The Directors did their comment section, mostly about community meetings. However President DeBell did make a fairly major announcement. He read a formal statement that he would be recusing himself from any discussion or vote about certificated staff negotiations. His wife is a certificated nurse with SPS. He said as a practical matter his wife's employment would not affect his impartiality or judgment but he concluded that the statutes regarding his role would indicate that he should refrain talking to other Board members about that issue. He said he would attend Board meetings about this particular negotiation but only to listen. Steve Sundquist, in his role as Vice-President, would chair those meetings.
Also as I said elsewhere, he said that they are in the processing of figuring out the non-compliance for Native American Students funding. (He also complimented Director Carr for meeting with some Native American parents.) He said now they are on a path to compliance. He said that the Native American community had NO fault in this (his emphasis) and that it was SPS staff who did this.
I missed about a half hour of the meeting coming home. When I turned on the tv, they had blasted through the Consent Agenda and were discussing President DeBell's policy management amendment granting autonomy to certain schools that met certain criteria. It became apparent as I listened that Director DeBell had withdrawn his amendment (so there was never a vote).
Director Martin-Morris said that he proposed that the Curriculum and Instruction Committee take on the work of school autonomy and promise to get it done by October. Director Maier said he supported that idea and felt it wasn't part of performance management and should not be limited to high-performing schools. Director Smith-Blum said that instructional and performance policies are linked. "We want to preserve our teachers' innovative options and want to craft policies that allow for that and encourage it."
On the performance management policy, the discussion went pretty much as you might expect. Steve said it's a critical foundation but it should include the circumstances at each school. Betty said most of the policies were old and outdated but she had been absent and so didn't feel comfortable voting so she was voting no (why she didn't just abstain, I don't know). Sherry urged people to understand that the policy's intent is to help teachers help students succeed. She referenced the SAP in her remarks. The vote was 6-1.
On the lease contract for science materials, I wrote about this previously. Staff came back with all sorts of reasons why we have to pay for leased space to store science materials when we have many closed buildings. What was interesting to me is that the district and the Board never seem to say, "Maybe we can ask the City for a variance on this zoning." Betty and Harium both seemed to wonder why it couldn't be done to have this in an SPS building. But the staffer said to use a closed building you have heat it and have a custodian and that would cost a lot. (Bet it's cheaper than leasing but apparently warehouse space costs are going up so guess what? now's the time for SPS to lease. Of course, it just worked out that way.) The vote was 5-2.
Voting on building a new greenhouse at Hale. Again, not picking on Hale but here's the deal. Hale has a nice horticulture program. It's not huge but it's part of the school. There is a greenhouse used that was built on City property (with permission) but now the City wants the property back. So naturally we're building a $600K greenhouse elsewhere (by Summit). As watchdog Chris Jackins rightly points out this was NOT part of Hale's BEX project but since the City wanted their land back, what could they do?
What they could do in these tight financial times is put the Horticulture program on hiatus until BEX IV. I know, I know but guess what else comes after this discussion at the Board meeting? How to find money for reopening the 5 schools. They need capital money. This $600K should go to that effort. (In addition, since the head of BEX himself said that the Ingraham addition is likely to not happen and would likely need to go out to bid again, Ingraham's addition should roll over into BEX IV as well. There's somewhere around $10M there. That's a chunk of money that could really help with those 5 reopening buildings.)
But yes, the greenhouse passed unanimously.
Then there was discussion around the SPS bonds that will be put up for sale in April to try to get money to lower the costs on the debt for the headquarters. The way staff put it, it is sort of like refinancing your home.
NTN contract discussion followed. Here is what Dr. Enfield said at the beginning:
"The original contract was approved at the previous meeting." Those were her EXACT words.
She said each academy will have "a unique school culture and professional learning community". She then said at the time the contract was presented to the Board, it was still in draft form with changes being made to reflect the program for this fall. (Still begs the question: why was it voted on? Can no one admit a mistake?) Dr. Enfield said that each academy will have an "academy administrator".
Director Sundquist then said something I found funny. It was that he essentially understood that the issue was that the contract match the understanding between the parties and what staff had communicated to the Board. Yes, that's generally what you want a contract to do.
Michael then touched on one my testimony points about the contract. I had pointed out that the agenda item said, " Under this project-based learning approach, teachers design rigorous projects tied to state and district standards...."
However the contract states:
To the extent District or any of its employees or agents creates or contributes to any New Materials, then District agrees that in consideration for the Services and License and in compliance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement District will assign, and will direct its employees and agents to assign, to NT upon the request of NT, all right, title and interest of District in any New Materials. District will cooperate with, and to the best of its ability, assist NT (at NT’s expense) in NT’s efforts to secure, vest, protect, record, further document or register such assignment and NT’s rights in any New Materials, including but not limited to executing all papers reasonably desirable or necessary to further document this assignment and vesting of rights in NT.
I told the Board: "Meaning, any projects developed by teachers or staff at Cleveland cannot be used at any other SPS high school without licensing from NTN if NTN has taken ownership of any project. I’m sure any of our possible partners such as UW and Microsoft will be interested in this particular part of the contract."
Michael asked about this and Ron English, from the Legal department, was quite cagey in his answer. He said that by and large, NTN would own any new developments. He said, "It is rare that it happens." (I doubt that this is a "safety" clause. I think NTN is a developing franchise and they want to take whatever they can out of each franchise. )
Anyway Mr. English then said that the district would retain the right to use any new developments at our schools but what we would not be able to do is market a new development somewhere else. SPS could use it at our schools, specifically at Cleveland at both academies.
Note, he said "our schools". DeBell said, "all our schools in our system?" Mr. English had to confess he needed to look more closely at the language of the contract but I think it's fairly clear that no, NTN would own any project they wanted to take ownership of and if that happened, then for SPS to use it at any other high school but Cleveland, they would have to lease it. But I'm no lawyer so we'll see what Mr. English comes back with.
Mr. English also confirmed that each academy will have its own office staff. He said, "By and large, they are two separate schools but we are using academies." Well the staff seem to be giving a mixed message because I've heard statements that it's still Cleveland but jsut with two academies but maybe only legally, not in practice, they will be two schools.
Last topic that I watched was how to find money to reopen the 5 schools needed this fall. Mr. Kennedy said they could borrow money internally (their first choice) which would come from the CEP (Capital Eligible fund) or revenue from a bond sale which would be long and cost more to do. He also mentioned starting projects later to try to, I guess, get more time to find money. He said this would be discussed at the Audit and Finance Committee meeting on Monday.