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About Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (Sept. 1, 2007)
schools & alumni
School Board Report
By Jill Hult
At the District 47J School Board meeting held on August 08, 2007,
the Board accepted resignations from Jeanne Drake, Jessica Street-
er, and Cindy Baker and in turn introduced new staff members to
the District. VHS Principal, Mr. Underwood, welcomed Brad Baker as
the new Assistant football coach, Social Studies, Personal Finance,
and World Geography teacher. Dr. Ken Cox, 47J Superintendent, also
welcomed Carol Moore as the new Special Education Director and
WGS Principal Aaron Miller read a statement of apology to the board
and public. The letter has been included in this issue.
Dr. Cox asked for volunteers to serve on the Policy Review and Negotia-
tions committees, and each board member volunteered to act as liaisons to
committees such as Curriculum, Technology, Safety, Health and Wellness,
StEP, and TAG.
The Board heard a presentation by Police Chief Matt Workman regard-
ing the speed limit reduction request made to ODOT for the business dis-
trict, a change from 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour, and how that
would affect the current speed limits in the school zone. ODOT informed
the City that the speed would not be reduced in the business district unless
the School installs flashing lights in the school zone for a temporary speed
reduction of 20 miles per hour during predetermined times of heavy school
traffic and to 25 miles per hour when not flashing. Currently the school zone
speed is 20 miles an hour all day. The reason for the flashing lights is the gap
between the business district and the school zone which is a 25 mile per
hour zone. ODOT’s concern is speed changes for motorists from 20 miles
an hour to 25 miles per hour and then back to 20 miles per hour in just a few
short blocks. The Board is reviewing this information including the cost, if
any, to the District.
The results of the dust samples taken by Micro Lab Northwest from
the basement of WGS are back and are within acceptable limits but could
improve with regular cleaning and additional ventilation. Dust samples will
be taken twice a year for testing. Based on these results, it is anticipated
that Mrs. Holce’s music classes will be moved back to the basement. Music
class is forty five minutes long and students attend music twice a week and
every other Friday. Further discussion is needed to determine if the art room
will also be utilized this year.
The Board approved using $7,000 from the District’s Capital Reserve
Funds to replace some non-functioning and worn blinds in WGS. They also
approved funds to convert the District’s policies to an online format. An au-
dit of the policies would be conducted by OSBA for updates and rewrites
so they are current and relevant to the district. The audit will cost $1,500. By
having the policies online they become searchable and easily accessible via
the Internet to administrators, staff, board members, and the public. Cost
to convert and place the policies on the district website is $3,495. Dr. Cox
informed the board that there are funds in the budget earmarked for profes-
sional services that could be used to cover this expense.
To the Vernonia Community: The Power of a Single Decision
Many of you know that I was cited for possession of mari-
juana during a recent vacation. Although words do little to re-
solve this situation, let me take this opportunity to tell you how
deeply sorry I am.
I made a serious mistake – one that has affected many, many
people. I have let down my family, my students, my staff, my
co-workers, this wonderful community and myself.
Several people expressed a desire for me to resign. Many
more, however, have asked me to address the situation and con-
tinue my work here in Vernonia. Although it could be easier to
give up and move on, I have chosen to stay. Taking responsi-
bility for my actions and demonstrating that people learn from
their mistakes is one of the most important things we teach our
children -- and this is what I plan to do.
While I am the principal of an elementary school, I am also
human. When students come into my office because they have
made mistakes, erred in judgment or broken a rule, we talk a
great deal about responsibility. “Yes. You made a mistake. You
can’t go back and change that, but you can take responsibility
for the problem, try to make up for it, move on and learn from
your mistake so that it doesn’t happen again.”
It is now time for me to take my own advice. I will work for
as long as it takes to restore your trust in me. You need to know
that I plan to be the same hard-working, kid-focused individual
who has served you for the past two years. You have my word –
and my deepest commitment to make things right.
I plan to begin the process of healing the wounds I have
caused my family and the District, and get back to the job at
hand: educating the youth of Vernonia, a job that I love!
While the School Board cannot legally discuss the sanctions
they adopted, I can. My discipline includes being evaluated by a
licensed professional in the drug rehabilitation field, following a
prescribed treatment plan, and being regularly and/or randomly
drug-tested to ensure that I am living up to the agreement. A
merit raise that I had earned has been revoked. If I do not live up
to these obligations I will no longer be employed by the District.
Our superintendent and school board have made this very clear,
and I will not disappoint them. You can also be assured this
mistake will not happen again.
Besides apologizing for my error in judgment, I would also
like to thank the dozens of people who have called my family
and me with messages of support. You have no idea how help-
ful your kind words have been as we work through this difficult
time. Again, I apologize for the impact my actions have had on
our community. I will do what needs to be done to help mend the
rift I have caused.
By Dr. Kenneth Cox, Vernonia School District Superintendent
Each day we all face decisions, large and small. Most are relatively inconsequential.
But occasionally, when a seemingly small decision comes along, we fail to see how it
can impact our lives – and the lives of many others.
In early July, Aaron Miller chose to take some marijuana and a pipe on vacation.
This decision has forever changed his life.
On the evening of July 6, Mr. Miller was confronted by a sheriff’s deputy on night duty.
As a result, he once again faced a decision, “Do I lie or tell the truth?” At a time when
he recognized that a great deal could be at stake he chose to tell the truth, despite the
But it was not this decision that brought a firestorm of media and controversy to our
community. It was mine.
After meeting with Mr. Miller and the school board chair, I made a decision to retain
him as principal of our elementary school. I did not make that decision lightly, or without
consulting others concerning the legal implications of my actions. I decided to retain
someone who was willing to tell the truth and learn from his mistake, even though it
could cost him his career.
That decision led to other decisions regarding how to discipline someone who, after
working for two years with students, staff, and parents to develop strong relationships,
now faced confusion, doubt, disappointment, and in some cases anger from some of
those same people. What Mr. Miller did was wrong, not only according to Oregon laws,
but according to the standards many of us hold in this community.
In accordance with Vernonia School District Policy GBEC - Employer and Employee
Responsibility Regarding Drugs and Alcohol, I have addressed this situation with a se-
ries of consequences that I and the school board deem to be appropriate. Mr. Miller will
face mandatory random drug testing upon his return to work, as well as be required to
successfully complete a substance abuse program. He has also suffered a significant
decrease in salary, which will impact his earnings for as long as he is employed by the
district. On a more personal note, Mr. Miller has shared with me some of the steps he
is taking to rebuild some of the trust and respect he has lost.
Other decisions have been and are being made regarding how Mr. Miller, myself,
and other administrators will address this issue with students and staff. Throughout the
district we will constantly emphasize the importance of staying away from drugs. As
part of this focus, Mr. Miller will make himself available to meet with all students in the
district to answer questions and share the consequences he has faced as a result of
one bad decision.
Because of his position of responsibility in our community Mr. Miller’s decision had far
greater impact than he could have imagined. Subsequent decisions, my decision to re-
tain him on staff and his decision to not resign, seem to have divided our community.
One decision can make a world of difference, as these events have shone. Each
of us, as a member of our community, has an opportunity to choose how we will move
forward. I do not ask that you approve of these decisions. It is your personal right to not
agree with them, nor perhaps even accept them. As with all moral decisions, no matter
what I or Mr. Miller had decided, someone would have been disappointed.
What I do ask, above all, is this: That we seek to move forward with open minds and
hearts for the sake of our students. So far, I’ve met with many members of our com-
munity on both sides of the issue. The invitation is still open to stop by the Vernonia
School District office so we can discuss your concerns. I promise I will listen, and when
it is within my ability to do so, I will seek to address your concerns.
It is my hope and prayer that those of you who do not agree with what has trans-
pired will not seek to further divide our community. We cannot change what has hap-
pened, but we can change what will happen, and by working together we can make a
better future for the Vernonia community.