The Budget and Finance School Committee began roughly at 5:30pm.  In attendance is Alison Manugian, Peter Cronin, Leslie Lathrop, Director of Budget and Finance – Jared Stanton, Superintendent – Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Christine Lynch of Department of Education and Secondary Education and two gentleman from MARS.

Christine Lynch was explaining the Regional School District Budget Preparation and Approval Process at the meeting tonight.

Regional Budget Preparation:

  • School Committee Adoption – 2/3 vote
  • Classified into categories and line items:
    • Operating, Capital, Transportation
    • Based level of detail desired by school committee/towns
    • consistent with EOY chart of accounts
  • Identify all revenue sources to support budget
    •  Include Chapter 70, transportation, general fund revenue
    • Do NOT include grants, revolving (choice), trust fund revenue

Preparing Assessments:

Specify method of calculating member assessments for operating expenses.

  • Statutory Method – 2/3 approval (this is currently the method used by Groton/Dunstable)
    • MLC as determined annually by Commissioner
    • Other amounts apportioned according to RSD agreement
      • Amounts of MLC
      • Members’s share of transportation, capital or any other expenses not included in the NSS amount.
  • Alternative method – unanimous annual local approval
    • All amounts needed to support he school committee budget, apportioned in accordance with RSD agreement.
    • Total of eligible operating costs must meet the RSD’s net school spending requirement.

Currently G-D is reviewing our RSD (Regional School District) agreement and much like Ayer/Shirley or Acton/Boxborough we could creative an alternative method in which our two towns could fund our schools through a customized method that could better serve the financial abilities of both Groton & Dunstable. What is even more interesting to me; if this could actually be done so it could be presented to our towns for Spring or Fall meeting of 2016…  both communities could then vote on the changes for approval so that the better method to fund our schools could be implemented for FY 2017.  This could be a saving grace in how our towns could better financially accommodate the current needs of our children in 2017 and also give us a realistic approach in providing our children with a future Technology & Capital plan in future years to come. 

Assessments Provided to Members: 

  • Within 30 days of the school committee vote
  • Not later than April 30
  • A vote by the local appropriating authority to approve the assessment constitutes approval of the RSD Budget.

Failure to Approve a Budget:

If the budget is not approved by 2/3 of members based on the statutory method or by all the members based on the alternative method:

  • School Committee has 30 days to reconsider Budget; (+15, with approval of Commissioner)
  • School Committee may reduce, increase or approve original amount;
  • Assessments calculated based on recertified budget must be provided to members within 7 days of school committee approval.

Approval Process for Reconsidered Budget:

Members have 45 days from the school committee vote to act on the budget/assessment.

  • 2/3 approval required for statutory method
  • Unanimous approval for agreement method
    • Considered approved by member if no vote is taken within 45 days
    • Disapprove by member if town meeting is dissolved prior to voting

If necessary approvals are not secured, the budget is returned to school committee

School Committee Options:

School Committee may agree to reduce/increase budget and recalculate assessments to reflect amounts approved by town meeting.

  • All assessments must be reduced/increased to reflect statutory or agreement assessment method.
  • If amounts voted at member town meeting reflect the amounts apportioned based on school committee’s reconsidered budget, the budget is approved.

School Committee may resubmit budget for additional consideration by member towns.

Additional Town Action:

  • In a district with 3 or more members, the budget and assessments are again submitted for town action.
  • In a district with 2 members, the RSD convenes a district wide meeting of all registered voters from both members.
  • A district wide meeting may only consider budgets based the statutory assessments method.
  • Approval of the budget required a majority of voters present and voting by a counted vote.
  • If adopted, the budget is apportioned to the members and paid accordance with the terms of RSD agreement.

District Wide Meeting:

  • The meeting is open to all registered voters.
  • Notice must be provided at least 14 days prior to the meeting.
  • The warrant must state the time, place and purpose of the meeting.
  • Notice shall be posted in each town clerk’s office, at two other public places in each member town and in one newspaper in general circulation within the municipalities.
  • The Board of Selectmen by vote appoint town moderator or other person to act as moderator.
  • The district secretary keeps the record of the meeting.

Notifications and action by DESE

  • If budget will not be approved by July 1, the Superintendent notifies Commissioner of ESE.
  • Commissioner sets interim monthly budget:
    • Based on previous FY
    • Higher amount as the Commissioner determines
  • Assessments must be recalculated based on amount approved by the Commissioner.
  • Member payments are made in accordance with time frame in regional agreement .
  • In effect until, December 1st or until budget is approved locally.

State Fiscal Control:

As of December 1st if budget is still not passed

  • Commissioner established the final budget for the FY.
  • Assumes fiscal control of the district until end of current FY or until members approve budget for subsequent FY.
  • No additional state funding as a result of ESE fiscal control.

Commissioner’s Control:

  • Adoption or reconsideration of budget.
  • Transfer of budgetary authority between line items.
  • Encumbrance of expenditure of funds not included in general fund budget .
  • Borrowing
  • New or amended collective bargaining agreements
  • New contracts or amendments with value of $25, 000 or more
  • Establishment, increase or decrease of user fees

Commissioner’s Authority:

The Commissioner

  • may impound any unencumbered funds for such period of time as he determines
  • may undertake any initiatives that he deems necessary to secure the financial stability of the district
  • may designate a person to act on his behalf

I don’t think there is anyone out there that would prefer DESE to take over the financial control of our district verses having a thoughtful budget presented to the voters so they can choose how they want to spend their tax dollars. Our financial priorities should be based on what directly impacts the quality of living and value of our town….  that is our schools, fire and police. For the last five to seven years out of those three it has been our schools that have been overlooked.  Its time to adequately fund our schools.  

I look forward to hearing the Superintendent’s need assessment in November and will be sure to let everyone know when that is on the agenda.  That is a meeting you will want to attend so you can ask questions and present your concerns. 

Budget & Finance Committee Meeting adjourned roughly at 7pm.

The SC Workshop meeting immediately followed; in attendance was our Superintendent, Alison Manugian, Jon Sjoberg, Stephanie Cronin, Leslie Lathrop and Peter Cronin. Discussions from last week continued with the planning of upcoming community vision forum. They discussed the open ended questions and rough format for the community vision forum that will be offered to the voters of both Groton & Dunstable. For those that missed my last weeks blog, the forum is being established to help capture the true community vision for our district. There was talk of possibly offering some sort of food service i.e. coffee/muffins for participants and although childcare is not provided children are welcome to attend as this is a community forum. The anticipated date for the forum is at 10am on December 12, 2015 at the G-D High School and advertising for the event will get out to the public over the course of the next couple of weeks.  Flyers will be circulated around both towns in various ways.

 

 

Present at tonight’s meeting was Jennifer McKenzie, Alison Manugian, Jeff Kubick, Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, – Superintendent, Leslie Lathrop, Peter Cronin and Luke Callahan – Director of Technology, Information and Media Relations.

  • Luke Callahan identified what a technology plan is. It is a specific type of strategy that lets an organization where they are now and where they want to be some where in the future with regarding to technology infrastructure in their organization. It often consists of a vision, a needs assessment (items such as a network assessment, a technology audit, a current inventory) goals & strategies and an evaluation of where we want to be in the future.
  • DESE (Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education) provides 6 benchmarks that will help devise the Groton-Dunstable Technology plan.
  1. commitment to a clear vision
  2. professional development
  3. technology integration and literacy
  4. accessibility of technology
  5. virtual learning and communications
  6. safety security and data retention
  • Administration shared feedback for needs to be considered in developing the Technology Plan. Some of that feedback included the need for the plan to be student focused, strategic planned to align to instruction, BYOD (bring your own device) or a one to one, comprehensive PD with technology, articular a district wide data means, the need hardware/software needs as well as  infrastructure in all of the buildings across the district.
  • Administration is considering the process, price and publicity of the technology plan.

Process: The plan must consider the value of the technology and its ability to improve instructions in student outcomes.

Price: The plan must consider the potential cost of purchases.

Publicity: The plan must consider an effective the roll out of technology with a public awareness campaign that provides information of how the technology will improve teaching and learning so we know that our community supports it in terms of our resources.

Luke Callahan provided this slide presentation that included this information during the workshop.   The SC were hoping to have the Technology Plan completely developed in May/June 2016.  

  • Discussions surrounding a public brainstorming vision exercise forum was the focus for the second half of the meeting.  All of the SC members took care in reviewing and adjusting questions so they would be more promote brainstorming and create an open dialogue versus a guided survey. The discussions were productive, thoughtful and I look forward to participating in the open forum. There was discussion about possibly having it on a Saturday in November, late morning.

Meeting adjourned at roughly 10:15pm

 

 

In attendance tonight was Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Peter Cronin (Chair/Groton SC member), Jeff Kubick (Secretary/Groton SC member), Stephanie Cronin (Dunstable SC member), Marlena Gilbert (Groton Resident/Vice-Chair) and Leslie Lathrop (Groton SC member).

Discussions included:

  • The feed back from the SC on the assessment presentation.  The SC as a whole seemed to be in agreement with the PCCE ( Public Communications & Community Engagement Advisory Committee) assessment.
  • What constitutes “allowable” communications under the Open Meeting Law.  I suggested that we reach out to the Attorney General  if there are any concerns about allowable communications. Obtaining written validation of proposed methods of communication will prevent any Open Meeting Law violations. You can click on Attorney General above and see one of my correspondence with the them. 
  • What channels would increasing communication & interest.  Such methods included but are not limited to “letters to the editor”, digital media – such as Facebook, blogs and public forum groups that exist in Groton & Dunstable.
  • What information to provide – some included but was not limited to more details on meeting agendas with meeting packets, sharing meeting discussions through a blog, advertising upcoming event scheduled more effectively verses having people find them on web page and a scheduled plan that can forecast what the community can can expect in upcoming months.
  • The need for the SC to be more visible is needed, having formal representation at events such as Grotonfest, School Open Houses, Memorial Day parade as a committee may be beneficial.  I think this is a great idea as it puts a face and personable connection between the SC members and community.  

Stephanie Cronin made a valid notation that at some point residents have to choose to want to be involved and choose to be interested. I made a 1/2 joke in replying to her that well the ugly truth is that will never happen (joke half)…  the SC has to find ways to communicate that will gain interest in our schools (serious half). I agree with Stephanie. If you are a tax payer in Groton or Dunstable and you have an interest in our school there are many ways for you to be involved.  They can include anything from attending a meeting to emailing/calling your elected officials that run our town to simply express how you want your tax money spent…  the School Committee, Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee need your guidance.  We can not solely rely on the SC or any other committee to speak on your behalf. Your help is needed in moving our schools forward, it is your vote and interest that will create positive change.

During discussions, one of the veteran SC members mentioned that we should recognize that the SC are volunteer positions and are not compensated.  I initially heard this statement said at a SC meeting in the PAC during the budget crisis when town voters were looking for accountability. Here we are a year later and I hear it again last night. If this is the mentality of any SC member then you SHOULD NOT have asked our tax payers to vote for you in the first place. Please do not bother to run for office if you feel the need to remind people that your not getting compensated for doing the job.  In addition there is a saying, “any job worth doing is worth doing well”.  That would include jobs that we volunteer to do but are not getting compensated for…  otherwise don’t volunteer.    

We discussed an upcoming meeting schedule in which we can get back together to further discuss best//most effective channels practices to communicate with the community. I am confident we will be prepared by the end of November to present to the SC.

Meeting adjourned at 9:30pm

 

 

 

In attendance is Alison Manugian, Peter Cronin, Jeff Kubick, Leslie Lathrop, Jared Stanton – Director of Business & Finance, Dr. Katie Novak – Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Kristan Rodriguez – Superintendent, Stephanie Cronin and Jennifer McKenzie. Please note the Budget & Finance Subcommittee meeting could not take place due to the lack of a quorum.

Bea Alice Loos, President of GDEF provided the SC and the community with an update on their work. For those that were not aware, GDEF had a shortage of volunteers back in April and there was a fear that their work could not continue.  Bea wanted to update the SC and the community with the great news that GDEF was alive and well. They obtained several new board members. They are in full swing and have already reverted to their standard schedule of grants and will do their annual giving campaign with a goal to raise $35,000 for grants. They have already awarded three grants – one to the HS, MS and Florence Roche. They also are planning a trivia night in March, it has been at Main Street Cafe in years past. They do great work which directly benefits our children so when you get that annual giving campaign in the mail please dig deep into those pockets.

Student handbook changes were discussed.  Those changes included discussions of when make up school work is due.  It is due within five days upon school return. This clarity is well appreciated by myself as well as other parents out there because before this change “within 5 days” could be subject to interpretation verses upon return to school.

The Superintendent brought forth the 2016 Improvement Plan to the SC  This plan was developed within the budget restrictions and includes smart goals that could be considered a pathway to the future 2.0 needs budget that will be presented in November. For clarification the Improvement Plan is not a strategy plan. It include smart goals that fit within the budget we have to work with for 2016. It is a one year plan to be implemented in the interim, as we do not have an approved Strategic plan for our district at this time. The 2016 Improvement Plan was voted on and approved. It will be up on the GDRSD website and I will add it to the blog once available.

Jared Stanton brought forth a request to vote on Student Activities as previously presented and recommended by DESE (Department of Elementary & Secondary Education).  There were some outstanding questions in regards to what & how DESE identifies which activities and how specific activities are included.  Superintendent recommended we hold off on a vote until more details can be provided to the SC members.   No vote was taken and more information will be provided to the SC members.

A vote to approve the Football 2015 (MOU) Memorandum of Understanding was next on the agenda. This memorandum would run through the end of this season which is November 2015.  Vote was taken – five approved and one opposed with the understanding that future discussions of the Football MOU will be discussed.

Next on the agenda is having the SC Workshops recorded by the Groton Channel.  The cost is approximately $15/per hour although no other government bodies in Groton have to pay for their meetings to be recorded. Interesting why? This brings me back to we need to make our schools an equal priority in our towns. The main discussion was not if they should video tape the meetings or not, but more of where to have the Workshops to accommodate community attendants and still maintain a relaxed atmosphere.  Alison Manugian mentioned that having the SC Workshops recorded could be utilized in helping take minutes and allows full participation from the SC member that is trying to take minutes during the Workshop. No vote was called for but it seemed that all SC members were in favor of having the SC Workshops professionally recorded. I am hoping that this is voted on and approved because I would prefer not to video tape the meetings.  I however will continue to do so if not approved. 

Minutes from the SC meeting 9/9 and minutes from the 9/30 SC Workshop were approved.

For new business; Leslie Lathrop made mention that the SC members should be compensated for mileage if there is going to be more meetings at the Library verses the Prescott Bldg (SC Workshops). She stated that she has driven over 1000 miles to attend SC meetings. Alison Manugian asked what are the other districts doing? Leslie Lathrop mentioned other districts are surprised that we don’t do it. I would be interested in knowing which districts do offer the reimbursement.  Personally, as a concerned voter and parent that attends all the SC Workshops, Budget & finance Subcommittee Meetings and SC Regular Meetings I am not looking for reimbursement…. but that’s just me. 

More discussions will take place in regards to mileage reimbursement and having the SC Workshops professionally recorded for the community prior to votes being taken. 

SC Regular public meeting was adjourned at 8:15pm as the SC entered Executive Session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alison Manugian, Jon Sjoberg, Stephanie Cronin, Leslie Lathrop, Jennifer McKenzie, Jeff Kubick, Peter Cronin and Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez are present for tonights meeting.

Jeff Kubick continued discussions from last week by clarifying that the Superintendent has not provided a budget for the SC to support or appose at this time and the SC has not made any decisions on time frame or budgets at this time. Jeff wanted to review some areas of agreement that he felt came from last weeks meeting. He provided a survey to the SC members to help see where they were all at after last weeks meeting.

  1. The superintendent should develop a thorough assessment of the districts needs. – all agree
  2. Budget increases are required to adequately fund the districts needs. – all agree
  3. Budget increases which adequately fund the districts needs will likely require assessments to each town which will exceed the current levy limits. –  3 agree, 1 disagree and 3 not sure
  4. The SC should delay the Technology & Capital budget requests until next year to provide more adequate time to prepare for plan development.  – 3 agree, 2 disagree and 2 not sure
  5. Budgets need to be both sustainable on revenue and expense side. – 5 agree, 1 disagree & 1 not sure

Video of Jeff Kubick going over the survey with the SC {SC Survey Results Video Clip}

Video of SC members discussion of why they were in agreement, disagreement or unsure of the five survey topics {SC Survey Discussions Video Clip}

Jeff Kubick’s final question asked the SC to rate by level of most important – Technology Plan, Capital Plan and the Operating/Education.  SC members overall rated Operating/Education (2 tier support personnel, professional development resources, certified librarians, technology specialists, supplies, and curriculum/instructional materials) as the most important followed by both Technology & Capital which rated equally important when the tallying was done.

What I walked away with was that our SC agrees that our schools are underfunded, they agree that we need to know from the education professionals what are schools are in need of for a baseline (not a wish list but a needs budget) and lastly that Technology and Capital improvements are equally important however Operating/Education are the most important out of the three.  I was pleased to hear the results of the survey because I could not agree more.

I support Dr. Kristan Rodriguez and her staff’s professional recommendations to repair our schools so we can get back to our baseline.  I think we have to start there as a priority and then from there we can build on that with a future Capital & Technology plan…. should our community decide that they want a great school district.  Before we can be great we have to repair our schools and return our district back to the formidable district it once was. 

The Superintendent will be prepared to provide a thoughtful and thorough needs presentation to the SC and the community next month (November).  The needs budget are not aspirations or wants they are definite needs that are formulated through data, research and state recommendations that will bring our district to a baseline.  I look forward to hearing the presentation of the 2.0 next month – I will make sure I post the date/time of this meeting as it will be a meeting you will want to attend so you can ask questions in regards to our needs budget.  

The Superintendent had questions for the SC: 

What is meant by redoing the vision statement?  SC consensus was that redoing the vision statement would require obtaining community input and identifying what they want for our schools as it is the community that drives the vision for the district.

What involvement should the community have in vision development and what is the SC role in the process?

SC seemed to agree that a large community forum could be offered to the community.  The community could have the opportunity to weigh in on where they want our district to be, what do we wish we were, what are we striving to become, do they want our town to have a good school district or a great school district and various questions to help obtain information from the community and form a community vision statement.

Leslie Lathrop suggested that we provide transportation and baby sitting for those that need sit to make it easier for them to attend.

Alison Manugian provided a Regional Agreement update.  {Regional Agreement Update Video Clip}

Meeting was surprised adjourned at 9:20pm.

Full two hour video:  {Complete SC Workshop Video – October 7th}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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