JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Melrose Avenue School
November 2, 2006
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Robert Power, Superintendent
Elizabeth Pinto, Director of Pupil Services
Maria Alfred, Business Manager
Kathleen Alamanzor, Principal
Michael Schnack, Town Council Liaison
The School Committee returned from a 6:15 p.m. Executive Session pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5 Exception 2, Collective Bargaining Discussions of JTA and JESPA contract negotiations.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the work session to order at 7:12 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: Kaiser, Brennan, Held, Kallfelz.
Members absent: Filkins.
Public Forum: None.
Consent Agenda: Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to accept the resignation of Kathleen Shuhy. All approved. So moved.
Food Service Program: Ms. Kaiser explained that the meeting that was to have occurred by now has been scheduled for next week. She said that she went to the SODEXO Open House for the Healthy Innovations high school program today. She gave examples of the menus and said that the service could not be duplicated in a school without major changes in infrastructure.
Ms. Kaiser received an email from Jim Halley, who explained that North Kingstown will stay with privatized lunch program next year. Dr. Power added that Newport is willing to talk with Jamestown about providing food services. There is only about 1.5 miles difference in distance.
Property Tax Symposium: Mr. Brennan explained that he had attended the property tax symposium with the Town Administrator and two council members. Theresa Paiva-Weed is very excited about work on this and thinks there are benefits regarding property tax and remedies to state mandates. Mr. Brennan said that people thought that the scheduling regarding how to deal with the mandates was a little fuzzy. He explained the schedule for decreasing the spending cap from its total in fiscal year 2007 to 4% in FY 2013 and said that the cap applies only to the levy and not against what is spent but on what is budgeted. Mr. Brennan noted that Jamestown school’s budget amount was at the cap mandated for 2010, but Jamestown did not receive the Governor’s state aid, and this would change the figures. He added that the combined increase for the town and school budget was less than last year. Mr. Brennan thought that the new law would create problems for budgets going forward.
Ms. Kaiser added that, on the mandate side, the language is not new. School districts submitting an invoice to the state was already in the language, but it was not followed. Mr. Brennan said that until the school districts submit bills, nothing will happen. He added that the new law provides for possible variance of overriding the cap by a vote of 4/5. Ms. Held noted that the plan does not allow for any growth in the town. Ms. Held said that “significant expenditures” are not defined. Mr. Brennan explained that the example of building a new school was brought up at the meeting. He noted that quite a few school committee members decried the bill. Ms. Kaiser added that Jamestown was one of very few communities that sent a response about this issue. Mr. Brennan noted that this year, about 25% of communities exceeded the cap and said it would be interesting to see that figure in 2010. He said that the best presentation at the symposium was by Mr. Cooney in North Kingstown, who showed that they already applied the cap to the schools.
Ms. Kaiser called attention to an article in the Providence Journal last week in which the Town Council of East Providence joined the School Committee in asking the legislature to repeal state laws that were more restrictive than federal laws. She commented that not many areas applied to Jamestown, but one idea that was worth putting forward was about a cap on outplacement tuition. East Providence suggested a cap of $30,000 per student, with the rest of the cost paid by the state. Ms. Kaiser thought this cap made sense for every district. She suggested that the School Committee may make use of this idea during Jamestown’s budget process.
Ms. Kaiser explained that there is now a list of 40 regulations that are more restrictive in Rhode Island than their federal counterparts. The DOE is seeking the help of everyone regarding maintaining, removing, or amending these regulations. Ms. Kaiser suggested that discussion of these regulations during the coming budget hearing concern those items that have quantifiable fiscal impact. Ms. Pinto will bring the list of the regulations that are most restrictive in Jamestown’s budget. She added that the state will put together a proposal on statewide bussing. This was discussed at SORICO.
Ms. Kaiser explained that she presented the Feasibility Study at the SORICO Collaborative Council and said that the study would have no impact on Jamestown’s immediate budget. People wanted to do a regional study of bussing. If they go with the proposed plan, each district would have to pay $2,100 per bus. SORICO will look at other ways to regionalize bussing, including the possibilities of crossover. In terms of food service, there is no interest in consolidation. Regarding private school texts, there is no interest because there is very little accountability in terms of getting textbooks back. It was suggested that 2-3 districts work together to save personnel. The study showed districts are very interested in forming a substitute teachers network. Regarding utilities, there is interest in pursuing group bidding and also in improving the present electricity rate on which there is already collaboration. Regarding health insurance, the people who studied it think that the various contracts are too disparate to think about collaboration. Jim Halley suggested that there could be a group bid and still be different plans for different communities. He will get information from vendors. Dr. Power added that East Bay worked together in a way that let each community keep their own plan but both towns and schools worked together. Mr. Brennan asked Mr. Schnack whether the Town Council were interested in this type of collaboration, because this would broaden the pool and drop the rates. Mr. Schnack said it would be good to look at it.
Ms. Kaiser commended East Providence for their work on unfunded mandates. Mrs. Kallfelz suggested that the School Committee write an official letter of support. She hoped that Jamestown could use East Providence’s model, especially concerning the cap. She also asked Ms. Pinto if she would be prepared to discuss any other issues regarding the list of mandates.
Pre-Budget Discussion: Regarding the Reserve Fund, Ms. Kaiser distributed email she received from Jeffrey Weiss, who did a survey on what school committees are doing with their reserves. There is no set formula. Smithfield does not have a reserve but is allowed to retain surpluses. Ms. Kaiser suggested that Jamestown may have to go back to having a set figure in reserve and then discussing with the town anything that is over that amount. Mr. Brennan asked Mrs. Alfred regarding an appropriate percentage to maintain in the Reserve fund, and Mrs. Alfred said 4-5%. Some of the fund will be used for accrued absences and for capital projects that were approved for next year’s budget. Mr. Brennan asked when an updated figure on reserves would be available, and Mrs. Alfred said it would be in December after the audit is complete.
Ms. Kaiser asked the committee to discuss where the district is going with this budget season. Dr. Power explained that he has asked Mrs. Alfred to run the numbers for budgeted vs expended amounts, budget history, etc. He thought the school committee should set budget goals/priorities and put them with funding. Administration will try to build a budget to fit the goals. He also suggested that the committee sit to discuss creating several budget goals and that School Committee goals be a starting point. Ms. Held said she wanted to see goals from both the Principal and the Director of Pupil services. Administration will bring goals.
Mr. Brennan asked about the impact of small Kindergarten class. Mrs. Alamanzor suggested that the district might have to move to two First Grades and then increase the next year. Mr. Brennan added that, in a small community such as Jamestown, ten students can change the number of classrooms. For example, Mr. Brennan questioned how the School Committee should work with the smaller number of 43 students in the 4th Grade as they travel through the system. Mrs. Kallfelz added that it is not just the numbers that are important but also other components. Last year, administration strongly advised against decreasing classes in 4th Grade because of the student mix.
Ms. Held suggested the use of flexible groupings such as 2/3 mixed grades. She thought it would also help with the goal of increasing rigors. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that this possibility was discussed at Melrose SIT. She added that there are advantages and disadvantages to flexible grouping; it is more difficult to do, but Jamestown should not close its eyes to this possibility. She suggested that Jamestown might not form these groupings all of the time but only when it was necessary. For example, 5-8 students could be moved into the next grade, but this would require working with parents and teachers. Ms. Held asked about the disadvantages. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that flexible grouping would affect science in particular because of the three kits per grade level in GEMSNet programs. She noted that there are 28 4-year-olds in preschool this year. The birth rate predicted 45 students; however, fourteen children were born in September-December and could not enter the incoming Kindergarten class. She thought Jamestown was looking at three Kindergartens next year. Mr. Brennan suggested that perhaps these older students could be looped down the line.
Ms. Held asked about discussion with North Kingstown regarding renting Jamestown’s buses. Mr. Brennan explained that he had talked with Dr. Halley; he gave Dr. Halley costs, data, schedules, and explained that Jamestown would charge North Kingstown for use of the buses. Dr. Halley will discuss the possibilities with their Director of Transportation. Dr. Halley suggested that this topic not be discussed with North Kingstown’s School Committee until after the elections. He explained that he has already changed elementary start times a little. Mr. Brennan noted that the bus rental only affects Jamestown on the revenue side. Ms. Kaiser added that Jamestown has not talked with its bus company yet. Dr. Power noted that the bus company will not lose money if this bus rental takes place.
Public Forum: Michael Schnack added that there was talk at the meeting about the town’s reserve fund being somewhat less that what was recommended, but if it was combined with the school’s reserve, the total is appropriate. He thought that the school should leave its reserve fund higher to act as a cushion. He suggested that, if funds were needed for capital expenses, it was easier to go to the reserve fund than to go to t he town. The combination of both town and school reserve funds was what the auditor said was optimum to be maintained. Mr. Brennan asked about the final figure for of the school’s reserve fund this year, and Mrs. Alfred said it was too early to tell. Ms. Kaiser added that the school will not count on funding from the Governor’s budget this year.
Adjourned: Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:05 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date