JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Melrose Avenue School
February 1, 2007
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Robert Power, Superintendent
Elizabeth Pinto, Director of Pupil Services
Maria Alfred, Business Manager
Kathleen Alamanzor, Principal
The School Committee returned form a 6:00 p.m.. Executive Session pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5, Exception 2, Collective Bargaining Discussion. Ms. Kaiser announced that no votes were taken.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the work session to order at 7:05 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: Terrie Tamase, Past Co-Chair of SELAC, read a letter in support of the special education budget. She explained her rationale for her support.
Information & Proposals:
Presentation: Audit Report by Paul Dansereau of Parmlee, Poirier & Associates: Paul Dancereau thanked the School Committee for allowing his company to do the audit. He thanked Mrs. Alfred and Ms. Littlefield for their assistance. He explained that the past year was a good one for the school, and there was a surplus of $311,000. He pointed to the overall budget figures beginning on page 16 and also the detailed budget-to-actual figures beginning on page 60. Mr. Dancereau noted that there were no problems with the audit this year, and he asked for questions.
Ms. Kaiser asked about GASBEE 45 and questioned whether Jamestown should consider a fund against unfunded liability. Mr. Dancereau answered that one town does this; however, many towns are having problems with pension funds and have to address that issue first. He noted that some bonding agencies will look at unfunded liability. Ms. Kaiser asked whether Jamestown should be getting an actuary study done. Mrs. Alfred contacted the state about this issue. Mr. Dancereau explained that the actuaries will do pension and benefit liability, and he explained the process that is used. He noted that this won’t matter for fund accounting right now. He noted that for GASBEE, they do the figures as a credit to your liability, and liability affects net assets.
Mr. Brennan noted that if the ballpark figure for benefits and retirement is up 10% while salaries are flat, then about 5% of the total increase comes from retirement for people who are no longer working. Mr. Brennan asked about the total for the unreserved fund. Mr. Dancereau explained that the total fund balance is $1,042,000, but $309,000 is being reserved and $68,000 is being used this year for capital. The total of $664,000 is unrestricted. He thought this buffer could be used to balance the budget as needed. Committee members thanked Mrs. Alfred for her work.
Superintendent’s Presentation of 2007-2008 Budget: Dr. Power explained that the good news is that Jamestown is not in the difficult budget situation that many other communities are facing now. He noted that people here have been careful with the resources they have, used the money wisely, and should be commended for that. He explained that this year’s budget reflects an effort to economize while bringing more resources to Jamestown students who are talented in the arts and in academics. Dr. Power gave a history of the actual operating cost increases to the town for the past five years. He explained that last year’s increase was smaller because Jamestown expected to receive state aid as a result of the Governor’s plan, but Jamestown did not get the aid. The projected increase in expense to the town for 2007-2008 is 5.19%.
Dr. Power explained that Jamestown has been spending money on capital projects for the school that will pay off in the long run. He noted that one has to look at the history of the budget in the past and also the budget for a period of at least three years rather than for one year in isolation. He said there can be changes to such things as unfunded mandates, pensions, or health care costs. He noted that he tried to create a budget that wasn’t too up or down and said that if a budget is slashed too much, it is difficult to catch up later.
Mr. Brennan commented that even after what occurred last year with state aid, and while Jamestown was concerned, there was still a surplus of $311,000 last year. Administration has done educated analyses of things over a couple of years, and this surplus is not bad. Dr. Power said that many communities are far in the hole. He added that Jamestown is in the very nice situation where it can do some nice things for students. He said he couldn’t say that over a three-year period that there wouldn’t be costs that were unanticipated. He compared this surplus with having a savings account. Ms. Kaiser clarified the new legislation this year that requires towns not to exceed a 5.25% cap over the previous year’s budget, and the rate decreases by 1/4% per year until 2015.
Dr. Power noted that there will be discussion of special education tonight, capital budget on February 8, and general budget on February 15. He added that Ms. Pinto has been very creative in providing good programs while being mindful of funding. He said that regular education students also benefit from strategies used with special education students.
Special Education Budget Presentation: Ms. Pinto thanked the School Committee, staff, SELAC, and technology staff for their input and assistance. She referred to an article that was published in the Providence Journal last Sunday and said that information in it was incorrect because the sources of data used do not relate. She noted that the percentage of students in self-contained settings was higher in this article because it included figures for preschool. It also counted special education students in private schools but did not count others in general education. Ms Pinto noted that 18.4% of students in Jamestown are identified as special education, but less than 1% are self-contained here.
Ms. Pinto explained that there are 40 Rhode Island regulations for special education that are either not required or that exceed federal requirements. She added that Jamestown receives $167,000 in funding from the federal government, out of a total special education budget of $1.2 million. Ms. Pinto explained that revenue sources received for Medicaid-eligible students are likely to be cut. She said that Dr. McWalters has to provide a fiscal impact statement on this.
Ms. Pinto listed the goals of special education and gave additional statistics and supporting data concerning special education and lifelong success. She referred to a recent survey to parents of children on IEPs that the U.S. DOE required the Rhode Island DOE to complete for the first time this year. She explained that, nationally, 17% of parents are satisfied with special education services, while 28% of Rhode Island parents are satisfied.
Ms. Pinto explained that special education has been roughly 16% of the general operating budget for the last five years and is not taking a larger portion of the school budget. She noted that Barrington and other districts spend as much as 21-22% on special education. Ms. Pinto said that there will be no out-of-district placements in pre-K thorough Grade 8 next year, and there will be a total of ten out-of-district students from grades 9-12.
Ms. Pinto questioned whether some of Jamestown’s space could be rented to other schools so that none of Jamestown’s students would have to be placed out-of-district, and she explained how this might work. Dr. Power added that in the last two months, administration has been looking for an opportunity to do things differently. He said that a school is looking for space here for a program, but this is just in the discussion stage; he will bring further information forward when appropriate. In essence, space could be rented to another district for a program here; the service would be provided, but Jamestown would also be able to serve their own students in this program. This would save money both in terms of tuition and also in terms of out-of-district placement for Jamestown students. Any additional resources needed would be paid by the other district.
Ms. Kaiser asked whether this included talking with preschool staff about next year, and Dr. Power said yes. Ms. Held asked about the legal issues regarding housing another district’s students. Dr. Power said that Newport does this now. He added that the program could run for a year and then be reassessed. Ms. Held asked about the down-side. Dr. Power said there could be unintended consequences, but that could be lessened by having a one-year commitment and then reassessing. Mr. Brennan expressed concern about bringing children of different age groups to the school. Dr. Power answered that administration was looking at space only in the upper school.
Md. Pinto said that out-of-district tuition shows decreases in special education, and so does North Kingstown tuition. She cautioned that new Rhode Island regulations require that if students are suspended for more than 10 days, the district needs to provide instruction. Jamestown would have to pay between $45-60,000 if students had to leave North Kingstown to go to a special school for behavioral problems. Mrs. Kallfelz asked how many students in Jamestown are sent to schools for behavioral issues, and Ms. Pinto said a few each year.
Ms. Pinto recommended the following staff reductions: 1) reduction of school psychologist from .6 FTE to .5 FTE, and 2) reduction of one special education teacher from 1 FTE to .75 FTE. Ms. Pinto noted that a number of issues will affect special education in the future, including evaluation timeliness, increased personnel needs in the summer, parentally-placed private school services, graduation by proficiency, and transportation. She also explained about the new draft of special education regulations and the invitation to comment on them. Ms. Pinto noted that if the state is moving toward universal preschool, she hopes they will be giving funding. She reiterated that it is important for school districts to act now to make comments on these proposed regulations and their impact.
Ms. Kaiser asked whether the stance should be to ask DOE to take a more proactive stance regarding federal regulations. Dr. Power suggested that, as a school committee, members could talk about those things that do not affect special education. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, school districts can use minivans, while Rhode Island can only use large buses. Ms. Kaiser added that the federal government has asked states to take out regulations that are more restrictive and wants them to look at this as a procedural review. Dr. Power said that sometimes state mandates could be done differently and would cost less. He gave the example of DCYF students who were transported out of state but were brought back to Rhode Island when the DCYF budget went over $8 million.
Mr. Brennan thanked Ms. Pinto for her presentation. He asked about ten special education students who are transported out-of-district on three buses to six facilities and said that it costs about $161,000 now. Mr. Brennan asked about the down-side of transporting students in smaller minivans if Jamestown was able to use a Massachusetts-type plan where the vans were more economical and had more safety features. Ms. Kaiser said that the issue is liability. She talked with Bruce Long about it. The use of buses is a Department of Transportation regulation and not DOE. There would be concern regarding liability, in the case of an accident, if Jamestown was not following the Rhode Island regulations. Ms. Kaiser added that she had never heard one person support a bus instead of a minivan.
Mr. Brennan commented that he heard in the Governor’s speech that Rhode Island had one of the highest identification rates for special education, and he said the Governor questioned whether students were being over-identified. Ms. Pinto answered that in districts where special education is the only support that students can receive, often the districts try to get students identified so they get the help they need. She noted that it is not done this way in Jamestown.
Discussion and Vote on Food Service RFP: Mrs. Kallfelz explained to the audience the process by which the present RFP was amended from an RFP that was developed by DOE for food service for a larger district. Jamestown made changes and consulted with RIDE. Mrs. Kallfelz noted that, after hearing recommendations made by RIDE, she made changes to this RFP related to performance bond.
Mr. Brennan suggested that the performance bond figure be not less than 5% and should be considered as a separate line item so that there could be an option to have it waived if appropriate. He noted that the vendor adds that cost to their bill; in the case of a larger vendor, there is less likelihood of default, and the performance bond could be waived. Mrs. Kallfelz will make the appropriate corrections.
Mrs. Kallfelz said she received a call from Dutra Farm asking for consideration of Rhody Fresh as a possible vendor for milk. If a difference source for milk is chosen by the vendor, then this option in the RFP would give Jamestown the right to choose the vendor for milk. Mr. Brennan suggested that there could be a line item on the RFP for the percentage of locally-grown products. Ms. Kaiser added that this is asking the vendors to continually monitor the cost of the items. Mr. Brennan will work on wording for this addition. Mrs. Kallfelz added that if the RFP is voted this evening, she will complete the specifics. The other document that goes with the RFP is the 50-page Terms and Conditions. She noted that the document could be ready to go to bid very soon; however, RIDE needs to review the contract before the bid is given.
Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the RFP specifications for the school food service program as amended this evening. All approved. So moved.
Consent Agenda: This item was tabled until February 15, 2007.
Public Forum: None.
Mr. Brennan and Mrs. Kallfelz asked about the food service figures in the proposed budget. Dr. Power answered that the budget figures are the same as for last year; he assumed that these were place holders until a food service vendor is chosen. Mrs. Alfred added that she called the DOE and has an appointment to meet with Carey and Dimeo. She needs to find out what Jamestown’s responsibility is for food service. She knows there is a restricted account for food service. She will know what to do with the accounting once she has had the discussion with DOE. Ms. Held expressed concern that there would be people to deal with the work of food service once Jamestown takes on the program.
Adjourned: Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:32 p.m. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date