Tag Archives: Vernonia School District

Vernonia School Board Report

At the April 9, 2015 Vernonia School Board Meeting


Board Sets Date for Charter School Decision – The Board set a date of Tuesday, April 21 at 6:30 PM to hold a special meeting to make a decision on whether to submit a Charter School application to the State Department of Education.


Board Tables Calendar Decision – The Board tabled a decision on the 2015-16 Instructional Calendar after being presented with five options.  High School principal Nate Underwood told the board that the committee was proposing several options that provided 160 student days, 184 contact days and the required 990 hours.  The District has been unable to provide these numbers for several years.  The Board chose to table a decision until April 21 because of concerns about the state education budget which has not yet been determined and how much funding the District will receive from the state next year, as well as the pending decision about whether the District will submit an application to become a Charter School.


Board Appoints Handegard to Budget Committee – The Board appointed Angie Handegard to serve a three year term on the Budget Committee.


Board Approves Out of State Trips – The Board approved the Senior Trip to Disneyland and the 8th grade Close-up trip to Washington DC.


Board Approves Superintendent Contract – The Board approved a single contract for Superintendent Aaron Miller which was described as a full time superintendent contract which will have Miller serving as “acting elementary school principal.”  Read More

Charter School Frequently Asked Questions

What is a charter school and what purpose would it serve?

In Oregon, a charter school is a comprehensive public school that operates semi-autonomously under a contract (charter) with a sponsoring district.  According to the Oregon legislature, the purpose of charter schools is to take responsible risks to create new, innovative, more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system.

The purpose for Vernonia’s charter school proposal is to continue development and implementation of our current innovative K-12 programs, to obtain input from the parents and the community on the innovative school programming they would like to see implemented, to obtain funding to develop and implement those programs (supplies, materials, staff planning time), and to obtain funding to impact the long term financial stability of the Vernonia School District.

What are the teacher licensing requirements in a charter school?

Per the federal No Child Left Behind act, 100% of teachers in core academic areas must be “highly qualified” at the time of hire, and a minimum of 50% of the FTE of the charter teachers and staff must be licensed by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices commission.

What are the benefits? Why is Vernonia considering moving to a charter school model?

Vernonia is considering exploring the benefits and challenges of pursuing a charter model as a school-of-choice for students and families. Potential benefits of the charter model include:

• Greater room to innovate and grow our K-12 Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math (STEAM)-based curriculum

• Increased ability to collaborate with local business and industry partners

• Better preparation for students to forge careers or paths to colleg.

• More staffing flexibility to better capitalize on local expertise

Another important consideration is an Oregon statute that presently enables public schools converting to a charter system to access state funding at close to twice the per-student standard public school level. This one-time funding would be used to implement the innovative programs of a charter agreement, and can also be applied to significantly reduce the District’s capital debt with no additional tax burden to residents. Current calculations estimate this extra charter funding at approximately $5.3 Million.

Read More

VSD to Explore Charter School Application

Vernonia School District Superintendent Aaron Miller has announced the District will explore a proposal to consider making an application to become a charter school.

“We are considering moving forward with applying for charter school status for a significant portion of the students in our district,” said Miller.

Miller and the School Board discussed the opportunity at a board workshop on January 29, 2015.  The Board unanimously gave Miller the green light to move forward and begin studying the possibility of having a portion of the school district create a charter proposal.

“There are a lot of things to consider through the application process and what it means as far as the programs and curriculum we provide for our students,”  said Miller, “but there some very real resource opportunities and benefits  to us becoming a charter school.”

Miller says a steering committee made up of teachers, classified staff, district administration, parents and other community members will be formed immediately to begin considering a charter school option.

“If we do choose this option we want to make sure we have a product that is going to work for everybody—students first, but the teachers, parents and community as well,” says Miller.

According to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) a charter school in Oregon is a public school operated by a group of parents, teachers and/or community members as a semi-autonomous school of choice within a school district. It is given the authority to operate under a contract or “charter” between the members of the charter school community and the local board of education (sponsor). Under Oregon law, a charter school is a separate legal entity operating under a binding agreement with a sponsor.  A public charter school is subject to certain laws pertaining to school district public schools, is released from others, and must operate consistent with the charter agreement. 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

Superintendent Explains K-2 Blended Classes to Concerned Parents

Over twenty people attended the August 14, 2014 Vernonia School Board meeting, most of them there to express concerns about the District’s plan to group all kindergarten through second grade students together for instruction this coming school year.

After hearing the concerns of one parent, School Board Chair Bill Langmaid asked Superintendent Aaron Miller to explain the rational for the decision to place students in five K-2 blended classrooms this school year.

Other parents raised questions and expressed their own personal concerns throughout the rest of the discussion, which lasted for over an hour.  The parents were mostly focused on how individual student’s needs would be addressed in a blended classroom setting.

Miller told the audience that the initial impetus for the move was the breakdown of numbers of registered students in each of the three grade levels.  “As we were looking at those numbers and trying to figure out  how to put them into equitable class sizes between the four teachers, there were no good options,” explained Miller.  Miller said that even by adding a fifth teacher there were still big disparities in class sizes and went on to explain that the solution to blend all three grades came from the teachers themselves along with Miller.  Miller noted that by adding a fifth teacher class sizes have been reduced from thirty-one students to twenty-three students.  “That is a significant difference and played heavily into our decision making,” said Miller.  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

Spencer Park Construction Renewed

The Vernonia School District has restarted construction on the Spencer Park replacement park sports fields at the site of the old school buildings which were deconstructed last year.

According to school superintendent Aaron Miller construction is currently on schedule to be completed and the fields seeded this fall and will be ready for use next summer.

The park plan calls for the construction of a baseball/softball field and two soccer fields.  The sports fields being built will replace the fields the City of Vernonia lost when they traded properties with the School District as part of the new school campus construction project.  The School District is responsible for the construction of the replacement park which will then be turned over to the City of Vernonia for public use.

The project was halted last fall when project quality issues delayed construction until it became too wet to continue site work.


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