Members of the Corvallis School Board indicated at their Thursday meeting that they favored including funding for a new sustainability coordinator position in the 2019-20 budget for the school district.
The decision was made through an unofficial straw poll, and every board member expressed support for funding the position except Loren Chavarría, who said that, as a board member about to go through the budget process for the first time, she didn’t want to commit to anything.
Board members were was asked to indicate whether they supported funding the position following a report by the Brendle Group, a Colorado consulting firm that is developing a sustainability management plan for the district.
Although the plan is not yet complete, the company recommended the district create the position.
The company said in its written report for the board that the district could possibly implement a sustainability plan by reallocating existing staff time to make incremental progress on the plan, but said a lack of coordination without that position would hinder the district’s sustainability initiatives.
In January 2018, a Sustainability Task Force convened by Superintendent Ryan Noss recommended to the board that the district hire a sustainability consultant and local environmental activists testified in multiple meetings urging the position be funded. However, several board members expressed doubts about funding the position because they were unsure what responsibilities should be given to a sustainability coordinator.
The budget for this school year ultimately did not include funding for the position, but it included $30,000 to contract a sustainability consultant. In addition to recommending the position, the company suggested a breakdown of responsibilities for a person in that role:
• Coordinate sustainability efforts across district (30 percent).
• Increase student engagement, integrate sustainability into educational models (20 percent).
• Lead reporting and annual update process (15 percent).
• Support implementation of strategies (15 percent).
• Serve as a central point of contact for sustainability issues (10 percent).
• Identify and pursue funding for position and programs (10 percent)
Ed Junkins, a board member, said last year he thought the process of creating the position moved too fast, which made him uncomfortable, but he said the work by the Brendle Group made him change his mind.
“I think we’re there now,” he said.
Another board member, Terese Jones, said she thought the position was overdue a year ago and she thinks it is overdue now.
“I will have a really hard time voting for the budget if it does not have this position in it,” she said.
Vince Adams, the board’s chair, said last year he stumbled on the job description having too many responsibilities and worried that the district would need to find someone with the technical expertise of an engineer, but who also was a teacher. However, he said he was glad to have the scope of responsibilities for the position narrowed down by the Brendle Group.
“We don’t need a unicorn,” he said.
Adams added that this year, he also would have a hard time supporting a budget that did not fund this position.
The Brendle Group also briefed the board about the plan it is developing; members of the group said it also will include a process for how the district can update the plan annually to continue making progress on sustainability initiatives.