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About The independent. (Vernonia, Or.) 1986-current | View Entire Issue (April 21, 2005)
The INDEPENDENT, April 21, 2005
Serving the upper Nehalem River valley. Published on the
first and third Thursdays of each month, by Public Opinion
Laboratory Ltd., 725 Bridge St., Vernonia, OR 97064, as a
free newspaper. Publishers, Dirk & Noni Andersen. Editor,
Noni Andersen. Phone/Fax: 503-429-9410, email: noni@
the-independent.net Display Advertising, Clark McGaugh,
email: email@example.com Classified Advertising,
Rebecca McGaugh, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A new school building is
right; method was wrong
Vernonia school buildings – their condition and their
adequacy for current educational needs – were the
subject of two long term studies done by volunteer
committees, one before and one after the 1996 flood.
Both studies resulted in recommendations for new
school buildings, with one suggesting the district buy
property for a high school on a separate campus.
Both studies recognized the undeniable fact that the
existing buildings are inadequate for their current uses.
Additionally, both committees felt it was highly unlikely
that either Lincoln or Washington Grade Schools, both
of which were constructed of unreinforced masonry in
the 1920s, could be modified enough to make them
either functional or safe, but that Vernonia High
School, built in 1950, could be modified sufficiently for
a middle or junior high school.
The one effort at getting voter approval for a bond
issue met with insurmountable obstacles: The election
committee used a “concept” for the buildings instead of
drawings, and many people can’t “see” concepts.
Voters also felt the bond amount was too high because
it was designed for all of the buildings instead of going
phase by phase.
A subsequent study in 2003, when both the national
and state economy were very bad, found that voters
would not pass a bond issue at that time. The buildings
were not improving with age and WGS had more and
more problems; the board felt it was important to start
a building program and borrowed for that purpose.
That decision was correct…unfortunately, some
other decisions alienated the community. Closing LGS
before the new building was built and increasing pri-
mary class sizes was a bad choice. Failing to involve
the community in design, location and usage of the
new building was a bad choice.
District residents are angry because they have not
been involved in decisions they will pay for. Parents
are angry because they feel the overcrowding – and
some other decisions – are harmful to their children.
Public boards should never forget the importance of
communication. The “We know what’s needed” atti-
tude of the present school board is the reason there
are so many candidates for their positions.
By Representative Brad Witt
Oregon District 31
Each day House mem-
bers are allowed three
minutes to talk about any
subject they choose.
Typically, most Legislators
do not use their allotted
time, but [recently] I decid-
ed to talk about the dam-
age that has been done to our children’s educa-
tion by the lack of school funding provided by the
Legislature since the passage of Ballot Measure
5. The following is part of what I said on
I want to express my grave concern on an
issue that’s very close to the hearts of my con-
stituents in the lower Columbia region—educa-
tion. The schools in my House district have
already endured the bitter realities of budget
cuts, year after year.
In Astoria, for example, the combination of
declining student population and reduced state
support has caused a double dose of harm—
lower revenues per child, resulting in lower-qual-
ity programs, bigger class sizes and a shorter
In Clatskanie, the revenue for 2003-2004 was
less than the revenue in 1981-1982. We all know
that the same amount of money buys a lot less
today than it did in 1981.
In St. Helens, successive cuts in state support
have forced the district to end 21 teaching posi-
tions during the past four years, as well as posi-
tions for school librarians and guidance coun-
selors, athletics and maintenance, and other
School districts all across Oregon will face the
bleak necessity of downsizing support staff by 19
percent, laying off more than 900 teachers, cut-
ting an average of eight school days, eliminating
training for teachers and stopping all extracurric-
ular activities. I submit to you that this harm will
fall disproportionately on small and rural school
districts like those I represent, like those that
many of you represent. In other words an inade-
quate budget will inflict another layer of hurt on
schools that have already endured year after
year of cuts—as many as 14 consecutive years
of cuts in Astoria.
Is this what we have come to in Oregon—
investing less and less in education, while pour-
ing more and more into tax breaks for big, out-of-
state corporations? Is this a plan for long-term
prosperity? Is this how we keep our promise of
putting schools first?
I’m reminded of one of those countless say-
ings attributed to Abe Lincoln. “How many legs
does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?” he
asked. “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it
We do not put education first simply by saying
it. Saying it doesn’t make it so. The truth lies in
what we do. We break faith with the voters of
Oregon when we try to make a leg out of a tail.
That is why I ask for your support of the $5.4 bil-
lion survival budget that will do no more harm to