Thursday, October 28, 2010

Regular October Meeting

Did you know that all of our agendas are available to the public via the district website?  Agendas for upcoming meetings are posted several days in advance, so that you may see what will be discussed ahead of time.  To find them, go to the district website here and then click on the "Board of Education" tab at the top left.  This takes you to the BOE "page".  To find the agendas and other meeting information, click on the "BOE Meetings" link, which is one of the purple links immediately under the tab section, at the top of the white part of the page.  (this link is the one on the far right)  This pulls up a page with meeting summaries, as well as meeting agendas.  The link you'll need is the first one:  "Board Docs", with a picture of a little tree beside it.  This will open a new screen, and you'll be able to see the available agendas listed on the left.  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Our regular October meeting was attended by four board members, as Kris Oberheim was sick that night.  After the standard procedures, the meeting opened with a presentation by Jake Brehmer on his attendance at the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership conference held in UCLA this past July.  Jake had a PowerPoint presentation which he had recently shared at Rotary, and Superintendent Paulette Baz had requested that he share it with us as well.  Jake did a fine job, and we're all very proud of him and his accomplishments (as are his VERY proud parents!). 

As no one from the public desired to speak, we moved on to the consent agenda, which included two sets of meeting minutes, various reports of the Treasurer, and personnel recommendations of the Superintendent.  Included in the personnel recommendations were stipends for three Swanton Rec positions, which continues to be a personal irritant to me, but I did not request that they be pulled out - I recognize that I am in the minority on this, and grandstanding serves no useful purpose.

By having all of this information available to us several days in advance, the board is able to look over the detailed supporting documentation for the consent agenda and ask questions or clarification well ahead of the meeting itself.  Not only do we save paper and printing costs by using Board Docs this way, we also are able to save time.  If you see something on the agenda and have questions on it, please contact a board member or the Superintendent or Treasurer and any one of us will be happy to answer it or pull the particular item in question out of the consent agenda for further public discussion. 

The consent agenda was passed unanimously.  

Our first item under "New Business" was the 5 year forecast, which was discussed in detail at our special meeting of Oct. 12th.  The board passed the forecast as presented, and it will be filed with the state of Ohio no later than Oct. 30th as per state requirements.  This concluded the new business for the treasurer.

Under the superintendent's new business, we first approved a change order to our contract with VARtek, the company that handles our computer-related needs.  This change order was an update to the number of computers that VARtek maintains in our district.

The Ohio School Board Association puts out a newsletter called "CommunicationPlus" that has a lot of helpful information.  Mona Dyke had checked into seeing whether we could get this online, or via email, but was told it is a print publication only.  The board therefore approved our standing annual subscription for $325.

Our choir has the opportunity to go to Orlando for a national competition, and Mrs. Judy Zedlitz presented her desire and plan for them to make the trip.  Our choir does not take a trip every year and this trip is scheduled during spring break 2011, which means no school days would be missed.  It is a great opportunity for our choir kids, in grades 9-12, and the board approved it unanimously.

We then had short reports on:
*Swanton Rec (which is working to collaborate with the Village in some fashion);
*the Ohio Improvement Process, which is moving forward well;
*the NWOhioESC 21st Century Grant which is a HUGE success thus far - we even have a waiting list for kids who want to participate in the after-school lessons and activities;
*and the Drug Testing committee, which I reported on.  We received the results of our survey from last May of 8-11 grade students, and the good news is that certain substance abuse has gone down.  Of course, until we have 0% of our kids involved in substance abuse, we need to keep working - but it was nice to have an encouraging word to share.  The committee will re-convene on Nov. 3rd to discuss our next steps.

We also had a short discussion on the building reports submitted by our administrators: 
*Crestwood principal, Angie Lutz, has created a schedule to be in each classroom on a regular basis - not as an evaluator, but as an extra pair of hands to assist the teaching staff. 
*Park principal Jane Myers is planning to do the same.  Both she and Mrs. Lutz are very pleased with how well the 21st Century Grant "Dawg Pound" is going.  They even have short field trips planned for the after-school kids, e.g. to Sadowski's Corn Maze and similar things. 
*Middle School principal Ted Haselman has instituted a "Caught You Doing Something Good!" program, to recognize and reinforce positive behaviour by his students.  What a great idea!  Also, he is extremely pleased with how well the 21st Century Grant program is working at his building.  Along with the homework help, the fun things are creating excitement among the students and the after-school program is growing.
*High School principal Steve Gfell has created a Facebook page for the high school.  He is able to post schedules of upcoming events, pictures, and links for people to keep abreast of all that's happening at the high school, and has received a lot of positive feedback on it already.  In addition, the high school has instituted a new thing this year:  the 5th Quarter, where the high school is opened up on Friday nights to students for fun social activities and food.  Donations from community businesses and Parents' Club pay for the drinks and food, and thus far this has been a resounding success!  Kudos to Mr. Gfell and his staff for these great ideas for our kids.

The board had hoped to discuss a self-evaluation that night, but decided to wait until all 5 members are present.

We had a short executive session, and then our meeting was adjourned. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Special Meeting and 5 yr. Forecast

Last night was a special meeting of the school board.  We had five items on our agenda for the evening.  After the initial preliminaries of opening the meeting, roll call, etc., our first item of consideration was personnel recommendations by the Superintendent.  One was a resignation; the others were all related to the Swanton Rec program and included payments for three positions:  $10/hr as needed for a Recreation Coordinator 2010-11; $1,200 stipend for a 2011 Baseball Director; and $700 for a 2010-11 Basketball Cheerleading Director.  

A short discussion was held before a motion was made.  I asked Kris Oberheim, fellow board member, what progress was being made by Swanton Recreation toward becoming its own entity, and thus be removed from under the school district umbrella?  She said that meetings with the Village, the Sylvania Rec group and the Anthony Wayne group were scheduled to discuss options, but that no change was imminent.  

I continue to be concerned that the original intent and plan for the Swanton Recreation program is not moving forward.  That intent and plan was to assist with a transition for the new program to become self-funded and out from the control of the school district.  While no new tax dollars are being collected and spent on rec programs, and we no longer have a levy undercutting our education funding from the state of Ohio, we continue to have people spending their time administering this program that could be spent, instead, on things related to the education we provide to our kids.  

Maybe I am just incredibly naive here, but I honestly believe that we have people in our district who are willing and able to volunteer their time for the rec programs.  Why do we continue to pay people?  Hopefully our rec personnel will have good discussions with Sylvania (whose successful rec program is funded by a levy) and Anthony Wayne (whose successful rec program does NOT use tax dollars) and will do what it takes to move the Swanton Recreation program away from the school district so that we can focus on education.

Mrs. Floyd and Middle School principal Mr. Haselman gave a presentation on the proposed 8th grade trip to Washington, D.C.  Their informational meeting was well attended, and they asked the board to approve moving forward with plans for this trip, which is scheduled for next Spring.  Materials were passed out to board members, that gave information on trip specifics as well as funding options available to the kids.  As Mr. Ueberroth mentioned, it is important to us that every child be able to attend this field trip.  With the planned fund raisers and other suggestions, no child should have to be left behind because of finances.  Mrs. Floyd reminded everyone that it would take effort by each 8th grade student to reach their trip funding total, but as long as they got busy and didn't wait until the last minute, it would work out fine.  The Board approved the 8th grade trip to Washington, D.C.

Back in the dark ages, when I was still in school, it was the Seniors in high school who had opportunities to take amazing field trips like this.  What a blessing for our kids today that they have these options available to them!

A short presentation from the F.A.C.T. was given by Mr. Bill Pilliod.  Members of this group are Mr. Pilliod, Larry Herrick, Steve Trudel, Rick Lederman, and Dick Perkins.  During their organizational meeting this past August, FACT examined our 5 yr forecast from May 2010, and discussed district deficit spending beginning in 2011 and our negative fund balance by 2015.  They reviewed per pupil expenditures of our district as well as those of other area districts, and noted our 18% increase over the past 3 years.  They also adopted a mission statement: "Provide our students with the highest quality education at the lowest cost to the taxpayers of the School District." and suggested that the Board adopt a similar mission statement.

Sounds good to me.

Following Mr. Pilliod's presentation, we then moved on to our discussion of the updated 5 yr. forecast which is required to be filed with the state by the end of October.  Treasurer Cheryl Swisher went over the forecast line by line, and our audience was able to follow along by watching the large screen that held the various spreadsheets and formulas involved in the forecast.  Mrs. Swisher reminded everyone that many pieces of this forecast are her "best guess", given the uncertainty of state funding - especially with a gubernatorial election looming on the horizon. 

The good news is that property tax revenues have been coming in better than had been projected.  But with unemployment numbers increasing, our income tax revenue is suffering.  

Although no one mentioned it last night, we also have union negotiations coming up in a few short months.  In this forecast, Mrs. Swisher has included a 1% wage increase for the next five years.  Only time will tell if the district is able to keep this large expense under control.

There was general discussion about various pieces of the forecast, and Mrs. Swisher reminded the Board that we will vote on it at our next regular meeting, scheduled for next Tuesday evening, Oct. 19th.  The 5 yr. forecast must be submitted to the state of Ohio no later than October 30th, although we may revise it at any time it is deemed appropriate, and the state will accept those revisions.

Last on our agenda was an executive session for Employee Employment.  Following that, we were adjourned just before 9 o'clock.