School district suit dismissed, appealed
July 28, 2022
The Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors on July 19 heard a report on next year’s budget; discussed redistricting for board positions; talked about policy revisions, including one on gender issues; and received an update on the school’s lawsuit.
Business Manager Shelby Garrett went over next year’s budget for the board. With revenues estimated to be $8.2 milion and expenditures estimated to be $8.7 million, the district may have to dip into their $1.1 million reserves to the tune of almost $500,000.
Over $4 million of that money will go to basic education, and more than $1.7 million will be spent on district wide support, which includes technology; grounds, custodial, and maintenance; business office; utilities; and lawsuit fees.
“Overall, salaries and benefits are going up a little less than $300,000,” Garrett said.
Freeman said negotiations with coaches and certificated staff was completed, but they were still working with classified staff. He told the board he would like to have a district-wide raise of 5.5 percent approved.
The board later approved a resolution adopting the 2022-2023 budget, which includes $8,725,080 in the general fund and $122,550 in the ASB fund.
The board approved the hire of Sue Ellyson to the position of business manager to replace Garrett, who is leaving at the end of August.
Ellyson was in attendance and introduced herself. She said she had worked for the City of Portland and the City of Long Beach, as well as Naselle Rock and was looking forward to learning about working in a school district.
With the completion of the 2020 census, Freeman said it was time for the board to consider re-evaluating boundaries for their positions. Three directors represent districts, the other two are at-large.
He said the board could opt to do nothing or they could rebalance the districts. He also suggested a company called Sammamish Data Systems, which handles such matters.
All five board members agreed to proceed with the process.
Director Bobbie Stefan spoke about the policy review committee’s recent work, which included a matter on gender inclusion.
“One did have comments, and we considered those comments and given the requirements of the law,” Stefan said, “we made clarifications in the policy that will hopefully ease some of the concerns.”
“We will respect the identity of each student,” Stefan said later.
While revisions have been made, the policy has not been fully adopted. The gender inclusive schools policy can be found on the school district website.
Wahkiakum’s lawsuit against the state was dismissed with prejudice by Superior Court Judge Donald Richter on June 24, but it’s not over. The district filed a notice of appeal on June 27.
“This last week we filed for direct review from the supreme court,” Freeman said. “We’ll hopefully hear back as early as next week.”
“We’ll be in court at some point this fall,” he added. “If it’s the appeals court it will be September or October, but if it’s the supreme court it will probably be a little bit later.”
Freeman said that he has seen two results from the lawsuit: Grantors are acknowledging that the district has been overlooked for grants, and Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal is proposing that forest revenue be taken out of funding models for urban school districts.
Freeman said that Reykdal’s proposal acknowledges the problem but doesn’t solve the problem.
The public meeting was closed for an executive session for a personnel review.