Not every Medford teacher is worried about working without a contract, the rising cost of pensions or performance tests.
Medford's three-year-old Logos Public Charter School is giving its teachers a whopping 25 percent increase in compensation and benefits.
Students meeting or exceeding standards on the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test
Logos Medford district State
Math 44.6% 56.9% 62.1%
Reading 71.6% 72.2% 70.6%
Science 67.0% 70.0% 65.1%
Writing 48.1% 53.0% 59.5%
The school also is paying for all pension contributions and some teachers will receive bonuses based on students' improved test scores.
For students, eight days have been added to the academic year and rising enrollment has the charter school's board searching for a larger campus.
These are big changes for a school designed by administrators and parents who want homeschooled children to earn regular diplomas rather than GEDs.
Covering some of the added expenses is an increase of $604 in the state's per-pupil funding, said Joseph VonDoloski, executive director of the K-12 charter school.
"That helped us," he said, adding, "and we are a very efficient and cost-effective school and we manage finances very shrewdly."
Logos manages its own budget, separate from the Medford district, although the district receives a per-student payment to offset administrative costs associated with the charter school operations. The charter school is funded with public dollars.
Logos' students receive individualized instruction and take the same tests as other students, including the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.
Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long said the charter school helps its students fill in gaps and grow academically.
"Increasing student performance as well as the graduation rate are expectations of the district," said Long. "Logos has been successful in improving in both of these areas."
VonDoloski said results from the past two years of OAKS testing showed "staggering improvement results."
He hopes that will lead to improved graduation rates.
In 2012, the four-year graduation rate at Logos was a little more than 19 percent, compared with the Medford School District's 64 percent and the state's 68.4 percent.
At that time, none of the students had attended the charter school for more than two years.
Also affecting the graduation rate was the district's request that the school enroll some of Medford's expelled high school students as an alternative to Central Medford High.
Since then, Logos administrators have tightened the charter school's enrollment process to filter out students who don't have parents actively involved in their instruction.
About 860 children and their parents living in Jackson and parts of Josephine counties meet with Logos' full- and part-time 52 teachers once a week.
Students take classes on campus, but the majority of their coursework is done at home or, for some high school students, in college classrooms.
Those in the Pathfinder programs attend Rogue Community College or Southern Oregon University while earning high school credit. In June, two Logos graduates had enough credits to enter college as juniors.
Eight more instruction days this year will allow high school students more time for their capstone project as well as for college and career fairs and on-campus tutoring.
In K-6 grades, additional days will go toward enrichment opportunities, from a Battle of the Books to a science fair and speech showcase.
Testing scores should continue to improve, VonDoloski said.
In results released last week, Logos' OAKS test scores in reading rose 14.6 percent for high school students, he said. In math, the school improved 11.2 percent for third- to 12th-graders over the previous year.
While the scores improved, they lagged behind the Medford district scores in all four areas of math, reading and literature, science and writing. Logos bettered the state average in reading and literature and in science.
Logos instituted a math bonus — up to 10 percent of a teacher's annual salary — the past school year based on reaching target growth goals from the previous year.
A full-time Logos teacher without experience receives a base annual salary of $34,500 and benefits.
That is a slightly higher base pay than a new Medford School District teacher with a bachelor's degree. Those hired during the past school year by the district received $33,115, which is likely to increase once a new contract is agreed upon by the district and the teachers union.
Logos teachers also receive mileage reimbursement, a $50 supply allotment, $200 cellphone stipend and $200 professional development stipend. All Public Employee Retirement System pension costs are paid by the school, VonDoloski said.
Teachers are responsible for 23 students on average and have flexible schedules, he said, because "the beauty of Logos is that teachers meet one-on-one with students."
VonDoloski said the school's recently renewed charter with the Medford School Board continues to have the district retain 20 percent of K-8 funding and 5 percent of 9-12 funds for administrative services and oversight. Per pupil funding for 2013-2014 is $6,590.
While Oregon added roughly $1 billion to the state education budget this year, VonDoloski said, much of the funding comes in the form of grants that are not available to charter schools.
"We don't have access to facility funding like the district security upgrades," he said.
The school will have to raise its own funds if it plans to move to a space larger than its present site, the former Medford Opportunity High School on Earhart Street.
Now, for events with more than 30 people, the school rents a room, reserves space at one of the district schools or uses the public library.
"This means much of our staff training and student events have to take place off-site, which is inconvenient to say the least," he said. "We are exploring all possible options."
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email@example.com.