We’ve now had a month of committee meeting videos up on Youtube. We have a full set of them, and it’s so much more informative than the board meetings alone. If you have a dozen hours a month, you can get a comprehensive view of what’s going on throughout the district.
I’ve gotten an email from a community member and seen much discussion about the calendar discussion at last night’s Educational Affairs meeting. If you recall last fall there was a discussion of the school calendars for the next two school years, and the school board hastily rammed through a calendar despite many questions from the community. At the time the district said it needed to get done early so families have time to plan. And…now they’re ramming through a new revised calendar here at the end of the year, suggesting that maybe their haste earlier in the year was unnecessary and they could have made an effort to have a more serious discussion of religious holidays. The committee suggested that the changes are because the calendars adopted earlier do not meet state rules. So….a screw up. Frustratingly, the Educational Affairs meeting presentation doesn’t have the proposed calendar so we might not get to see it until right before it comes before the school board for final approval later this month.
You can watch the discussion for more details on Youtube. It’s right at the beginning. The major change is that the end of the next two school years is being delayed to June 12th. Despite starting before Labor Day it doesn’t look like students are going to get out much earlier than previously. I got the impression from the meeting that Mr. Conley caught the calendar mistake (I don’t think he was hired before the calendar was approved last fall). So, well-spotted to him, but frustrating for the rest of us.
Next on the Ed Affairs meeting was a run through of Project Lead the Way, a new engineering program at the school (the presenter doesn’t say if this is SHMS or SHHS, I assume SHHS given the course materials and location). It starts around minute 43 of the video. There are 10 courses in the program, but the district is looking only at the Engineering Essentials course.
Finally, there was an update on the Strategic Planning process and there have been more public meetings during the last month. The presentation started around 1:10.
The policies being considered are available on Board Docs (it’d be nice if they could find a way to attach these to the
Ed Affairs committee (edit – I meant Policy Committee) page too). At the policy meeting (video is here), the policies for second reading were:
Policy 200, 201 and 202 are a set about who’s eligible to attend district schools. There was a lengthy discussion of how the school district is handling students attending the district who aren’t eligible to due to lack of residency. Some more detailed numbers about the number of students affected and the cost to the district were presented.
Policy 206 deals with the drawing of the elementary school district boundaries. It looks like the policy now requires board approval for changes to district boundaries. I don’t recall that previously so that seems like an improvement. I still don’t see anything requiring siblings to be able to attend the same school, which still seems absurd.
Policy 211 is about student insurance. I don’t see anything noteworthy, but I’m not an insurance expert.
Policy 219 is the student complaint process. This policy seems to take out the specifics of how complaints are handled and anticipates more of those sorts of details being in administrative regulations. Student complaints are one issue I’d rather stay in the board’s purview than the administration’s.
Policy 246 is the student wellness program. Like many other changes, many specifics are taken out and new administrative regulations are cited. But like the other policies, said administrative regulations are not being presented alongside these proposed board policies. Which seems a bit unfair, how can we judge whether these changes are appropriate if we don’t know what the changes entail? The strike-outs also remove a clause requiring consistent nutritional messaging across district schools. Given the district has been trying to standardize what happens across the district, this seems like a move in the opposite direction for less uniformity. I’ve been noticing that the stricter nutritional guidelines that were put in place before the pandemic have been relaxed to allow less nutritional snacks and treats into the classroom.
Policy 815 is acceptable use of technology. It is a complete re-write of the policy and again assigns parts to a not-provided administrative regulation like the ones above.
Policy 823 regards Naloxone. This seems like a great idea.
Then for first readings they had the policies:
Policy 260 regarding student surveys, which is a minefield of privacy issues. The committee had a lengthy discussion of this. It appears to be a new policy I think. And again, more assigned to unspecified administrative regulations.
Policy 916 regards volunteers. It appears to streamline the volunteer system and takes out a lot of the specific details, which presumably will live in administrative regulations. This one did seem overly specific, so it seems to make sense to move details about certifications, sign in procedures and such details to administrative regulations.
Policy 919 regards civility. I have strong objections to this. Calls for civility are usually an attempt by those in power to silence dissent and marginalize those they don’t want to hear from. It is sufficiently vaguely worded that it is blatantly incompatible with our first amendment rights. Some of the speech listed here like threatening or intolerant language is likely dealt with more specifically elsewhere. This is a terrible idea. I tried to find discussion of this by the committee, but I didn’t find anything. I might have missed it, the video is long and the committee bounced around between policies.
The facilities meeting video is available here.
There was a lengthy discussion of space utilization at the elementary schools with proposals for expansion. There were nice diagrams with price estimates and a really in-depth discussion. For Garden City, NPE seems likely to be the least affected. Unlike the other schools, NPE has few major space issues so is the least likely to be expanded even though it has the most space to expand. I caught a mention of thinking about what it would take to have full day kindergarten, which again, is the biggest thing the district could do to improve equality in the district. It was a really helpful presentation. One thing I noticed from the presentation though is that expanding into the garden seems to be regarded as preferable to expanding into the sports fields. I don’t think the garden even got a mention as the amenity that’d be lost if the building was built out in that direction. But it’s probably moot as it sounded like expansion was more likely elsewhere. I’d still like to see the district make more effort to regard nature or the environment or sustainability as worthy of consideration.
There were discussions of the custodial cleaning contract. The district received ten bids for providing this service.
There’s a list of projects underway: replacing hot water heaters, replacing the roof at trinity, electronic door sensors/switches and fob readers, the marquis sign and some pavement work.
There were future meeting agendas listed. May is athletic fields and June is a study of the high school space usage.
The finance committee meeting starts in the second half of the video, starting here.
There was a discussion of the business office changes and the reorganization of it after the payroll disaster from last year. I’ve heard from teachers that they have yet to receive help from the district for the chaos caused by the district’s failure to withhold taxes correctly, which is disappointing to hear. They’ve been let down by the administration. Which is especially galling as the administration keeps talking about the difficulties in hiring staff. Well, it’s going to get even harder to hire staff if they aren’t being treated right. The district seems to be trying to hire and patch together a system from temp services and DCIU’s. The hiring situation seems dire and the wages listed somehow are both high and uncompetitive. We live in interesting times. And not in a good way.
The committee heard about the renewal of the food services agreement. My son still complains about the lack of vegetarian options (he says there’s rarely a hot option), but I’ve heard few other complaints. And no, having a salad and pizza offering is not sufficient to support vegetarian students.
There’s a budget update as well. The projected tax increase listed is 4.1%, which is high but remains below inflation. It’s hard to align the administration’s complaints about lack of funds with some of the free flowing spending that’s been popping up at board meetings these past few months. The board probably needs to start exerting some financial constraint on this administration. Can we get Matt Sullivan back?
Finally there’s the April board meeting. The focus topic was about WES. That presentation starts about 24 minutes in. There’s a new director of athletics position being created, and the board hired an assistant business manager and an assistant principal for SHMS. Five instructional support are leaving at the end of the year, which seems like a lot at once. But that might just be this is a common time for announcing it, the previous three months had 1 support staff/month leaving. There are a lot of contracts and payments as well, including three for temporary staffing services which seems to suggest personnel issues in the district. There’s also a number of educational services and homebound instructions approved, which I’ll have more to say about in a future update I hope.
I loved being able to flip through the committee and find out the details behind the items on the board’s agenda. And the audio quality of the meetings remains great, it’s almost entirely audible. The slides are shown on Youtube, which makes it easy to follow along (except the policy meeting, but that’s because they seem to jump around a lot). The district has pulled this off in a way that a lot of school districts fail at. Congrats to the IT guys.
Categories: Government, WSSD