within the Special Education Audit, including specific action items that will be taken to address each audit individual finding, the timeline over which these action items will be completed, the resources necessary to enable the completion of these action items, and the dates at which progress will be measured and reported back to the board," Pocklington moved. "She shall complete such a plan and present it to the board within 45 calendar days."

De la Cruz said she was up for the challenge. "I take the Special Education Audit very seriously, and I see it as a really important part of our equity work, and our work to advance to continue evolving as a district that is steeped in the consciousness of acceptance and inclusion," she said. "One of the things I'm most proud of in my career is closing and narrowing achievement gaps for students with special education needs. That was in a system that was very similar to here in Lake Oswego in terms of demographics."

De la Cruz said she was confident and excited to get to work on closing those gaps in Lake Oswego. "This is some of the most important work we have in our district," she said.

Pocklington's motion was passed unanimously.


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