District 47J News

School Board Grants Riley Unpaid Leave

The Vernonia School Board met in a Special Public Meeting on Thursday, January 15 and voted unanimously to grant popular high school science teacher Jean Riley unpaid leave until February 12,  2015

Riley’s teaching license expired on December 31, 2014. She told the board she is only weeks away from completing a Masters Degree and applying to have her teaching license renewed.

Riley has been a teacher in the Vernonia School District since 2003.

Miller placed Riley on unpaid leave, according to District policy, when she was unable to complete the needed work in time to meet the December 31 deadline imposed by the State of Oregon..  Riley then made a request for  Emergency Leave in order to complete the renewal of her license.  Miller denied the Emergency Leave request based on the fact that without a teaching license Riley was no longer covered under the rules of the District’s collective bargaining agreement. Riley appealed Miller’s decision to the School Board, which led to the Special Meeting.  According to the agenda for the meeting Miller was prepared to bring forward to the Board a recommendation to terminate Riley.

Twenty-eight people spoke on behalf of Riley at the School Board meeting, including current and former students, other teachers, parents of students and community members.  All delivered a similar message: Riley is an organized, dedicated and respected teacher who challenges her students.  Many called her one of the best teachers in the District.  Riley spoke last and tearfully apologized to the audience, her students and the School Board, explaining that she had numerous personal issues over the last year which kept her from completing her license renewal. Read More

VHS Alumni Sports Initiative Update

vhs_loggers_logoAs of December 15, 2014 the Vernonia Alumni Sports Initiative has raised over $75,000 through  contributions by 165 alumni.  A year-end appeal, mailed on November 24, has generated $16,440 thus far.

One year ago the Sports Initiative  had reached the $50,000 level with 130 alumni contributing.

When combined  with the Gary Davis Memorial ($4,000),  the Class of 73 Give Back Bash ($10,000), the local match for the OSAA grant for the football practice field ($10,000), the Sports Initiative is just shy of $100,000 being contributed for athletic facilities during the past two years.

Vernonia School Board Report

At the November 12, 2014 Vernonia School  Board Meeting:

Board Hears Student Report- The Board heard a report from Alexis Baska and Summer Snow.  Both students from the Leadership Class reported on events and activities at the high school.

Class Size Report- Principal Nate Underwood provided an update on measures that have been taken to address overcrowding in the Middle School.  Underwood told the Board that all the problems have not been solved but steps are being taken.  Underwood informed the Board that a math class has been added for sixth graders and a gym class has been added.  Underwood also said an instructional aid is assigned to every one of the sixth grade classes.

Building Reports- Principal Aaron Miller provided the Board with a report from the Elementary School.  Miller reported that attendance at the Open House was down this year and estimated that attendance at parent teacher conferences on November 6 and 7 was around 80-90%.

Miller also provided an update on the Focus Schools program.  Miller told the Board that teachers are utilizing the new Independent and Reading Language Assessment program and that teachers will once again give up their own personal time on November 24 and 25 to develop instructional programs to align with Common Core State Standards.

Principal Underwood provided the Board with a report on the Middle and High Schools.  Underwood informed the Board about a Parent Survey available online at http://www.advanced.org/survey/public/4205849 and encouraged parents to participate.

Underwood’s written report also included an article about the importance of ninth grade in regards to eventual graduation rates. Read More

School Board Report

At the October 9, 2014 Vernonia School Board Meeting:


Next Board Meeting- The next School Board meeting will be Wednesday November 12 at 6:00 PM, which is a change from the usual Thursday night meeting.


Board Welcomes Guest- the Vernonia School Board meeting was attended by NW Regional ESD Superintendent James Sager.


Student Reports- The Board heard Student Reports from senior Zi_xian Chen and sixth grader Jared Armes.  Zi-xian reported on current high school activities and Jared gave report on Outdoor School.


Building Reports- Elementary School Principal Aaron Miller told the Board that students had taken part in the Salmon Watch program, a field trip to Dr. Thomas’ property along Rock Creek on Keasey Road.  The trip was a joint program with students from the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School in Salem.  Vernonia Students from the Forestry program helped with the program.  Students learned about riparian zones, water quality issues, salmon life cycles and plant and tree identification.  They also had a chance to see salmon spawning in Rock Creek.

Mr. Miller reported that he will visit Corbett Elementary School on October 28 with ODE Instructional Coach Patti Wiemer.  Corbett is a high performing school and Miller will look at their blended classroom program and how they provide intervention services for students in need of extra reading and math help.

Middle/High School Principal Nate Underwood provided the Board with a written report. Mr. Underwood reported that thirteen students went on a Manufacturing Career Day trip; that a lockdown drill was held on October 9; that the district has four Pacific University graduate students who are assisting Mr Weisel with counseling duties; and that a ‘New Technology’ assembly will be held October 29 with a parent presentation in the evening.  Underwood also reported that Homecoming Week is October 13-18. Read More

School Enrollment and Funding

Deconstructing the myths and understanding 

the realities of state funding for Vernonia Schools

When Vernonia School Superintendent Aaron Miller recently announced that enrollment at District 47J was up at the start of the 2014-15 school year, it sounded like good news.  And, for the most part, it is. 

“This is very good news,” stated Vernonia School District Superintendent Aaron Miller, when asked about the recent, and apparently unexpected surge, in registered students in Kindergarten through grade 12 at the new Vernonia Schools. “This is a huge step in the right direction.  It’s very exciting for our district to see new students come through the front door.”

The reason this is such good news is because School Districts in Oregon receive funding from the state, through the State School Fund (SSF) grant program, based on enrollment.

Enrollment in Vernonia at the start of this school year was counted at 560 students, up from 532 at the end of the 2013-14 school year.  The actual number is 589, but kindergarten students only count as a half student each, as far as the state is concerned.  So, for funding purposes, that’s an increase of twenty-eight students, which equates to a more than 5% increase.

That may not sound like much.  But in a school district which has experienced declining enrollment since the flood of 2007, including the last two years following the opening of the newly constructed schools campus, this is extremely encouraging.

“This is the first time we’ve moved forward since the flood,” says Miller, who took over as Superintendent this summer.  “In my mind that’s a very positive thing for the district and it’s a very positive thing for the community.”   Read More

Witt and Johnson Win Approval Of Grant For Vernonia School Fundraising Campaign

Representative Brad Witt and Senator Betsy Johnson have teamed up  to deliver $212,500 for the Vernonia School District to support the final fundraising efforts for the relocation and construction of the Vernonia Schools.

Witt (D-Clatskanie) and Johnson (D-Scappoose) worked with House and Senate leadership to win approval of the grant in a unanimous vote of the 20-member Legislative Emergency Board.  Funding for the grant will come from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management’s Local Disaster Assistance Loan and Grant Account.

“This grant is an investment in Vernonia’s future,” Witt said. “It will allow this remarkable community to move ahead with the amazing fund-raising effort that literally began before the flood waters in Vernonia receded seven years ago.”

Serious flooding in December 2007 destroyed the Vernonia’s schools. A replacement K-12 school facility, built on higher ground, opened in 2012.  The $40 million school project was funded by private donations, local, state and federal funds. A small amount remains to be raised. With the recent help from the Legislature and continuing private philanthropy, the goal of “closing the books” is within sight. Read More

Schools Update: Partnerships

Partnerships are incredibly important in any business, but they are essential in the business of education. The Vernonia School District has a variety of partners who have helped with building and funding our new campus, developing curriculum, providing our students with work experience opportunities, and many other valuable tasks. Even with all this support, the most important partnerships we have are with our parents and community.

Our parents in the Vernonia Community Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the NW Bicycle Safety Council (NWBSC) will be helping kids by putting on a Bike-a-thon and Free Bike Helmet fitting on Saturday, September 20 at Vernonia Lake from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM. Children can get a fitted helmet free from the NWBSC and then participate in a fundraising bike-a-thon, sponsored by the PTA. We hope you can join us!

Parents are pivotal in developing a student’s readiness to attend school, and once students walk through those doors in Kindergarten parents are still an integral part of their child’s academic development. Besides volunteering at school there are many opportunities for parents to be a part of their child’s school experience. Just as with their students, the more involved parents are at school, the more they will get out of the experience, and in turn the more their children will gain from their schooling. Read More

PTA Press

Extra!! Extra!!  Read All About It

Phase 1 of the Vernonia Elementary School playground has been installed and is beautiful.  Now we are looking for help in raising funds for phase 2.  PTA is currently looking for a person willing to co-chair the fundraising position on the board.  If you are interested in helping with our efforts, please contact Melissa Zavales or Susan Ely.


Saturday, September 20th at Vernonia Lake from 10:00 AM-1:00 PM we will be holding a Bike-a-thon fundraiser for phase 2 of the playground. This will be a fun and fit activity for all students. Students set realistic lap goals based on age and development. Drinks will be provided and awards will be given for exceptional participation. Pledge sheets need to be turned in the day of the bike-a-thon. If you haven’t received one you can get one from the PTA bulletin board in the school, Sentry Market, and at The Black Iron Grill. So come ready for fun! We look forward to seeing you! Don’t forget your bikes and helmets! Read More

Vernonia School Board Report

At the September 11, 2014 Vernonia School Board Meeting:


Enrollment is Up at Vernonia Schools- Superintendent Aaron Miller told the Board that as of September 8, enrollment is at 593, including nineteen foreign exchange students and eighteen students at Mist School.  Miller told the Board that all students who have left the District have not yet been removed, so the count is artificially high.  Last year there were 540 students enrolled at the end of the school year.


School Receives Green Globe Certification- Superintendent Miller told the Board that the School has received three of four globes from Green Globes certification.


Board Approves Hire of New Band Teacher- The Board approved a recommendation from the Administration to hire Matthew Urban as the new middle school/high school band teacher.


Board Hears Transportation Report-Shelley Cota, representing Curl’s School Bus Service, updated the Board on the current transportation situation.  Cota told the Board there are five large bus routes and seven small bus routes with ten assigned drivers, three substitute drivers and one driver in training.  Cota reported that last year there were zero accidents, and zero breakdowns while transporting students, and zero late arrivals. Because of overcrowding on buses, high school and middle school students in the walk zone will no longer be eligible for courtesy rides.


Board Approves Transportation Contract- The Board approved an amendment to the current transportation contract with Curl’s School Bus Service.  The amendment extends the contract until June 30, 2020 and increases the monthly fixed cost by $1,000 per month.  Superintendent Miller told the Board that the District will issue a request for Proposals in 2019 and that the contract will not be extended again. Read More

Vernonia Schools Awarded Green Globes Certification

The Green Building Initiative has awarded the Vernonia Schools building the Green Globes Certification for sustainable building achievements and environmental and energy efficiency.

Vernonia Superintendent Aaron Miller announced the award at the September 11, 2014 School Board meeting.  Miller told the Board that the School was awarded three out of a possible four Green Globes.

Green Globes provides independent sustainability assessments for commercial, institutional and some residential facilities.  Miller told the Board Green Globes is often used by the timber industry to judge sustainability practices in construction.

Green Globes is an alternative to the LEED building rating system.  The Vernonia Schools is still awaiting a final determination on their Platinum rating from LEED.