The Oregon school board last week voted unanimously to reelect P.J. Kapfhammer as president of the board.
The board also elected board member Carol Molnar vice president of the board.
Kapfhammer, who was elected to the board in 2011, became president of the board last June when former board president Dick Gabel resigned due to health reasons.
Kapfhammer, elected on a platform of transparency and change in the district, had to gain the confidence of the board when he first took his seat. Oftentimes, he got caught up in verbal disputes with Gabel, Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar, and board member Diana Gadus over policy. Gadus even filed a complaint against Kapfhammer following a particularly heated argument at a policy meeting.
After Gabel resigned, tempers cooled. In an effort to move the district forward and put the conflict behind them, the board had elected Kapfhammer president.
Since then, the board and Zalar have tackled several issues on a united front. Any animosity from the past has completely faded from view.
Kapfhammer told The Press after the meeting that board members have considerable respect for each other and have been working together to improve the district.
“It’s a different district. People are actually smiling, and getting along. It feels like a new system,” said Kapfhammer. “I think we’re on the upswing, and I want to continue along that task. I really feel like you’re going to see great things. We have some excellent ratings back in our schools, test scores are on the rise. We had hit rock bottom, but we’re slowly crawling up. Along the way, I want to get community involvement and keep everyone moving forward.”
One of the most important issues in the district this year, said Kapfhammer, is the reconfiguration of the two middle schools that the board approved last month.
“It’s not enough to approve it. I want it to be a success and make sure it’s carried out the right way,” he said.
Eisenhower Middle School will become Eisenhower Intermediate School, housing grades five and six. Fassett Middle School will become a traditional junior high school with grades seven and eight in attendance.
“We have already formed a committee with parents, administrators and board members. They met last week for the first time,” said Kapfhammer. “We’re going to be hands on throughout the process. This is something we’re going to meet routinely on until the transformation, and I believe we’re going to still carry that committee forward after the reconfiguration. Even though we approved it, let’s make sure we’re getting this right. I want those kids, within the first month, to come home and say `This is great.’ I want the parents to say, `You know what, it’s working.’”
The board had been considering the reconfiguration since last June. Raising academics, especially in grades five through eight, as well as more stringent common core state standards, are why the board made the changes.
“I know in my heart of hearts, this is going to be a huge success,” said Kapfhammer. “It was educationally driven. It wasn’t about the money, but how do we improve. It’s very important that this shows improvement rapidly. I don’t want to wait two years to find out if this works.”