Wallowa school boss submits resignation

Ed Jensen

Saying that the Wallowa School District can no longer afford to keep him around, school superintendent Ed Jensen tendered his resignation Monday at the December meeting of the Wallowa School Board.

The resignation is effective June 30.

"The district can no longer afford one and a half administrators," Jensen said in a letter of resignation that he delivered to the board during executive session Monday night.

"It is time I leave and not become a hindrance to keeping Wallowa School District strong. The real goal should be to keep good teachers in the classroom, not two people that sign checks and attend meetings."

Jensen, 55, will continue in his half-time position as superintendent of the Education Service District, which provides administrative support to all four school districts in the county. His resignation will save Wallowa roughly $35,000 a year.

Jensen's decision to leave Wallowa, where he has served as a half-time administrator, followed a litany of financial difficulties the school will have to contend with in the next year. He said the school is currently on track to spend $344,381 more this year than it will receive in revenue. That deficit will grow by an additional $97,340 if the statewide income tax Measure 28 does not pass in January.

Jensen attributed the bleak budget picture to a combination of factors, including a sour state economy, a reduction in interest income on money the school district had in the bank, and declining enrollment. Wallowa has lost 122 students, or 30 percent of total enrollment, the past four years and Jensen expects enrollment will be down to 280 by the end of Christmas vacation.

In spite of these challenges, Jensen said, the school district is relatively good condition, noting that it has cash reserves of approximately $1 million and a staff that "collectively is the best in the state." Wallowa has won numerous awards for academic achievement during his tenure. He noted that while it seems like Wallowa is a strong cash position that unless the school board is vigilent about keeping costs in line with enrollment the district could eat up that reserve in a hurry.

"When you're spending $300,000 a year more than you take in it doesn't take long," he said.

Jensen, who is finishing up his 15th year as Wallowa superintendent, said he considered himself fortunate to have worked with a steadfast board, an able principal in John Neseman, and a great mentor in former superintendent Dave Smyth.

"I was blessed with a people of great quality," he said, including patrons, parents and students in that list. "There are a lot of good people in Wallowa County."

Jensen said the extra time will allow him to focus more on his duties as ESD superintendant. In that position he is currently involved in extending high speed wireless Internet service to all three high schools in the county in hopes of offering courses to students via computer in the future.

He plans to continue in his role as chairman of the Wallowa County Health Care District, a position he has held for the past four years.

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