Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 2010 regular meeting

The regular meeting of the Board of Education was on Tuesday evening, May 25th.  As we have been digitally recording our meetings with equipment and software at the Board office, I didn't bother to bring my own, little recorder.  Unfortunately, I found out today that a problem had occured with the system and thus we only have 45 minutes of our entire meeting recorded.  Bummer!!  Not that our meetings are all that entertaining, really, but to help inform those who are interested in what's going on at the Board level.

This particular meeting was slightly different, in that we had asked Treasurer Cheryl Swisher to give a public update and explanation of the 5 yr. forecast before the Board that evening.  There are two versions required by the state, one is due Oct. 31st each year and the other is due May 31st.  We thought it would be a good idea for the May version to be explained to the public prior to our vote on its submission.

Cheryl spoke about a half hour on the forecast, with large screens that showed her spreadsheets.  She was very clear about how federal and state funding is less and less (the "bad news") while our property tax revenue is not nearly as low as originally predicted (the "good news").  As part of the summary at the end of her presentation, she reminded all present that we have very little control over what comes into the district - our revenue - and there is simply no clear path to predict what the state of Ohio is going to do for schools.  The only category over which we have any control is expenses, and many items in that category are also out of our control, such as gas and electricity prices, etc.  She reminded the crowd that fully 82% of our entire budget goes to salaries and benefits.  While the district is constantly looking for ways to save money here and there (such as purchasing through consortiums for lower costs, reducing building budgets where possible, etc.) the bottom line is that salaries and benefits are where we spend the lion's share of our money.

As President of the BOE, Mona Dyke presented several retiring teachers with our traditional purple marble apples and certificates of appreciation.  A presentation was made by Rob Upham on the desire to establish a travel soccer league in Swanton, separate from Swanton Rec. 

The board went into executive session to discuss a student concern, and following that we discussed items relative to negotiations. 

Based on my review of past history in our district, and reinforced by Cheryl's presentation, I suggested that certain numbers be revised in the 5 yr. forecast.  However, the vote on the 5 yr. forecast was to accept it as presented - I was the only "no" vote on that issue.

We amended our policy on graduation requirements to allow a student who is waiting for his/her scores on a second OGT test to process across the stage.  We have had a case in the past where former policy did not allow a student to do so, and when the re-score arrived it was shown that the test had been passed - which meant the student missed out on walking across the graduation stage because the state was tardy with providing pertinent information.  No other change was made to the policy (#5460).  

All items on the Consent Agenda were passed as presented.  We also talked about Mona's idea of creating a financial advisory committee, made up of community members with an interest and affinity for finance to look over our books with the Treasurer and advise the Board of their recommendations for our district.  A special meeting was set for June 16th to talk details of this proposed committee, such as suggested members, clarify its role, etc.

The tentative agreement with our secretaries' union (SSSA) was approved unanimously.  It is a 2-year contract that grants a 3% raise in year one and a 2.5% raise in year two.  Plus, it gets this union off the same timeframe as the teachers' union, which should be better for everybody.

One thing discussed under New Business was the Ohio Improvement Process, which I have talked about in an earlier blog posting.  The Superintendent asked that the Board approve the goals established by the leadership team, which we did. 

There was no report given on Swanton Rec, as the meeting was cancelled because its Director was unable to attend.  A report on Parents Club was given by Kris Oberheim and Cheryl Swisher.  Purchases for the elementary buildings were decided upon by the Club. 

Mona is moving forward with looking at everything involved with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, who will soon be telling our district when it is our "turn" for state money to build a new - something.  Deciding exactly "what" is part of the process she is investigating.  A walk through the 3 older buildings will be set in June, and we would like community members to also be involved.  If you have an interest in this, please contact the Superintendent so that you may also participate in the walk-through of any and all buildings you wish. 

I am a card-carrying member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and thus I am VERY interested in the original, 1904 building.  I have a big problem with the state criteria that insists their money only comes if old buildings are demolished.  There are, in fact, other options - and I will be contacting our local history groups and genealogical society members to get them involved in saving our community's historical heritage embodied in that building. 

A short report on "Board Docs" was given - this is the system whereby the board could go paperless instead of needing to print off 80 to 120 pages per person each meeting. 

I gave a quick update on the committee that is handling our district's drug policy.  In cooperation with the SACC, a survey is being given to kids in grades 8 to 11 this week.  Data obtained from that survey will be used to help us consider our strategy.  Parent meetings will be scheduled, and Great Lakes Biomedical was chosen as the vendor to help us with random drug testing of kids involved in extra-curricular activities.  We are also looking into other areas where random testing might be appropriate, and will discuss those ideas with parents at those meetings.  Community involvement is crucial in protecting our kids from the evil of substance abuse. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:50 p.m. - wow!   Out before ten o'clock!! 

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