District 47J News

Schools Update: Volunteers

The beginning of the school year has arrived, and the results of the preparations made by several groups of people in our community are being seen. Teachers have collaborated and planned lessons for their students. Students have put together their school supplies and now know who will be their teacher. Parents have put the finishing touches on summer, and are preparing for a quieter household during the day. We are all ready for the start of school.

Another group of people anticipating the start of the school year are Volunteers. Here in Vernonia we are blessed with a strong group of volunteers who are always looking for ways they can help students and teachers to be more successful. Volunteers in Vernonia Schools dedicate hundreds of hours each year, working and reading with students in the classroom, helping teachers prepare for lessons, helping with facility maintenance, or coaching any number of our sports programs. Their time is greatly appreciated, and an invaluable resource for our staff, students and schools.

If you are interested in being a volunteer, we would love to have you join our team! Amanda Wolf will once again be our District’s Volunteer Coordinator. She will be working with staff to determine their needs for help, and then coordinating those needs with the skills and preferred task requests from those people generously donating their time to our students.

Some of those volunteer opportunities include helping students in the classroom, preparing materials for teachers, weeding and mowing on campus and at the wetlands, helping with picture day and other school events, or chaperoning a field trip or school activity. The possibilities are endless, and if you have ideas of your own how you can help, please let us know. A quick application and clear background check are all that is needed to start helping soon.

The time spent working with and for children can be very rewarding, for both volunteers and students. If you are interested, please contact Amanda Wolf at the Vernonia Schools building at 503-429-1333. Together we can truly make a difference.


Schools Update: Blended Classes

Vernonia School District students will see some new and returning faces in the classroom this fall, as summer hiring welcomes three teachers into the district. Laura Blacker, a recent school volunteer and student teacher, will teach fourth grade, filling in for Robyn Richmond who is taking a year’s leave of absence. Margie Fry, a fifth year teacher returning to Oregon from North Dakota, will be joining the kindergarten through second grade teaching team and Steve Whiteman will rejoin the high school staff teaching physics and an upper level math course.

The addition of Mr. Whiteman will add a much needed section of math for high school students, while the hiring of Ms. Fry will enable our primary students in grades K-2 to have much smaller class sizes with five teachers rather than four. Class sizes in K-2 classrooms are presently projected at 23 or 24 students, whereas they would have been 29-30 without this new position.

The decision to move to a K-2 blended model was made after much deliberation by the entire teaching team, who has already spent several days of their summer developing plans to address the unique needs of this blend.

While smaller class sizes for these critical primary years were a very strong consideration, they were by no means the sole reason for this decision. Please find bulleted below several other reasons and considerations that went into this choice.

• Other grade configurations (with either 4 or 5 teachers) left large disparities in class sizes, and/or had unacceptable class sizes.

• These blends allow for more effective differentiation of instruction to meet individual student learning needs. Read More

School Bus Routes Announced for Fall

This is a summary of all main bus routes; these are estimated times. There will be a 5 minute window of time allowed for pickups on routes and all route times are subject to change due to additional stops and unforeseen traffic issues.

Special needs and in town small buses will be determined at the start of school pending notification of riders.

Special needs and out of town small bus will be determined at the start of school pending notification of riders.

Small bus routes change all during the school year as they carry all of our smallest riders and they vary daily.

Timber Route AM

7:09AM Clear Ck Rd.

7:11AM near 55670 Timber Rd.

7:15AM near 57139 Timber Rd.

7:20AM Kirk Rd.

7:21AM Airport Rd.

7:24AM Hwy 47/Timber Rd.

7:26AM Storage Too

7:30AM 1st/Cougar St.

7:32AM Maple St.

7:33AM Columbia Ave/Rose Ave. Read More

Vernonia School Board Report

At the August 14, 2014 Vernonia School Board Meeting:


Board Hears Questions About K-2 Blended Classes-Over twenty people were in attendance, most   were there to ask questions about the District’s plan to group all kindergarten through second grade students together for instruction this coming school year.  Superintendent Aaron Miller addressed the audience concerns for over an hour.


Security Cameras Being Installed- Superintendent Miller told the Board that installation of a security camera system is being completed with cameras in strategic locations to deter vandalism.


Miller Gives Construction Updates-Superintendent Miller told the Board that Spencer Park construction is continuing with all the new dirt in place and that the backstop at the new softball/baseball field is being installed.  The project is on schedule to be completely constructed by the September 1st deadline.  The SHPO (State Historical Preservation Office)  monument that is a requirement of FEMA should also be installed by September 1.  Permits for the new shop were approved and construction should begin shortly.  The new softball field at the new school is on hold.   Read More

Schools Update: New Campus Softball Field

The Vernonia School District (VSD) continues to move forward with facilities development on the new schools’ campus and one of the next projects to be undertaken is the development of our sports fields. The Vernonia Education Foundation (VEF) is charged with raising funds to help with the overall debt retirement of our new facilities, but also with generating funds to help complete these facilities.  A  new, on-campus, varsity softball field is the initial focus of the VEF Sports Initiative.

The VEF Sports Initiative Committee has worked diligently to raise funds for our sports facilities and their plan is to begin work this summer on the softball field at the new site. If all goes well the softball field will be completed in time for next year’s season. While the majority of funding is in place for this project, it will take a concerted effort by VSD staff, the VEF and local volunteers to make this lofty goal a reality.  Read More

Vernonia School Board Report

At the July 10, 2014 School Board Meeting:


Board Elects Chair and Vice Chair-The Board elected Bill Langmaid as Chair and Jim Krahn as Vice Chair for the 2014-15 school year.


Board Approves New Hires- The Board approved two new temporary hires for the 2014-15 school year.

Laura Blacker has been hired to teach 4th grade, replacing Robyn Richmond who is on maternity leave for the year.  Blacker has been working and volunteering in the district for several years and just finished her student teaching assignment in Vernonia last year.  A resident of the Vernonia community and active in the local PTA, Blacker served as the coach of the high school golf team this past year.  Blacker received her Master’s Degree in Education from PSU.

Margi Fry will be the fifth member of the K-2 combined teaching team.  Fry has taught grades 1-8 over the last five years, has a Bachelor’s Degree of Science from Warner Pacific College and is a graduate of Gresham High School.


Board Approves Student Fee Schedule-The Board approved the Student Fee Schedule for 2014-15 which includes  a $0.10 increase to full breakfast and lunches for elementary, middle and high school students.  The Student Body Fee for high school students increased from $20 to $25.  An Instrument Rental fee of $50 for elementary band students was added to the schedule, although Superintendent Miller stated that the fee was already being implemented, it just was not on the schedule. Read More

School District Debt is Focus of Presentation to City Council

A team representing Vernonia School District 47J, including representative from the state,  county, the Governor’s office and the School District,  made a presentation to the Vernonia City Council at the July 7, 2014 City Council Meeting.

The presentation focused on the current financial situation of the School District.  According to members of the team, the District has over $5 million in long term capital construction debt, with annual payments of over $500,000.  The presentation included a request that the City of Vernonia forgive over $100,000 in debt the School District owes the City.

Aaron Miller introduced himself to the Council as the new Superintendent of the District as of July 1.  Miller told the Council he would like to work together and move forward.  “I think the relationship between the District and the City is a critical piece as we continue to move forward and revitalize our community after our natural disaster,” said Miller, referring to the 2007 flood which damaged all three schools and large parts of the rest of the community.  “I think we still have a lot of work left to do, but its good work and I think we are headed in the right direction.”

The total long term debt includes two loans the District still owes on the old middle school building totaling $887,577.  The District is scheduled to make an annual payment of $25,565  through 2022 and a second annual payment of $78,950 through 2024 on those two loans.  There are three  outstanding loans on the new school construction: An initial QSCB Construction Loan with a balance of over $2.8 million that includes annual payments of $206,538 through 2027; an Energy Construction Loan through the Cool Schools program with a balance of $970,035 and annual payments of $84,324 which also runs through 2027; and a second Cool Schools Loan with a balance of $1.237 million with annual payments of $106,152 through 2029.  In addition the School District owes the City of Vernonia for System Development Charges (SDCs).  That debt has a balance of $106,290 with an agreement for the District to pay $37,036 annually through 2016. Read More

Cox Ends Tenure as School Superintendent

Cox-webDr. Kenneth Cox has ended his time as the Superintendent of the Vernonia School District.  Cox took part in his last School Board meeting on Thursday, June 12, 2014, leaving behind a legacy of service that went beyond the call of duty.

Cox, who has been Superintendent of the Vernonia School District since 2006,  has accepted a position as Superintendent of the Minidoka County Joint School District #331, located in Rupert, Idaho. The Minidoka district serves 4,000 students in four elementary schools, two middle schools, and a high school, as well as alternative middle and high schools.

Vernonia Elementary School Principal Aaron Miller succeeds Cox as the Superintendent.

“Thank you Ken for your years of service and for being a friend to all of us and for being a friend to Vernonia, and a friend to the students and staff of this school and to the whole community,” said School Board Chairman Bill Langmaid at the conclusion of Cox’s final meeting.  “This [new school] wouldn’t have happened without you.  We owe you a great debt of gratitude.” Read More

Vernonia School Board Report

At the May 8, 2014 School Board Meeting:


Budget Committee Meets- The School District Budget Committee held their first meeting.  Brett Costley was elected Chair and Don Shulte was elected Vice Chair.  The Committee discussed the budget goals and Superintendent Dr. Ken Cox presented the budget message.  The budget includes revenue of $6.22 million and provides for a 2.5% cost of living wage increase for employees.  The General Fund includes a 2% contingency of $126,486; this should be 5%.  According to Cox’s Budget Message, the budget does not address some critical needs.  Class sizes will be large.  The budget does not meet the needs of the students or staff but does fulfill the District’s fiscal responsibility to their patrons.

Read More

School Board Report

At the April 10, 2014 Vernonia School Board Meeting:

Instructional Calendar Approved-The Board approved a 175 day instructional calendar for next year, recommended by the Calendar Committee, with the stipulation that if more funds become available through the budget process, more days will be added.  According to the approved calendar, the first day of school will be September 2, graduation would be May 23, and the last day of school would be June 4.  The calendar includes four Snow Make-Up Days, 6 Teacher Work Days and has one full week off at Thanksgiving, 2 full weeks off for Winter Break and one full week for Spring Break.


Board Approves Superintendent Contract-The Board approved a contract with Aaron Miller to serve as part-time, interim Superintendent.  Details of the contract were not discussed.  Last month the Board also approved the extension of Miller’s contract as VES Principal for three more years.


Board Approves Travel Request-The Board approved a request for Out-of-State travel for Aaron Miller, Barb Carr and Ronda Lennon in August to attend a work conference in Vancouver, WA, as well as a request for Debbie Stalnecker and Gienah Cheney to attend a conference on Language Assessment this school year.


Athletic Program Receives Grant-Athletic Director Gordon Jarman told the Board that he has applied for and been awarded a $10,000 grant for field improvements at the new school campus.  The grant is a Participation Grant through the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA).  Jarman’s application, called “Fields of Dreams” would put top soil and goal posts on the proposed football field at the new school, improving the practice area and allowing 8th grade football games to be played there.  The grant calls for $8,200 in matching funds, which Jarman says still need to be raised. Read More