At the school board meeting this past Monday, the school board decided to start streaming the committee meetings – policy, educational affairs, finance and facilities – like the board meetings themselves are now. This was one of the requests of the petition last month, so it’s good to see this moving forward. The board had a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of this change – the kind of discussion that’s rare at school board meetings. They’ll start streaming the meetings in April, giving the district time to work on the technical details. The committee meetings take place in another room, which is not wired for sound like the library where the board meets is.
Judging from the township meetings, getting the audio working right might be tricky. Room mics tend to pick up any sound in the room, so anyone having a conversation on the side can muddle what’s heard on the audio and anyone too far away might not be picked up at all. We’ll have to see how successful that is. Positioning for the mics will be key as to what can be heard clearly – portable mics that can move around might help too.
Having these meetings available for later access will give us more detail. For instance, the facilities meeting notes the district posted says that fees for using school facilities were discussed,
Draft fee structures for rental of District facilities and fields were presented and input taken from
the School Board members and community members on an implementation strategy to be
incorporated into Administrative Guideline AG -707
but that gives no indication as to the direction of those conversations and how the proposed fees might be changed by the next time we see them. I’ve heard from a few people anecdotally what was said, but there’s no easy way to verify it. Soon we’ll have the video to go back to and hear for ourselves.
As board president Wachtman noted, having these meetings available to watch later might allow the board to remove the lengthy summaries they read at board meetings. The meeting on Monday was over 3 hours long, so anything that can shorten it is sorely needed. By contrast, the last two township commissioner meetings have been 45 minutes long.
The other focus topic was Principal Heinle giving a presentation about NPE. Read Across America and STEAM night are coming up (they can always use more presenters at STEAM night if you’re interested) and he had a student with him to give their living wax museum presentation of Ella Fitzgerald. The presentation is available on board docs, though it’s probably better to watch it with the details provided at the meeting by Principal Heinle. It starts around the 42nd minute of the video.
I mentioned the issue with payroll when I spoke, and board president Wachtman prompted a response from the superintendent. It sounded like it was discussed in executive session and the district regards it as a personnel issue, so we’ll have to wait and see what can be learned from open records requests to get more of the story. In the meantime, the MontCo Intermediate Unit is providing support to the business office to sort the mess out. But there was no word on what assistance is being offered to staff affected. Making sure it doesn’t happen again is a good, but not sufficient step.
There was a lengthy statement toward the beginning of the meeting about the new contract with Peoplebench, which is software that’s supposed to help with workforce management. The presentation pointed out that the state has noted the number of teachers being trained is trending downwards so recruitment and retention are expected to become increasing challenges. I’ve heard of a number of issues leading to unhappy staff at the district – such as this tax withholding issue – and I don’t think software and data metrics are the solution to the district’s staffing retention issues. There’s more fundamental problems at work.
There was a mention of a meeting this week to discuss the upcoming work on King Field. From the superintendent’s email,
You are invited to attend and participate in a community meeting on March 2, 2023, 7PM in the SHHS Cafeteria. Representatives from ELA Sports, Mr. Klabunde, Director of Operations, Drs. Hilden, Mastanka, and Mr. Clancy, Director of Athletics, will share preliminary findings of the turf replacement on King Field and the district-wide grass fields assessment. Community members will have the opportunity to share comments and recommendations as ELA Sports works to conclude its findings and recommendations.
One last thing to watch, the district hired Rachel Cotton as the new communications person. It sounded like we’ll hear more from her at the March meeting.
Categories: Government, WSSD