JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
January 22, 2009
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Marcia Lukon, Superintendent
Dr. Robert Fricklas, Director of Pupil Services
Jane Littlefield, Business Manager
Carole Melucci, Principal at Melrose School
Lewis Kitts, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds
Michael White, Town Council Liaison
Guests: Deborah Ruggiero - State Representative
Barbara Szepatowski - Town Council
Bruce Keiser, Town Administrator
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the general meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: Kaiser, Held, Kallfelz, Whitehouse.
Members absent: Brennan.
Public Forum: None.
Recognition: Mr. Whitehouse recognized Deborah Ruggiero, Jamestown’s new State Representative. Ms. Kaiser recognized Ms. Szepatowski and Mr. Keiser.
Referring to a bill for tokens on December 10, 2008, Ms. Held asked whether the buses would use EZPass. Mrs. Littlefield said the buses would use EZPass and explained that Cheryl is working on this. Any extra tokens will be credited to Jamestown’s account.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Whitehouse seconded a motion to approve the Consent Agenda: 1) Minutes of December 18, 2008; 2) Payment of Bills of December 10 (2), and 18, 2008 and January 8, 2009; and 3) Personnel - Retirement of Terry Kahn and Resignation of Sara Sweetman. All approved. So moved.
Dr. Lukon referred to a letter in the packet from the Lawn School Improvement Team. Mr. Whitehouse added that the team sent a letter to recognize the excellent music, band and chorus programs at Lawn School. Co-Chairs Lisa Carlisle and Ann Zainyeh commended Marilyn Hostetler, Karyn Kauffman, and Gilda Codilla for their work and enthusiasm. Mr. Whitehouse added that the music department’s web site is one of the best on the Lawn School web page.
Mrs. Kallfelz referred to a Letter to the Editor in today’s Jamestown Press, which was written by Lisa Carlisle and Ann Zainyeh. The letter recognized the many valedictorians and salutatorians of North Kingstown High School who started their excellent education in Jamestown Schools.
Mr. Whitehouse referred to a Letter to the Editor in today’s Jamestown Press in which North Kingstown High School Student and Jamestown resident, Matthew Gregoire, discussed the high school’s recycling program. He asked the Jamestown School Department to evaluate the district’s recycling policies.
Dr. Lukon referred to a letter from the Jamestown Substance Abuse Task Force. Ms. Kaiser explained that the letter was written in support of the Student Assistance program and included lots of data. She added that this topic would be discussed with the budget.
Food Service Update: Dr. Lukon presented a graph of mean count comparisons for September-December in 2007 and 2008. The sales at Melrose are up since 2007 and the sales at Lawn are down. When the two time periods were compared, fewer total meals were sold this year.
Ms. Kaiser reported that she attended a meeting today at which the Department of Education talked about a statewide food service program and how much it would save school districts. Dr. Lukon added that the Request for Purchase for food service must be approved by the Department of Education.
Mr. Whitehouse asked Ms. Melucci about how the lunch program in Melrose cafeteria was progressing. Ms. Melucci said there have been no problems.
2 nd Reading, Hiring Policy: Ms. Davis read the proposed policy. Mr. Whitehouse made a minor change.
Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to approve the Hiring Policy with the minor change. All approved. So moved. Mr. Whitehouse said that this policy refers to a Hiring Manual which is being developed. He added that School Committee members have a draft copy of the manual.
2 nd Reading, Tobacco-Free Schools Policy: Ms. Davis read the proposed policy. Members made editorial suggestions.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the Tobacco Policy incorporating the minor changes. All approved. So moved.
Presentation of FY10 Budget: Dr. Lukon welcomed Ms. Szepatowski and Mr. White from the Town Council; Deborah Ruggiero, State Representative; and Bruce Keiser, Town Administrator.
Dr. Lukon presented an overview of the budget. She listed the administrative team that prepared the FY10 budget, read the district’s Mission Statement, gave the goals of the proposed budget, and said the district uses zero-based budgeting. The district’s proposed operating budget for FY10 is $11,946,444, which is an increase of $309,194 and 2.66% higher than the current FY09 budget. Total projected budget expenditures including capital improvements is $12,214,932 or a 3.09% increase for FY10. If state aid is level-funded, the town’s contribution to the school budget for FY10 is $11,442,910 or a 2.5% increase over FY09 expenditures.
Major budgeting factors include contractual obligations, salaries and benefits, state and federal mandates and regulations; plant operations; the district’s mission; Strategic Plan goals; School Committee goals; and School Improvement Plan goals. Major budget areas include salaries (up 3.4%); benefits (up 2.71%); tuitions (down 0.7%), transportation (up 2.07%); and maintenance/utilities (up 1.4%). Dr. Lukon added that Jamestown will be part of the statewide transportation initiative starting in September, and she hopes this will save additional money. Maintenance and utilities are increasing very little because of Mr. Kitts’ cost-saving improvements.
Dr. Lukon gave a summary of all tuitions; total cost of tuitions for the FY10 proposed budget is $3,076,316 or 25.75% of the total school budget. Tuition includes students in high school general education, North Kingstown High School special needs, out-of-district special needs, and charter schools. She added that the tuition cost is $21,787 less than it was in the FY09 budget. Dr. Lukon gave the total budget by site: Lawn, $2,133,388; Melrose, $2,349,997; Systemwide, $4,164,583; and Out-of-District, $3,298,476.
Dr. Lukon gave enrollment figures for 2007-8, actual figures from January 15, 2009, and projected figures for FY10; these figures are based on current students. For FY10, projected student figures are 270 students at Melrose, 195 students at Lawn, 465 total students at Melrose and Lawn, and 224 students attending high school. She added that the figure on students coming from military families is highly variable. There appears to be more property to rent in Jamestown, so that could increase the number of military families coming here. Dr. Lukon said she anticipates that, due to the economy, there may be more students returning to Jamestown from private schools. She also gave projected class sizes for Pre-K through Grade 8 and said that, in general, any new students could be integrated into the projected class size without adding another classroom.
Dr. Fricklas presented the Department of Student Services proposed budget. He gave the goal of the special education program and mentioned research findings related to keeping special education students in general education classrooms. Dr. Fricklas said that Jamestown meets special student needs by keeping class sizes small and support systems of high quality in Pre-K through Grade 8; these adjustments have prevented more referrals to out-of-district placements. Goals and objectives of the special education program include continued commitment to high quality programs and services; regulatory compliance; adherence to district mission and goals; and fiscal prudence.
The proposed Special Education Budget for FY10 is $2,224,794, which is an increase of $86,933 and 4.07% over FY09's budget. Most of the increase is related to out-of-district transportation. Dr. Fricklas showed statistics on the portion of the budget that is related to transportation. Key special education budget factors include federal and state regulations for special needs students; IEP requirements; salaries and benefits for teachers and staff; out-of-district tuitions; and findings and directives issued in the RIDE School Support System Final Report. Areas of greatest significance include student services personnel, out-of-district tuitions, out-of-district transportation, and professional/technical services.
Dr. Fricklas explained that teaching staff will remain the same for the coming budget year, but one special education Teacher Assistant needs to be added based on student need. Out-of-district tuitions are the most variable budget items and are difficult to anticipate accurately. The FY10 budget figures are based on the presently known students and projected costs for their placements next year. He anticipates that there will be eleven out-of-district placements in FY10; 24% of the tuition cost is for students in public day programs, and 76% of the cost is for students in non-public/non-profit day programs.
Dr. Fricklas listed the new and continued initiatives for the special education program in FY10. These include the new IEP process and document; Summer Computing Institute at URI; participating in the LEXIA Reading System as a primary strategy for Response to Intervention; and an alternative learning program as part of the Community-Based Learning Project.
Mr. Kitts presented capital requests for each school. Melrose School projects include interior refurbishing and painting; renovations for the administrative office area; fire alarm engineering fees and upgrade; cable and audio systems for classrooms; exterior lights and poles in the parking lot; sound system upgrade for the Multipurpose Room; and exterior renovations. Total cost is $137,000.
Lawn School projects include interior refurbishing and painting; gym floor resurfacing; kitchen plan; room retrofit for special needs; resurfacing parking areas; sound system upgrade in the gym; exterior renovations; cable and audio systems for classrooms. Total cost is $62,600.
Mr. Kitts explained that the capital budget includes a systemwide replacement and upgrade to technology. The Technology Committee is working on costs. Dr. Lukon added that a good number of computers are 386s and are very slow. She added that there is a technology upgrade every five years for some equipment and new technology. Dr. Lukon will have figures in time for the next meeting.
Dr. Lukon explained that there are a number of unknowns: level of funding for state aid and grants; number of retirees; savings from a statewide out-of-district transportation project; final impact of the Governor’s budget proposals; future cost of fuel and energy; findings of the RIDE School Support System review; and military enrollment. The budget will be adjusted as new figures are known. Dr. Lukon thanked Mrs. Littlefield for her efforts in preparing the budget.
Mrs. Littlefield described each section of the budget book and called attention to specific highlights. 1) Full-day Kindergarten is now a revenue source in the Chart of Accounts. 2) Mrs. Littlefield said she assumed there would be level funding of federal grants. 3) There will be no increase in certified staff next year. 4) The food service program is now in its second year, so it is easier to project figures for purchased services, labor, food costs, supplies and propane. 5) Next year is the third year of the transportation contract. Mrs. Littlefield said she hopes the budget for transportation will decrease with the statewide transportation initiative. 6) Athletics is proposing the addition of a girls’ soccer coach, and Student Activities is proposing one specialist drama coach. 7) Technology has been level-funded. 8) Benefit figures are based on a 10% increase for health care and 4% increase for dental care.
Mrs. Littlefield described the revenues for the district. The “best case” is that there will be level-funding for general state aid. She described the various line items for revenue, which include Pre-Kindergarten tuition, impact aid, and Medicaid. Based on general state aid level-funding, general fund contribution is projected to be an increase of 2.5%. If general state aid is not funded, then it will mean a 5.92% increase in the town contribution to fund the school budget. If there is no impact aid, the town contribution would increase to 6%. Mrs. Littlefield reiterated that the Technology Committee is working on a proposal now and will have it in time for the next meeting. This will be added to the projected budget. Mrs. Littlefield explained that the audit has been completed. At the end of FY07, the fund balance was $1,293,000. After transfer of funds to the food program and the town, there is an unreserved balance of $835,846.
Ms. Kaiser called for questions from School Committee members.
Ms. Held asked how often North Kingstown High School tuitions are calculated. Mrs. Littlefield explained that rates are based on InSite figures, which are two years behind actual student numbers. Jamestown is billed on a quarterly basis.
Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether there is a contingency plan if the assumption is that there will be no state aid for the end of this year or for next year. Dr. Lukon explained that one position was eliminated last year. This gives the district some leeway if state aid is reduced. Ms. Kaiser said that she did not expect a worst-case scenario this year. She added that she does not understand how pensions are funded; figures are being done on projection. She said that if figures hold true, then that is great; however, if figures do not hold, then the district gets a higher bill later. She added that this is also based on the assumption that COLA is eliminated.
Ms. Szepatowski asked about the non-public transportation amount of $118,000 for six students. Dr. Lukon explained that this is for six charter students and for parochial school students. Mr. Whitehouse commented that, if public schools are failing, then parents have the opportunity to send their children to charter schools; however, Jamestown schools are not failing. Ms. Kaiser added that this issue has been discussed by RIDE. Charter schools are set up to be learning labs for public schools, but they have not shared what they have learned. Ms. Szepatowski asked if Newport students could come to Jamestown. Ms. Kaiser answered that, in theory, this could happen; in practice, this line has not been crossed.
Mr. Keiser commented that the RI energy rate for the town has increased from 5.4 to 9.4 cents per kilowatt hour and said that the town is budgeting for a 75% increase. He suggested that the school check its kilowatt costs.
Mr. Whitehouse commended administration for their work and said he appreciated the clear presentations.
Ms. Kaiser reported that, at a DOE meeting today, they were throwing out figures about food service and transportation. She asked whether Dr. Lukon had inquired about these figures. Dr. Lukon explained that there will be a meeting on January 28, and she will get figures at that time. RIDE staff called all school districts to see if they wanted to participate. She added that Jamestown needs to consider special education and private school transportation because these students ride on the same bus. RIDE has indicated that figures will be coming soon.
Ms. Kaiser asked whether Article 31 funds carry over from year to year. Mrs. Littlefield explained that districts are given an allotment; if funds are not spent, they can be carried over. Dr. Lukon said that the professional development line item has a substantial increase. She explained that this item was funded by Article 31 money; however, professional development money was put into this year’s budget with the assumption that the district won’t get Article 31 funding.
Ms. Kaiser suggested that, if the School Committee agrees, she thought administration should be asked to project out several years and look at how the budget could be funded if there was 25%, 50%, and 100% state funding lost in the coming years. Mr. Keiser explained how the 30/50 rule would be applied if there were no state aid. He added that reduction of school aid by 40% was possible. He said he expected that the present quasi-formula would not be friendly to Jamestown.
Ms. Kaiser explained that if aid was lost, she would like to see Jamestown get to that loss 1) in a gradual reduction mode and 2) with a plan in place to get there. She said she was asking for a “broad brush” plan for finding funds and deciding which programs might be cut if needed. Dr. Lukon commented that if administration assumes that Jamestown loses 100% of its state aid, it is about $381,343; if Jamestown loses 100% of its state aid and is required to keep under the 4,75% cap, it is a different story. Ms. Kaiser commended administration for its tight budgeting. She added that if Jamestown loses all state aid, the town portion of the budget would be 6%, and she did not want to go over the cap. Mr. Whitehouse commented that if Jamestown loses 40% of state aid, the amount would be $140,500, and that is not dire. Mr. Keiser added that cities have bigger problems. Cuts may lead to higher taxes. He said that there are many variables and a number of scenarios that still have to play out. There are other proposals in the legislature, including a 25% health copay that would save money.
Mrs. Kallfelz said she thought that administration should lay out Plans A-D in order to look at priorities for the level of education for Jamestown students. She added that Jamestown needs to make that very difficult list to decide which programs to maintain. Mrs. Kallfelz said she thought it was better to think through the process and plan for it, although she understands that it is difficult to do. She wondered, if Jamestown had to decrease the budget by $500,000, how would it be done. Mr. Keiser commented that, under the most dire budget scenario, administration might have to go to the unions and reopen contracts to discuss payroll and benefits.
Ms. Szepatowski had three comments: 1) she came to the meeting because of fear of cutting the Student Assistance Counselor; 2) administration did a great job on budget preparation; and 3) she questioned whether the School Committee should pass the budget and then work on the list of programs as a future task. Ms. Kaiser commented that she thought the School Committee should use the time to plan wisely, and this was the time to streamline. Ms. Szepatowski thought that people would be negative about this plan but would be afraid to come and speak. Ms. Held added that she thought it was pointless for administration to be tasked with finding Plans A-D because there are so many variables; however; it would help to have a priority list of which things would go first.
Dr. Lukon asked committee members about their reaction to charging fees for athletics or after-school programs. She added that in her last school, the district charged $325 per sport per child. Another option might be to charge parents for the second half of the Kindergarten day, because it is not a state mandate to provide it. Ms. Kaiser said, yes, these should be considered. Ms. Held commented that it is galling to have to pay for charter schools but not be able to fund the district’s athletic programs. Mr. Whitehouse said that the district has to tend to mandates and curriculum; all else is on the list. He added that the list makes the process real. Mr. White added that the list would activate the community and get discussion going. Dr. Lukon will work on a list of categories to consider.
There will be a meeting with the Town Council on Monday, February 2, 2009 at 5:30 p.m.
North Kingstown School Committee: Ms. Kaiser suggested that the subcommittee on tuition be resurrected. North Kingstown has asked to meet and would like Jamestown to absorb more cost. Ms. Kaiser and Mr. Brennan will be part of the subcommittee.
Public Forum: None.
Adjourned: Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:20 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date