Portola 7-11 wraps up with recommendations

Debra MooreSchoolClz
Staff Writer

Members of Portola’s 7-11 committee wrapped up their last scheduled meeting Feb. 29 with a list of six recommendations to present to other 7-11 committees and the Plumas Unified School District governing board.

In contrast to prior meetings, when many members of the public expressed their opinions, chairman Dave Nelson said that the last meeting was mostly an internal business meeting spent tidying up loose ends. Nelson said that the seven committee members agreed on the recommendations that he was going to present during a League of Women Voters forum scheduled for March 1.

Nelson said that the current recommendations could be subject to change as more information is available. He added, “This is an interim of where we are now,” and then listed the six areas of agreement:

First, the committee would like to see K-12 offered in each community as that community would like to see it configured. He said that this parallels the recommendation of the Facilities Advisory Committee.

Second, the committee would like the school district to explore alternate and equitable staffing levels, as opposed to imposing a hard cap on student-teacher ratios. As the district recommendation currently stands, Nelson said that five to six Portola High School teachers would lose their jobs.

Third, the committee advocates that the school district hire an outside consultant to address charter school issues. Nelson said that the Greenville 7-11 committee is making the same request and that the Portola committee “will be looking closely at what Greenville is doing.”

Fourth, the committee recommends that the Feather River Middle School campus be “mothballed” because there are still some expenses associated with that former school site. However, the committee doesn’t recommend eliminating the site because it potentially could be used in a consolidated K-12 campus.

Fifth, the committee is concerned that the long-term vision of the district isn’t clear. Committee members were quite concerned that even if all of the recommended budget cuts were enacted, the budget would still not be balanced.

Finally, the committee members agree that there is a perception of distrust between the district administration and the school sites and public. “It needs to be recognized, addressed and improved upon,” Nelson said.

Committee member Terry Oestreich agrees. She is in the unique position of being part of the administration since she serves as the district’s co-director of human resources, as well as being part of the school site as the principal of Pioneer Elementary School in Quincy, “I felt really informed because I understood both sides,” she said.

Oestreich said she was surprised by the strong sentiments leveled at the administration. “Wow, they really didn’t trust the district,” she said and added that she had to explain to her fellow committee members that she was part of the administration.

It’s her hope that the two sides will come together and there will cease to be a “them versus us” sentiment. “I wish we could somehow bring the groups together,” she said.

Oestreich thinks the committee has made a great start with its recommendations and she is anxious to hear from an independent consultant about the prospects of charter schools. Even though last week’s meeting was the last scheduled one, Oestreich would like to continue the effort. “We’re not done yet, but it’s a good start,” she said.


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