School board covers several topics


September 22, 2022

The Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors listened to a presentation from the robotics club, and received updates on the new phone system, finances, security, and the lawsuit at their meeting on Tuesday.

The district’s new phone system was recently installed by Wahkiakum West, and the CEO, Ken Johnson talked to the board about the transition.

“It took us seven, eight business days to install 73 phones,” Johnson said. “Knock on wood, things are stable. We’re doing some fine tuning and tweaks.”

He believed that the school district’s old phone numbers would be released by the former provider soon. In other news, he hoped WW’s new local television channel might be able to film some sporting events at the district in the future.

“I just want to publicly say how great Ken and his team have been coming in here,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said. “When you have a school on the verge of starting with no phones, that is a crisis. It’s a safety issue, it’s a parent coordination issue, it’s a teacher issue.”

The robotics club was in attendance and they spoke to the board about what they learned in the last year, and how they planned to move forward this year. After they left, the board talked about how well the students presentation had gone, and how much they had grown.

“There is something special here, I just can’t say enough,” Freeman said.

The district has received equipment for a security update, and installation could begin in late October or November, Freeman said.

With money going toward security improvements, necessary HVAC equipment, food, and a payment to ESD 112 this fall, Freeman said, “We are going to be really tight on watching spending, but we know where our funding is going, and it’s not going in the direction we are happy about, but I’m not worried about crashing yet.”

Nothing is ever certain, but current class sizes show a potential for a continued decline in enrollment over time. Because funding relies so heavily on those numbers, the superintendent talked about financial concerns for the future, and attrition as a possible solution with some employees approaching retirement.

Freeman talked about the district's lawsuit against the state and of the chatter on the subject around the Washington versus the silence from residents in Wahkiakum County on the matter.

“What some people don’t understand here is that this lawsuit has the potential of saving every taxpayer in this county tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. “If the school goes away like the Vader model, you’re going to end up paying Longview taxes, because you’ll be part of Longview School District.”

“And for people that have been here long term, the old guard of Wahkiakum, and to listen to how they have fought, and been run over, and steamrolled time and time again, and not been heard,” Freeman said, “this is one of the few times that Wahkiakum has stood up to the state. It was the mouse that roared, and maybe [it could] have an outcome that could benefit this county.”

Freeman talked to the board about getting the message out, and said the district had raised another $19,000 in the last two days in support of the lawsuit. He also said the district’s opening brief was filed with the state supreme court on September 9 and that the state’s response was due no later than October 12.

“Today, there was a curveball thrown at us,” Freeman said. “The state asked for a 30 day extension.”

Freeman chose not to speculate about why.

The board closed the meeting for an executive session to discuss negotiations.


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