Special SC Workshop 1/31/18

This blog post is my interpretation and summary of discussions from meetings that I attend and are not official minutes

In attendance was Superintendent – Dr. Laura Chesson, Assistant Superintendent – Dr. Katie Novak, Business & Finance Director – Michael Knight and SC Members – Marlena Gilbert, Jennifer McKenzie, Ryan McLane, Brian LeBlanc, Angela Donahue and Jeff Kubick.

  • Middle School Schedule Change Consideration – The Supt. brought forth a draft of some changes they are investigating for the MS in this presentation. These changes would be budget neutral through reallocation of funds available through attrition (not replacing retiring teachers). I have touched upon a few of the items that I am excited about below, although all are positive notable changes.
    • Considerations for Modifications to Middle School Schedule – First Draft
      • OWL (Organic World Language) – This has been incredibly successful at our HS and administration is investigating at bringing the opportunity to the MS schedule next year.  Here is a video that shares some info on OWL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi7PI8GfoO8
      • Grade 5/6 Increased Instruction Time ELA & Math.
      • Redesign Flexblock providing more structure pertaining to activities and timeframe.
      • Create Principals of Engineering Class in some grades to pull those standards from Science classes.
      • Provide nonperfromance based music programs for grades 5 & 6.
  • Implementation of UDL – Dr. Katie Novak provided a presentation on how the administration will be measuring the implementation of UDL in our district.
  • Analysis of Change to Family Cap/Athletic Fees – The SC discussed the impact of lowering the family cap from $2200 to $1200, and $100 increments thereafter in an effort to provide some financial relief to parents that not only pay ample taxes but also pay these cost in athletic fees. The SC held off voting on approving any decrease in the athletic fees until they have the opportunity to review the entire draft school budget that is being presented to the committee on February 7, 2018.  At this time there was a consensus amongst the committee to change at a minimum the MS & HS individual caps to one family cap of $1200 for the FY19 budget as we are the only district that has two individual caps that combined equate to a $2200 family cap. 
  • E&D and District Stabilization Fund – The SC discussed and finalized financial policies governing the District Excess & Deficiency Account and District Stabilization Fund. The policies are based on best practices and laws governed by the state and DESE.  Gilbert expressed a desire to collaborate with both towns through further discussions on possibly tweaking financial policies at a municipal and district level in an effort for both the municipal & District to be able to have adequate reserves and operating budgets. The DOR and DESE have recommendations in regards to what percentage of your budget should be in reserves, however, they are based on a municipal school district, as a regional District with two member town our taxpayers are better served through a collaboration of financial policies. 
  • GDEA/Unit A Teachers Contract Negotiations – Negotiations have concluded and the SC has ratified the contract renewal.  I would like to thank the teachers collaborating with our SC in the best interest of our students, some of the notable changes in this contract are below. 
    • Term: 9/1/17 to 8/31/20
    • COLA increase
      • 1.5% (year one)
      • 2.25% (year two)
      • 2.25% (year three)
    • Amendment to hours at the Swallow Union & Flo Ro effective September 1, 2018. Twenty (20) additional minutes to the elementary school day, of which fifteen (15) minutes shall be for student instruction and fie (5) minutes shall be for recess.
    • Amendment to add language for the District to provide access to an electronic grade book, which will allow students, parents/guardians access to all grades online, ie homework, classroom assignments, assessments, quizzes etc.
    • Amendment to add language to provide a sick leave bank to be used when an employee is prevented from working because of employee’s illness or injury and when this disability is of a prolonged nature that is fifteen consecutive working days or more. The sick leave bank would be established by the members of the bargaining unit voluntarily contributing sick days that they accumulated for the use of participating employees whose sick leave is exhausted through the employee’s prolonged illness.
  • Policies – SC considered updates of policies and were approved after final discussions. The updated versions will be sent to MASC and they will upload them to our website.
    • KEP Public Complaints about School Personnel
    • KEC – Public Complaints about the Curriculum or Instruction Materials.
  • Liaison Reports 
    • Groton BoS Liaison – Gilbert reported that one of the members of the BoS expressed concern and was very upset about the lack of conclusion of the sustainability work done by the District Sustainability Committee.  Gilbert shared the fact that contract negotiations took precedence over the work, especially with the audit underway which was done in an effort to yield savings in our own budget for reallocation of services needed.  Once negotiations are complete we could continue the work.  Donahue as the chair of the Sustainability Committee expressed that this was discussed with the committee and with the changes being considered, possible implemented would significantly change what numbers would be used in the model and yield an unrealistic outcome.  Prior to the committee continuing its work we should finalize our transportation costs and decision on custodial outsourcing as that will change the figures utilized for the sustainability model. Gilbert expressed that there is also a need to account for Free Cash to be used for one time expenses, coordination of financial policies for reserves and the use of actual revenue numbers versus budgeted projections for authenticity.
    • DMG Consultant Update – The final report for the staffing & special education is complete and uploaded to the District website.  The process for this report will mirror the process followed from the Abrahams Report, the administration will draft actionable items for the SC to consider. This will be discussed at our upcoming meeting in which the SC will consider what actionable items the administration should pursue possible efficiencies and reallocation to improve the performance of our students.