It was a lively meeting to be sure. I stayed until after the discussion of the introduction of the TFA item. Here are links (Part 2 - testimony, Part 3- rest of meeting).
The testimony was more varied than I might have expected as TFA was not the only issue discussed. In fact, testimony about Graham Hill's preschool led to discussion at the Audit & Finance Committee meeting the next day and Sherry Carr's community meeting yesterday. I will sum it up here but it deserves another thread of its own as it is a larger part of the discussion about the budget.
I am going to write a separate thread on the TFA testimony as it is quite telling to the discussion about ending the contract.
Two people, Chris Jackins and me, spoke to the Board approval of the final closeout of the Garfield project. For the record, Chris is right in saying that the project was not on-budget (the district is fond of saying BEX projects are) and Garfield was funded by both BEX II and BEX III. It also took over the the World School's funding of $14M and now that figure is down to $10M for them without explanation.
Two speakers, Dan Dempsy and Rick Burke, spoke about the math issues our district has as relates to the instructional materials policy.
Graham Hill's issue is a little hard to track and I have written to their co-presidents to try to find information to flesh out this issue. What I understand is that Graham Hill has the oldest running preschool in the district. At some point, it became a Montessori pre-school to complement the Montessori program they have for their K-5. However, they did not want to charge full-freight for parents in the pre-school program (reason unknown) and were charging a higher kindergarten fee to off-set those costs. They had been charging $372 for kindergarten and $350 for preschool.
Now before Pay for K came into being, this was allowable. But when the Board set the fee for Pay for K across the district and the district became responsible for taking those fees, that ability to charge higher went away. The Graham Hill parents who spoke at the Board meeting said that their school had not been notified in a timely manner that they could no longer control what they charged for kindergarten and naturally, that endangered the pre-school.
The division/misunderstanding seems to be that GH believes Dr. Enfield said they COULD continue to charge whatever they wanted for kindergarten and they were challenging the SB's authority to override that decision. I don't know what Dr. Enfield said or didn't say to GH but the Board is in charge of voting to set fees and they did vote in a mandatory kindergarten fee for ALL schools. I agree that all schools should have been duly notified what this might mean to their programs.
So it seems what happened is that GH says they did not realize the impact of this policy last year until December and asked the district to subsidize the pre-school for the rest of that year. The district did so but now GH wants them to do it again until they can figure out what to do to pay for the pre-school program. This cost has been $70K per year.
(Sherry Carr verified that this is the issue as it stands but neither she nor I have all the dates of who said what and when.)
So I'll leave that issue at that until I get to the Audit & Finance Committee. But it is interesting because the parents are phrasing as the Board is interfering with the Superintendent's decision and I don't think that is the case.
We also had a speaker, Rob Eleveld, who put forth this idea of a new group, Moderate Voice of Parents, which he said supports a single issue which is "professional corporate governance" and that Policy 1620 is a good first step. He didn't say who is starting this group, when it started and I can't find anything on-line about them. Odd.
So onto the agenda.
Dr. Enfield gave the round-up of good news in the district.
The Board comments were sparse. Martin-Morris did make a point of saying that arts are core and not an add-on but I missed the context to his remarks. Smith-Blum pointed out the upcoming "capacity management meetings" and Michael gently corrected her that they were BEX IV meetings. That is an important point to make - it is not just about capacity management for BEX IV.
DeBell went over the superintendent search, noting that the application window closes on Friday, March 23rd. He said they have a large number of applications (I have heard upwards of 130) and he said the "community focus team" will interview finalists on April 23, 24, 25. The Executive Committee is expected to name the focus group committee members this Wednesday the 14th. I expect it to be populated with the usual suspects but I hope to be pleasantly surprised. (I believe the consultant group, HYA, will pare the finalists down to 20 and name their top 10. However, the Board will get 20 applications to look at to make sure they see ALL the top finalists.)
They then got to the action item to approve a two-minute limit for speakers at Board meetings. Patu said she liked the 3-minute time as that is how she receives information AND finds out how she is doing. Peaslee agreed and said that they could encourage people to use less time if they didn't need a full three minutes. Harium said he was against the idea as there may be the perception that the Board doesn't want to listen to the public and that he looked around and saw many districts nationwide that do use a 3-minute limit. He said the City and the Port (which use 2-minutes) aren't "us."
The other Board members, however, did vote to support the measure and it passed. Carr blandly said that we need to look at how we receive public input. Every Board says this and then does nothing.
The modified Waiver of Basic Instructional Materials Policy passed 7-0. It now has the addition of a school being able to appeal to the Board if the Superintendent denies their waiver. The issue of finding funding for materials for the waiver is still a little dicey. The district will give money (if they have it) but they may not give the same amount to each school. Naturally, each school can also rearrange their money or find grant money or raise the money themselves.
Next they had the renamed of F.A. McDonald elementary to be F.A. McDonald International School. I put this in only because the Board complains of the length of the Board meetings and then has 6 staff members from McDonald come forward, introduce themselves and then talk about the change. Really?
Then they got to the TFA Intro item. Again, I will go over this section in a TFA thread on the Board meeting.
I missed the rest of the meeting but I reviewed the tape for Policy 1620 discussion. I thought it was a fine piece of work that the entire Board worked on together at their Board retreat. Anyone who says they can't work together is NOT paying attention. (Interestingly, Dr. Enfield was not able to attend the retreat.) Both Patu and DeBell said they thought the work had gone well at the retreat.
There was a bit of discussion about adding a piece at the beginning of policy stating that the Board holds the Superintendent accountable (after the section on Board being governance and the Superintendent enacting policy). McLaren left mid-way through this discussion for a community meeting.
Issue of superintendent enforcing policy, according to DeBell, is that "all employees need to understand and enforce the policies that are relevant to their work. The Board itself has no obvious tools to ensure that policies are being followed." He said the Internal Auditor is one place where the Board could do enforcement.
On Garfield, Patu asked about more money to Garfield project. She expressed her concern on that. Ron English said the school was completed in 2008 and the Board transferred, in 2009, $1.2M. Staff did note at that time there were $5M of outstanding claims and this approves it. The dilemma is to settle the claim.
Patu asked if this would complete the project and, to my surprise, Mr. English said there are a few small issues of $4k or $5k (for the mediation board) but no outstanding claims or work to be done.
DeBell handed out a "gold star" to Ron English for saving the district money in this mediation. DeBell is right but frankly, it should not have gotten to this point but that's not Mr. English's arena. DeBell called it "saving money for student needs." I think he misses the bigger point which is that we spent way too much money on one building and took money away from other worthy projects.