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Russell receives positive review.

Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

After nearly a decade on the job, Eugene School District Superintendent George Russell continues to please his bosses.

The school board on Wednesday gave Russell high marks in his annual review, making brief statements following a closed meeting to evaluate his performance.

"The board agrees he is among the most important assets in this district," board Chairman Charles Martinez said, noting that reviews by all seven board members extolled Russell's strengths and accomp- lishments.

Vice Chairwoman Beth Gerot, who has been on the board since soon after Russell was hired, said she has seen him grow as a leader in the time she's known him.

"He's clearly got a focus on teaching and learning as the core of what our district is doing," she said.

The two said the board's only concerns had to do with ensuring consistency and coherency among the district's many ongoing initiatives, including a strategic planning process - Shaping 4J's Future - that probably will result in school closures and other significant changes.

The board did not discuss contract specifics, including salary, in open session.

Instead, members directed Martinez and Gerot to sit down with Russell and bring back a proposal. Last year, he earned a salary of $134,964, plus a $6,748 bonus.

Russell, 61, has received similarly glowing reviews every year he has been on the job.

He took the post on an interim basis following the 1998 death of longtime Superintendent Margaret Nichols, and accepted the permanent job in January 1999.

Previously, he had been the district's director of human resources.

He worked for the district in the mid-1970s, but left in 1979, working as a district administrator in Oklahoma, Seattle and San Diego before returning in 1991.

In other action Wednesday, the board, reacting to legislation passed in June, agreed to alter its alternative education policy to make an exception for the Bethel area HomeSource program - but not without some members making it clear they aren't happy with the bill.

House Bill 2040, which was sponsored by Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Chris Edwards, both Eugene Democrats, allows HomeSource to continue receiving public education dollars and enrolling home-schooled students through a simple process that releases students to the Bethel School District for referral.

The bill solved a host of problems for the home- schooling resource center, which in the past couple of years had its funding slashed and lost contracts with districts because of more stringent policy interpretations by the Oregon Department of Education.

The center looked into becoming a charter school under sponsorship with the long-supportive Bethel district, but found that it couldn't meet a requirement to have at least 25 full-time students.

The center's students attend part-time, supplementing their home-schooling with a variety of courses.

Board member Craig Smith reiterated his philosophical opposition to HomeSource.

"I view this as a voucher system, and it's been real disappointing to me to see a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor enact the first voucher system in this state," he said.

Smith offered an amendment - passed 5-2, with Eric Forrest and Jim Torrey dissenting - that leaves open the possibility that the district could refuse to release new students to HomeSource after this year, should a legal interpretation find that's acceptable.

The bill clearly says that districts must grandfather in current students, but appears to grant them more leeway when it comes to new students.
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Title Annotation:Schools; The school board also reacts to recent legislation by letting HomeSource continue receiving public education funds
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 6, 2007
Words:565
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