ANOTHER VOICE:School Board seeks to improve public trust

Hood River County School District, like all Oregon school districts, is required by law to adopt a balanced budget every year.

This budget — just like your home budget — ensures the district has plans in place to operate within its means. The budget process we begin tonight is an open forum to review and discuss the budget proposal we receive from our administration. We welcome your participation in this important process.

Recently, our district has confronted difficult financial problems that have forced us to reexamine how we conduct our financial affairs. In the 2011-12 school year, the district spent more money on classrooms, programs and district operations that, in retrospect, should have gone into savings.

An independent investigation concluded that while there was no wrongdoing, the manner by which the budget is developed, implemented and communicated needs to be improved.

Over the past few weeks, the changes instituted include the following items:

  • Improve communication between the financial department, administration and board.
  • Create a financial review committee
  • Involve more administrators in developing and overseeing the budget
  • Improve the content and detail of financial reports
  • Expand the budget calendar to include three-year projections

We are confident these steps will significantly improve our financial procedures and restore trust in the board’s management of the district’s fiscal operations. The board believes that sound financial management is one of our most important tasks, and the recent events have reminded us of the trust the community and staff has placed in our hands. We can, and we will, do whatever is necessary to maintain that trust moving forward. So, at this time we would like to ask you to join the board and budget committee in reviewing the budget for the upcoming school year to ensure our district continues to provide a quality education for our students. By listening to your concerns and answering your questions, we believe that together we can use this budget process to fulfill our mission of providing an educational system of excellence, effectiveness and fiscal accountability.

Jan Veldhuisen Virk, of Hood River, is chair of the Hood River County School District Board of Directors.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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