By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Willamina poised to authorize flag posting

The policy — subject to ratification, possibly expected to come at the board's next meeting — is aimed at laying the controversy to rest.

"I hope so," Superintendent Gus Forster said.

The idea originated with Angie Fasana, a former tribal liaison to the board. She saw the Umatilla Tribe’s flag flying in the Pendleton High gym and e-mailed Forster about authorizing the posting of the Grand Ronde flag at Willamina High.

"I felt like the presence of the flag sent a good message to students and the community about the partnership between the district and Umatilla," Fasana told Forster. "The tribe would be happy to provide the district with a flag."

Forster placed the item on the agenda as an action item for the board's next regular meeting, but Chair Craig Johnson had it pulled.

If the tribe wanted its flag posted, the district should ask it to sign a five-year contract and pay $25,000 for the privilege, to be split evenly between academics and athletics, he said.

The lightly attended meeting spurred a mixture of lashback, support and discussion, but no action. The school district's large tribal population took strong offense.

A work session followed with a pair of state Department of Education officials —  Winston Cornwall, a civil rights specialist, and April Campbell, a Grand Ronde tribal member serving as adviser to the deputy state superintendent on Indian education.

That set the stage for the May 12 regular board meeting packed by members of the tribe, led by Reyn Leno, who chairs the its governing council.

More than 100 strong — an impressive school board turnout for a community of any size in the Yamhill Valley — took the occasion to express their hurt and anger over the board's reluctance to accommodate their flag.

However, the flag was listed as a discussion item only, and no decision was reached.

Forster said he turned to Cornwall for input on a way to ease tensions and resolve the impasse. He said he also consulted Betsy Miller-Jones, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, and his own administrative team.

"That wasn't going as expeditiously as we would like," he acknowledged.

Forster said they decided to develop a policy designed to address concerns on both sides and meet with board favor.

He said he met with Principals Tim France of the high school and Carrie Zimbrick of the elementary school, and they "crafted some language based on our experience."

Forster added, "The board is now in a position to vote. They wanted a policy in place. I think this is one that meets their expectations."

The policy they are proposing reads:

A United States flag and an Oregon flag shall be displayed on or near each school building under the control of the board or used by the district, during school hours, except in unsuitable weather and at any other time the board deems proper.

The district shall obtain and display a United States flag of an appropriate size for each classroom. Students shall receive instruction in respect for the national flag, and be provided an opportunity to salute the United States flag at least once each week by reciting The Pledge of Allegiance.

A flag salute may be implemented at assemblies, before or after school, at lunch, special events, home room class, athletic contests or at other times deemed appropriate by the principal. Individual staff members and students who do not participate in the salute must maintain a respectful silence during the salute.

Display of other flags:

Display of flags other than the United States flag and Oregon flag will be limited to the flags of legally recognized sovereign nations located within district boundaries and will be displayed in accordance with the U.S. Flag Code.

The district shall display a flag from a federally recognized sovereign nation located within district boundaries if the sovereign nation requests and provides an appropriately sized flag.

The district will determine the location of the flag (gymnasium only) and what an appropriate size would be for the flag.

All flags will be displayed in accordance with federal and state laws.

Joining Johnson on the board are Clinton Coblentz, Dan Heidt, Linda O'Neil and Ken Onstot. They will take up the matter when they meete next at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 23, in the school library.

OSBA leader Miller-Jones is expected to attend.

 

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