Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

School board hears from mayor

By Diana Zimmerman

At the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, Mayor David Olson presented the district with a Cathlamet town flag and talked about matters that affected the town and school, and directors heard about security improvements, ongoing maintenance issues, as well as enrollment projections for the school year which begins next Wednesday, August 30.

Superintendent Brent Freeman gave an update on Phase 2 of the district’s installation of new security measures, which he said was about a third of the way done.

“In a perfect world we would have been able to get this done before school started,” Freeman said. “We don’t live in a perfect world. It’s going to run a little longer than expected.”

While electrical problems are one reason for the slow down, the updates will add cameras around the campus, and improve security to classrooms and offices.

Cathlamet Mayor David Olson presented the Cathlamet town flag, and he and Freeman talked about how the design came about through a collaboration between students at the school and the town.

Olson also gave an update on the Pioneer Cemetery, which is located next to John C. Thomas Middle School. The cemetery is now surrounded by an ornamental ironwork fence and a Chinook tribal memorial is planned for unmarked graves. A re-dedication is also in the works. Olson said he was hoping to add signage in town to alert people to where the cemetery is located.

He said a skate park was planned for Erickson Park, which is located near Wahkiakum High School, and asked the district to alert the sheriff’s department if they heard anything about the source of vandalism there.

The board was invited to join the pool advisory board, and Olson added that he would like to continue a conversation about the school district’s access to the pool out of season. The robotics team has used the facility, which is managed by the town, for practice and competition. Olson welcomed any ideas for improvements, grants, and more.

Business Manager Sue Ellyson said the district was in the final stages of their audit. She said a summary on the audit may be presented at the September meeting.

Freeman said that a higher than projected kindergarten class enrollment was expected in the coming year. The school budgeted for around 415 students, and Freeman said that was right around where he expected enrollment to be.

Freeman said there hadn’t been any action on the school lawsuit. The district filed suit against the State of Washington in December of 2021, arguing that when the state constitution said it was “the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision” for education, that included funding facilities. The Washington State Supreme Court heard the case in March of this year.

“The Supreme Court rulings are released on Thursdays,” Freeman said “Over the last five years, the fastest turnaround on a ruling was four months, the longest was 14 months. We were hoping to get something in August, because that would allow legislators to really use this off season to plan. I’m hopeful that we get something, but hope is not a method.”

Freeman also talked about the $4.9 million grant the school was recently awarded, and said they would not see that money until the next biennium.

The money is to be used for electrical improvements and HVAC units.

“It is what it is,” Freeman said.

“We’ll have to keep using bandaids through the winter,” Director Bobbie Stefan said.

Freeman said there was another water leak in the heating system at the grade school.

“Kudos to Paul Lawrence, we’ve got a fix,” Freeman said. “That heating system is so old. There are no parts in the United States, we’d have to make a part. We were getting estimates of $27,000 for a radiator. We came up with something and we will have to wait and see. I hate putting bandaids on it but I feel okay about this as a short, midterm solution.”

Lawrence is the head of maintenance at the district.

“I hope the school board that sits here 20 years from now, and the superintendent, don’t have to talk about this,” Freeman said.

The board approved new contracts for Patti Phillips who is in charge of HR and payroll, Ellyson, Transportation Director Calvin Grasseth, and Lawrence. Their salaries now range from $56,714.77 to $77,670. The board approved Jansi Merz as the assistant middle school volleyball coach and Jamie Brown’s resignation from that position. They accepted resignations from Garrett Miller, Kristy Gifford, and Natalie Sutton, and approved Sutton’s move to an assistant custodial position. They also approved the termination of Garrett Radcliffe from the high school head baseball coach position.


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