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Several reforms discussed briefly



January 26, 2015

Five years ago , 2009, I wrote about the Sherwood School District's unwise decision to involuntarily transfer Brady Gage from his position as assistant to the high school librarian, Media Specialist June Reynolds. As I said then, Brady resigned in protest with good reason: for the past eight years he and Mrs. Reynolds had developed a successful partnership. Their combined efforts, with June as the student contact person and teacher, and Brady as computer lab troubleshooter, had increased annual student use of the library by over 600%.

What I did not say when Brady quit was that I suspected the district was beginning a strategy to pressure June to retire early. With over 30 years seniority, she was one of the higher paid members of the staff. Included in the district strategy was the plan to deconstruct the school library as a center of learning by staffing it with inexperienced aides. This was a foolish cost-saving effort with no regard for the actual bang for their bucks they were getting in terms of student mentoring and instruction. In their ignorance, district administrators did not recognize that the library as run by Reynolds was a vital and productive classroom.

Sure enough, the following year, 2010, June was involuntarily transferred to Archer Glenn Elementary School. Throughout her career, including at SHS, Mrs Reynolds had taught computer skills and keyboarding as part of her work in her libraries. In the elementary school, still a Media Specialist, her job assignment was primarily as a computer teacher, spending most of her time during the regular school day teaching a succession of computer classes to students from the various grade levels. Occasionally an aide helped with the routine work of checking books in and out of the library. The administrative duties of the library were deemphasized and June did that work mostly on her own time before and after school. More than once June remarked that the expectations by some parents and administrators of the abilities of the kindergarten and first and second graders to achieve computer literacy were unrealistic.

After one year spent teaching and developing individual lesson plans for future terms, June Reynolds was forced into taking early retirement at age 59 (2011). This was a tragic blow to a woman who had devoted 34 years to educating children of all ages. She had become highly skilled at developing and maintaining relationships with students that enabled interventions and personalized services on many levels in their behalf.

The unnecessary loss of June Reynolds' expertise as a teacher to the students of Sherwood schools was a mistake.

In addition, compounding the mistake, the District administration's method to force June out was to claim the job of Media Specialist was being eliminated throughout the district. The actual plan was to retain three of the district's five Media Specialists as "computer teachers". Of course, the chosen three were the least senior and lower-paid of the five. By using this crude dodge of changing the name of the job, from "Media Specialist" to "Computer Teacher," even though the job description remained essentially unchanged, the district sought to avoid having the scheme take place as a "reduction in force" (RIFF), a layoff. Under the union contract, a RIFF process means seniority is a determining factor and the less senior employees are "bumped." Mrs Reynolds would have continued working for SSD. Such an outcome did not fit the administration's "penny wise, pound foolish" goals.

As of today, the SHS library is barely used. Under the supervision of an untrained aide neither students nor staff are encouraged to use the resources. Word is, the students avoid the place as unfriendly.

Another shameful aspect of the forced retirement action was the utter failure of the teachers' union , Sherwood Education Association, to reject the bogus changing of the job name from "Media Specialist" to "computer teacher." The Oregon Education Association, the union to which June Reynolds paid dues for 34 years, betrayed her, turned its back on her, and allowed the disgrace to proceed without challenge.

Always a survivor and dedicated to public service, June has continued working on her history of hometown Sherwood. Tales From The Attic, a supplement to her Sherwood: A Sense of Time and Place, is now published and on sale. The second volume of Sherwood: A Sense of Time and Place, From 1919 to Contemporary Times is underway. There are other writings by June in the pipeline as well, including one about her trip up the Columbia Gorge and back with her mother, Millie Weisenback. In addition, June's role as a leader in the Sherwood Historical Society has continued with her sponsoring history workshops and summer camps for students and adults alike. She tours eastern Oregon and Washington several times a year with her friend and companion Clyde List . They camp and play music from the 19th Century and display wares and crafts and the lifestyles of the Oregon Trail pioneers.