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School Board Eyes Outdoor Ed
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An action item on the agenda of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees for the May 10 regular meeting brought a number of concerned parents to the meeting and to the podium for public comments.

On the action calendar, the item to possibly suspend sixth grade Outdoor Education for the 2010-2011 school year prompted a vocal group of parents involved in the elementary schools’ parent teacher organizations to give the board their thoughts and ideas about preserving the program.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Barbara Shook reported that it will cost the district more than $50,000 to cover just the educational component it’s required to pay, which is roughly half of the total amount for students to attend the outdoor education program. Shook said that an option would be to suspend the program, or to look into holding it on a three-day district furlough weekend, where teachers would not be part of the equation, or perhaps during spring break. These options would eliminate the district’s financial responsibility.

Parents from the parent teacher organizations confidently offered that they could raise the funds to deposit into the district’s general fund to be earmarked for outdoor ed, and also raise money to help scholarship students with the family-responsible portion.

The parents also raised questions about looking into cost-saving measures such as alternative sites, other transportation providers, as well as other potential benefactors in the community who may contribute.

Sierra View PTC President Angie Dart said that Outdoor Education is “vital” to students, that it “brings book knowledge to life” and offers other learning and social benefits to students. She said that all these years later, she can recall how the one-week program made a large, positive impact on her life and that it was the highlight of her elementary school days.

After discussion, the board voted to table the matter until the next board meeting and directed district staff to meet with site administrators and parent clubs to determine what is financially possible. The decision to commit to the Master Agreement with the county must take place at the next board meeting, in which a part of it is the guarantee of the number of Oakdale students who will attend outdoor ed next year. The money, however, is not due until this time next year.

In other business, the board approved actions for the decrease of salaries by 2.5 percent for the superintendent, management, and confidential employees; as well as the same decrease in board compensation. The board also approved the ratifications of the Memos of Understanding (MOUs) between the district and the Oakdale Teachers Association and also with the Classified School Employees Association #830 for the 2010-2011 school year. Trustee Mike Tozzi was absent.

Student board member Michael Homer presided over the meeting, a tradition for the student member at their final meeting. Each of the board members praised Homer for his dedication and detailed reports about the schools. Superintendent Fred Rich called him “smart, efficient, and a nice kid…a nice young man.”

The next regular meeting of the OJUSD Board of Trustees will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 14 at the Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 No. Second.