Friday, October 28, 2011

October 2011

I really need to get more clever in my post titles . . . *sigh*

The Swanton Board of Education had 2 meetings in October.  The first was a special meeting held on the 11th to discuss negotiations.  Our interim superintendent hadn't been warned  informed about how things happen in our district, and had no idea that anyone at all - let alone a sizable group of teachers - would bother to attend a special meeting that would consist only of an executive session.  Thus he had set out only enough chairs for those participating in the meeting itself, and as the teachers began streaming into the building, chairs had to be quickly brought out.  He apologized to those in the audience.  We retired to the back room, held our executive session, came out about an hour later and adjourned.  Not a whole lot of excitement there.  (Ms. Tyson did not attend)

Our regular board meeting was held on October 18th, and all board members were present.  After our standard opening procedures, a special commendation was presented to retiring Park School secretary, Carol Arvin, in recognition of her many years of service.  Walking into Park School just won't be the same without her smiling face to greet you!  Mrs. Arvin will be greatly missed, and we wish her well on her retirement.

During our Hearing of the Public, a parent addressed the Board about our policy on cell phone discipline, specifically the confiscation portion. 

In attendance that evening was our acting treasurer, Arlene Wilson, who then presented the treasurer's reports.  Under "old business", minutes of our two prior meetings were approved as presented, as were the budgets for the class of 2015, Middle School student council, and Crestwood.  Financial reports were also approved as presented, but I have to say that some of those reports routinely give me more questions than answers - such as, why are we buying so much pizza (among other things) ? 

Under "new business" for the treasurer, we approved two payments in lieu for students' transportation to private schools.  That is required by law . . . when I think of all the gas money I shelled out for hauling my 3 kids to private school, and then did the same for my grandson, it makes my eyes water.  C'est la vie

We then were presented the contract for our audit.  We discussed the merits of the cash accounting approach vs. GAAP before approving the contract as presented.

Our 5 year forecast was next on the agenda.  This is required to be filed with the state twice each year, with the Oct. 31st deadline rapidly approaching.  You can see it here.  Also important with the raw numbers is to read over the explanatory notes - you can see them here.   You might notice that even with Personnel Services holding steady (meaning: no increase in salaries) in fiscal years 2013-2016, our carryover keeps disappearing.  In 2012 we show a $1.3 million deficit spending.  In 2013 that jumps to $2 million - and in 2014 it's up to $2.8 million in deficit spending.  The carryover monies by 2014 are down from $6.2 million in 2012 to $1.3 million - with no salary increases

Now, a forecast is just that: a forecast.  It is our best guess, given what we know today.  If more people get back to work, our income tax revenue will go up.  If the economy picks up overall, our property tax revenue will also increase.  Will either of those two things happen to a significant degree to offset these negative numbers in our forecast?  I'm not a betting man, but if I were - I would not bet on it.

Under the superintendent's section of our meeting, we approved personnel as presented.  We decided to change our November meeting date to accomodate the state conference, so our next meeting will be Nov. 22nd.  We also approved our standard contract with the NWO ESC for those students who are assigned there for instructional services.

With the recent change in ballot timing, we have to place our request for renewal of the Emergency Levy on the March 2012 ballot.  We took the first step toward its placement on the ballot at our October meeting and will finalize the process in November.

Building reports had been submitted by each principal, and while I recognize that these reports are part of their job - I still really appreciate the time each one puts into telling us as a Board what things are happening in their respective buildings.  Instead of a cursory overview, we are given really good information - thanks to Mrs. Lutz, Mrs. Baz, Mr. Haselman and Mr. Gfell!

A discussion on the Swanton Rec program informed us that they are still working toward becoming an independent entity - which was our goal several years ago.  The money collected through a school district-based levy is dwindling, and the Rec Board is working to make sure the program will be self-sustainable.  I asked Kris Oberheim if she knew how many of our participating kids paid reduced fees or no fees at all, and learned that it is only 2 or 3 kids.  Soccer rules and coach code of conduct documents were presented to us for our approval, which we gave.

Under #8 - Comments from Board Members - Michelle Tyson had a small plaque indicating her (self-)nomination as "Outstanding Board Member" which she had received at a regional OSBA dinner recently.  She gave it to Chris Wood for display in the Board Office.

Kris Oberheim and Mona Dyke spoke about the "mix it up" lunch at the middle school, which went really well, with great participation from the students.

We had an executive session at the end, to discuss negotiations and employee employment.  We then came out and adjourned.

Soon we will be holding interviews for the open Treasurer's position in our district.  Our plan is to include the newly elected board members in the process after Nov. 8th.

Which reminds me:  please take your vote seriously!  Do not vote for someone or something because of relationships with friends - vote based on what is best for our district and our state. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September 2011

A special meeting of the school board was held at the end of August to discuss our treasurer search with Lucas Co. ESC assistance.  We talked about preparing a brochure of the position for potential candidates, timelines, etc.  Obviously this is an awkward time to search for a school district treasurer, but we need to get moving.  No time like the present!

Our September meeting began (after the usual preliminaries) with discussion and recognition of the district's new Excellent rating by the State of Ohio.  Interim Superintendent Russ Griggs mentioned that he was in contact with the State Board of Education to find a person able to present the Excellent banner to our students in an upcoming assembly program. 

Brooke Butler sat in for interim treasurer Arlene Wilson, and took our minutes that evening.  Minutes of previous meetings were approved as presented.  Financial reports and investments of the treasurer's office were presented and approved as well.  Various budgets were presented to the BOE, such as the High School building account, the Class of 2013 budget, student council budget, etc.  and these were all approved as presented.

Two additions to the "transportation in lieu" list were presented and approved.  (This is for families who send their children to a private school where our district does not offer transportation.  When this happens, the family may apply to the school district and request those transportation dollars be given to them, in accordance with state law. )

Several donations were gratefully accepted and applied to the costs of the high school Bulldog Blast event:
  • Swanton Rotary Club  $100
  • Kroger  $40 in gift cards
  • Swanton Athletic Boosters  $250
  • SACC  $250
  • Dental Health Associates  $250
  • Oak Valley Realtors  $250
  • SPORTS  Group  $250
A big "Thank You!" to these organizations!

For the Superintendent's section of our meeting, we first approved personnel changes as presented.  These included accepting the retirement of long-time school secretary, Carol Arvin, from Park Elementary.  The place won't seem the same without her!  A new Middle School secretary was hired - Shelly Fox.  Among other items, several student teachers from BGSU were assigned to the teaching staff at our buildings.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the board and the teachers' union (SEA) was approved as well, which will allow better utilization of teacher resources and matches with students' needs.

Our fire alarm system maintenance agreement was renewed at the same cost as last year. 

The Board approved a resolution with Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) to re-submit our letter of intent.  This cost us no money to apply - it only holds our place in line.  For a while, money from the large tobacco settlement was used to fund this program in Ohio.  That money has all been spoken for, and thus the number of schools approved for funding this year and going forward will be significantly less than before.

Building reports from each of our principals had been received and reviewed by board members prior to our meeting.  I have to say, our administrators do a great job of keeping us informed of what is happening in their respective buildings each month.  At Crestwood and Park, a bus safety program was held for the students, and we also learned of the great start for the Dawg Pound this year.  The security cameras were installed at those buildings in the hallways and outside playground area (no cameras in the classrooms/restrooms). 

The Middle School held its first ever Open House this year, prior to school beginning.  It was a great success with students and parents.  A new secretary was hired (mentioned above) and 6th grade camp was scheduled.  Plans were in the works for their after-school program, which will include an hour of academic work, a snack, and a club activity which will be different each night.  Last year the program was very well attended, and we hope to continue that success.

The High School had a great attendance at their Bulldog Blast - over 300 people!  A parent/student meeting on the new Drug Testing policy for extra-curriculars was held on Aug. 24th.  The policy is included in the handbook for this year, but feel free to contact any board member if you have questions.

After every home football game, the high school and SACC will host a "Fifth Quarter" event for our students.   These events are staffed by SHS and SACC staff members and provide a healthy and safe environment for students on a Friday night. Food is also provided. The money that is used to defray the cost comes from local businesses that donate money (PNC, Target), pay for advertising (Allstate), or pay commission (Coca-Cola, Rose Photography).  The last event had around 200 students, which is great!  

Aaron Hall from the Swanton Recreation was in attendance to give us an update on the programs and answer questions.

We were finished with all public board business early that evening, and then had one executive session on personnel matters and negotiations with the SEA before we adjourned.