JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
February 14, 2008
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Marcia Lukon, Superintendent
Dr. Robert Fricklas, Director of Pupil Services
Jane Littlefield, Interim Business Manager
Kathleen Alamanzor, Principal
Michael White, Town Council Liaison
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the general meeting to order at 7:07 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: All present.
Public Forum: None.
Pre-Deprivation Hearing - Statutory Non-Renewal Process for the 2008-2009 School Year: Dr. Lukon explained that the non-renewal layoff process is done at this time of year. She discussed the process and the reasons for layoffs, which included decreased numbers of students, more senior teachers taking jobs, returns from leaves, junior members of job shares, and one-year appointments. Dr. Lukon added that those teachers affected by the layoff have received letters, and she said it was appropriate for teachers or their representatives to speak on their behalf at this time. No teachers or representatives spoke. Dr. Lukon recommended non-renewal and/or termination and/or reduction of the following teachers’ contracts for the 2009-2009 school year: Jamie Ordway, Tara Higgins, Jennifer Caswell, Kristen Bennett, Tara Toolan, Denise Fiorio, Mary Jane Moynihan, Gilda Codilla. Jennifer Kittredge-Clark, Andrea Brayman, Faith Krause, Colleen MacIntyre, and Raymond Marcotte.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to approve the recommendations of the Superintendent as read. Mr. Whitehouse requested discussion of the motion and asked why these reductions were taking place. Dr. Lukon explained that there are two classes in a grade level where the teachers below have bumping rights, a teacher is returning from a leave, there are two job-shares where the least senior staff member is being reduced, and there is one performance-related issue. Mr. Brennan added that it RIGL specifies that the layoffs occur at this time, and administration has to honor the contract regarding seniority. Dr. Lukon explained that there is a proposal in legislation that would change the date for non-renewal notices to June 1st. Mr. Whitehouse said he understood the reasons and wanted them stated out loud. He said he understood that this is necessary, and it is wrenching. Ms. Kaiser explained that, in reality, the number of affected teachers will be lower by June. All approved. So moved.
Consent Agenda: Mr. Brennan asked to exempt Personnel from the Consent Agenda vote.
Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the Consent Agenda: 1) Minutes of January 17 and 24, 2008; and 2) Payment of Bills for January 8 and 18 and February 1, 2008. All approved. So moved.
Mr. Brennan said he wanted to deny the Leave of Absence and explained his rationale. Ms. Kaiser added that the contract specifies two years for parental leave, and this has already been granted.
Mr. Brennan moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to deny the Leave of Absence. Mr. Whitehouse asked for background on this issue. Ms. Kaiser explained that it is purely contractual; the contract allows for two years of parental leave, and this teacher is requesting a third year. All approved. So moved.
Correspondence: 1) Mr. Brennan reported that he had passed along information about a program that North Kingstown is presenting. 2) Ms. Held received an invitation to the RIASC legislative session on February 23. 3) Ms. Kaiser received an invitation to the annual meeting of the Newport County Community Mental Health Center. The speaker will be Attorney General Roberts. 4) Ms. Kaiser reported that she sent testimony to Bruce Long in support of the regional bussing bill.
Food Service Update: Dr. Lukon reported that Solange provided meal counts from October-November for both Melrose and Lawn for the last two years. There were fewer meals at Melrose this year and more at Lawn. Year-to-date percentage comparisons of the two years in the two schools yielded conflicting data. Administration will watch the numbers. Ms. Kaiser noted that Aramark has received the statewide food service contract, which was based loosely on Jamestown’s contract. The statewide contract is more restrictive. Mrs. Kallfelz will call the DOE to get a copy of the contract, compare it with Jamestown’s, and make a report. Dr. Lukon suggested that the statewide contract be looked at, even if only to review recommended staffing.
Continued Discussion of FY 2009 Budget: Ms. Kaiser explained that there will be no vote until February 28. She added that tonight’s version of the budget is in a different format with more columns, and she explained that the changes included figures for salary that had been paid from the contingency fund last year. Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether, when the contingency was removed, it was spread over two lines. Ms. Littlefield pointed out sections of the budget. She explained that last year’s budget showed two severe/profound teachers. A third teacher was funded from a surplus at Melrose. This showed a discrepancy from the figure in the previous year’s budget. She described the figures as they appear last year and this year: the same two teachers are at Melrose this year, and there is one at Lawn that wasn’t budgeted last year. Mr. Brennan added that last week’s figures did not show the increase relative to the previous year. He thought it was very important to show budget drivers and to have them be transparent year to year. Dr. Lukon added that Mrs. Alfred showed only the actual budget last year and did not show the additional teacher that was funded from the surplus.
Ms. Kaiser explained that she had two issues: one was the same as Mr. Brennan’s question about the severe/profound teachers, and one was about the Student Assistance Counselor. Dr. Lukon distributed a packet of data about services that the Student Assistance Counselor provided, and Ms. Littlefield showed where the budget line was located.
Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether the reasons for the Student Assistance Counselor’s services were seen in order of frequency. Mrs. Alamanzor said she thought so. Mrs. Kallfelz said she had great concern regarding contracted services putting demands on district resources. Ms. Held said that her reading of the report was that the Student Assistance Counselor was not used for other services. Mrs. Kallfelz said she thought the contract should be worded that way. Dr. Lukon said that if this position continues to be funded, she will scrutinize the budget. She explained that she called Bruce Keiser about the amount that the district pays, and she signed and noted $30,000 next to that line. Ms. Littlefield added that the town pays the salary, and the district transfers its share of the funds to the town. Mrs. Kallfelz said it looked like the Student Assistance Counselor met with a lot of students, and she questioned whether class time was taken for it. Mrs. Alamanzor said that counseling takes place in a way that is the least invasive to academics; the counselor often sees students at lunch. Mrs. Kallfelz asked about the precedent set by having the counselor co-teach in the 7th and 8th Grade health curriculum. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that this is done with the physical education teacher as part of Project Northland; the counselor does not have a Rhode Island teaching certificate; she is not alone with the students but is with another teacher.
Mr. Brennan said he wanted to make sure that government was not growing unnecessarily. He added that his concern is about his philosophy and not about a particular person. Mr. Brennan asked whether the school already had resources for mental health, family problems, etc. He added that he thought this position was stuck in the budget as part of a grant. He noted that North Kingstown has a substance abuse counselor for teens. Mr. Brennan did not think that funding the Student Assistance Counselor was a good use of district resources.
Ms. Held said she shared Mr. Brennan’s concern about a position that was grant-funded that now is in the budget; however, she thought it is useful for students to have someone they know inside and outside of school. She said the cost of the position concerned her, and she said she would like to discuss decreasing the position to three days per week. Ms. Held said the core mission of the school is education. She said that if she had to choose between this and other programs, she would have to consider it.
Ms. Kaiser reiterated that she did not think reserve funds should be used to fund the operating budget. She said she is averse to taking the Student Assistance Counselor out of the budget, and she hopes that other staff reductions would be minimal. Ms. Kaiser added that it is hard to quantify the actual benefit of this position, but she thinks it is a vital service. However, if the district gets to the point where it has to be weighed, the Committee will have to consider it.
Mrs. Kallfelz agreed with the suggestion of moving the position from four to three days. She did not think the district should support this position if others had to be eliminated. She added that the position is not for education; however, in order to educate students, these issues have to be addressed. She said it is unfortunate, but there is a bona fide need for the service. Mrs. Kallfelz noted that it appeared that Stephanie addressed the majority of students’ needs in three days, and she said she would consider this. Dr. Lukon explained that she discussed the Student Assistance Counselor position with Bruce Keiser; he wasn’t sure if the town would fund it. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that for this position, the town pays for one day, the Substance Abuse Task Force pays for one day, and the school pays for three days.
Mr. Whitehouse was not sure about a co-funded non-certified position. However, he said that until the gaps are filled by present school staffing for the things the Student Assistance Counselor does, then the district needs this position to plug the gaps. Ms. Held commented that the school psychologist, social worker, etc. seem more separate from the students than the Student Assistance Counselor. Dr. Lukon added that, if the reason to eliminate this position is in order to eliminate the need to use the reserve fund, then administration has a way to consider what to do without eliminating this position. Mrs. Alamanzor added that the part of the salary that the town funds is for work done for the town. This year, the position was paid for four days by the school, but it was for three days last year. The position was originally funded for only two days, but it was increased to three days and then to four days.
Mr. Brennan explained that, regarding the school fund balance, the district has to dig deep for special education, health care and pension, and large/unexpected maintenance costs. He argued in favor of having a 4% cap on the fund balance, which would be about $400,000. Ms. Kaiser argued in favor of $500,000 because when the state cap drops, the district’s fund balance will be eaten away. Dr. Lukon suggested that the Facilities Committee meet to project out needs. Ms. Held commented that Mr. Keiser had said the town should reserve 10-15%; she a 5% cap was appropriate for the district. Mr. Whitehouse said he was comfortable with a 5% cap because of reasons discussed. He asked the total of the school fund balance, and Ms. Littlefield said it was about $835,000. Consensus of the committee was that all were comfortable with a cap in the range of 5%.
Dr. Lukon described a proposal for funding the budget. She added that new information continues to come forward. She explained that Dr. Fricklas just received word from CompuClaim (Medicaid) about areas that will be affected beginning in this fiscal year. She noted that Medicaid income was reduced by $10,000 in the new budget, and preschool tuition was raised $5 per day to balance the cost. She said administration looked for a way to do this with the least impact on the students. This mean $57,000 has to be transferred to the operating budget from the school fund balance.
Dr. Lukon proposed several cuts so that this transfer from the school fund balance would not be necessary. 1) The position of copy technician could be eliminated. This service does not affect students directly. Elimination of the position would save $11,076 at each school. 2) After-school enrichment that is contracted could be charged to the students. 3) Two more students have decided to go to private schools, so $23,355 could be cut for these students; a portion of the cut comes from the special education budget. She explained the lines where the changes occur and said there would be a net savings for Jamestown. 4) There would be a decrease in benefits if the copy technician were eliminated, but there would be an increase in unemployment compensation. 5) Preschool tuition would be increased by $5 per month. Ms. Littlefield summarized by stating that reductions are $43,747 lower than last week’s estimate. This would keep the general fund contribution at 5% without using the fund balance.
Ms. Kaiser asked about the going rate for preschool. Ms. Littlefield said that next year, the average increase is $5.20, and Jamestown will charge $5.00 more per hour next year. Dr. Lukon recommended that, in the springtime, the School Committee should vote on all fees for the coming year. Mrs. Kallfelz asked about financial assistance students, and Ms. Littlefield explained that the fees are for general education student and not for special education students. Dr. Lukon suggested that the district needs a policy about what to do when people enter the program and then stop paying for it. She said it appeared that Jamestown Preschool has a policy and also deducts the fees directly from bank accounts. She suggested that the district consider this option. Mrs. Kallfelz thought it was reasonable to require a half-year payment in advance; however, she did not want to exclude students who could not pay. Mrs. Alamanzor added that any child that is identified as at risk during screening is automatically entered into preschool.
Ms. Kaiser said she thought the copy technician position was a luxury. If there were a choice between the Student Assistance Counselor and the copy technician, then her preference would be to eliminate the copy technician. Mr. Whitehouse added that lots of teachers make their own copies. Dr. Lukon said that, as the noose tightens, the district will have to look at all services and consider the value added for the students.
Mr. Brennan asked whether classroom computers were configured to print on the library copier. He added that large copiers can work as printers, and he thought the district should look at this option. Dr. Lukon explained that the copy machine in Lawn will have copy codes for each teacher. Ms. Davis added that networked copiers save a lot of money for costly printer cartridges.
Mr. Brennan thanked administration for their efforts in getting the valuable information for this evening’s meeting. He noted that 34% of 8th Grade students are in special education, and he said there has been a significant increase in the special education budget this year. He noted that the budget drivers are special education, pensions, and health care. Dr. Lukon explained that, overall, 19% of Jamestown students are on IEPs, and the state average is 19.75%. Ms. Kaiser added that Rhode Island is one of the few states that includes speech services as part of special education.
Mr. Brennan asked whether there is a line that explained how many students move out of special education. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that speech is the only line that moves out. Mr. Brennan said he thought moving out was a measure of success and so the line should show a decrease. Dr. Lukon explained that the committee should look at performance scores; however, most students continue to need services. Dr. Fricklas added that administration looks at progress reports, and almost every one has progress on goals and objectives; he considered this success. He thought it would be nice to say that students could be exited from special education relatively quickly; however, he thought that meeting standards and keeping students in the least restrictive environment are some areas that explain where Jamestown has a successful program.
Ms. Kaiser explained that, in an earlier year, School Committee members were told that students did move out of special education. Mrs. Kallfelz commented that it is not an easy analysis to determine cause/effect of special education. Co-teaching is considered best practice, but it is hard to prove because there are too many variables and things are not easy to measure. Dr. Fricklas explained that federal and state governments agree that success of special education is difficult to measure. A longitudinal study is being done now in which students are questioned after they leave school to find out about jobs and to look at long-term success; investigators hope to publish results. Mrs. Alamanzor reported that Tony Antosh from the Sherlock Center will discuss long-range outcomes at a professional development day on March 14.
Ms. Kaiser added that discussion on the budget will be continued on February 28. Mr. Whitehouse will talk with Ms. Kaiser regarding his concerns about the reserve account.
1st Draft: Policy on Energy Drink Consumption on School Grounds: Ms. Held explained that the information tonight is not in policy form. She could not find a clear definition of what constituted an energy drink; however, she thought an energy drink contained >70 mg of caffeine. Ms. Held distributed two letters that were sent to parents in other school districts. She said she wasn’t sure if these were actual policies or whether Jamestown actually needs one. Ms. Kaiser questioned whether energy drinks could be confiscated without a policy.
Mr. Whitehouse suggested that the district could send letters to parents about considering a policy. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that she made a big deal of energy drinks, and the students seem to be complying on school grounds; however, they may be drinking them on the way to school. She added that she could write a letter to parents. Ms. Kaiser said that she likes the ideal of pursuing the education route rather than making a policy. Ms. Held suggested that information on energy drinks be available at Open House next year. Mrs. Alamanzor commented that the students are more aware now that the drinks are not good for them. Consensus of the committee was that there be no policy on energy drinks for now.
1st Draft: Policy on Summer School: Ms. Davis read the proposed policy. Ms. Held apologized for not being able to find a copy of the old policy. She said she thought there was a paragraph in the old policy about student expectations. Dr. Lukon said this was inadvertently omitted. Mrs. Alamanzor said a behavior code could be included. Dr. Lukon said she did not think that promotion should be contingent on participation, and she referred to a study that showed that students who were retained dropped out.
Mrs. Kallfelz commented that, if the student says no to attending summer school, then there is a scenario where there are no consequences. Ms. Held thought it was good to have consequences for not meeting standards or going to summer school, but she thought that the best the district could do is to encourage it. She added that she wanted retention to be an individual decision. Mrs. Alamanzor added that it was not good to threaten students with retention over the summer school issue. She said that the success of the program is with students who learn slower and have extra summer school that brings them up to a higher level. Mr. Whitehouse thought that threatening students with summer school was not good; he thought students could only be encouraged to attend, but the district could not insist that they do so. Dr. Lukon added that retention works best in Kindergarten and 1st Grade and on an individual basis; parents also have to be on board. She thought that if parents make the decision to pay $350 for summer school, then they will make sure their children attend.
Ms. Held asked about other leverage than retention. Ms. Kaiser said frank discussion with parents helps. Dr. Lukon added that summer school uses a different learning approach, and sometimes this helps students who learn differently. She explained that the summer school program would be four days per week for four weeks and would include both math and literacy; she added that it is an intense, active learning experience, and learning will be measured. Mr. Whitehouse asked about the ages of the students. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that regular education is offered to K-8th Grade. Dr. Lukon added that the district has to hire teachers anyway for the students on IEPs. Mrs. Alamanzor noted that the thinking is that the students would commit to a set time on Monday-Thursday.
Ms. Held said she will add behavioral expectations to the proposed policy. Mr. Brennan suggested several corrections, and Ms. Held will add them. Mrs. Kallfelz suggested that the policy set an expectation for attendance that states that the students are expected to attend 90% of the time, but there are no consequences if they do not. Dr. Lukon added that the fee is not prorated, so it is not discounted; the fee is a flat rate for the four weeks of summer school.
Home Schooling Requests: Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to accept the home schooling request. Mrs. Kallfelz commented that when someone pulls students out in the middle of the year, it send a message of dissatisfaction. The home schooling parent was in the audience and explained her reasoning for her request. She is certified as a language teacher. All approved. So moved.
Information & Proposals:
Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Lukon reported on a number of topics.
1) North Kingstown’s Valedictorian is Jason Garelick and the Salutatorian is Molly Welch. Both are from Jamestown. Congratulations! Mr. Garelick also works with Jamestown School’s strings program.
2) One student left North Kingstown High School, and one student entered. Current high school enrollment is 217 Jamestown students.
3) Jamestown now has hard copies of the end of semester report cards for Jamestown students. The data have to be input by hand before reports can be created. Ms. Held said she would like to know all grades for core courses by grades and by levels (college prep, honors), She also wanted to know the number of students that began honors classes and how the numbers changed as they moved through the program. Ms. Held said that she wanted to compare Jamestown students’ grades with those from North Kingstown. Mrs. Alamanzor said she thought that Mrs. Sipala contacted North Kingstown and got an overall average; however, the average included grades for students from both communities. Ms. Kaiser suggested an assessment of courses was appropriate. Mrs. Kallfelz said she would like to look at the big picture to see how prepared Jamestown students are, how able they are to place into courses, and how able they are to maintain their standings. Dr. Lukon explained that administration was looking at Earth Science, for which there is more than one teacher, and there are differences. Mrs. Alamanzor added that it would be interesting to see how many students who take Algebra in 8th Grade go on to take calculus in 12th Grade. Dr. Lukon noted that the Collaborative is working on Algebra.
4) Dr. Lukon described her impressions of the Leading Learning training that she is taking with twenty Rhode Island superintendents. She described recent and coming sessions.
5) Fall 2007 NECAP data has been downloaded, and analysis has begun.
6) Carolyn Diaz from RIDE requested that a letter, executive summary, and cost analysis of Healthcare in Rhode Island’s School Districts be given to School Committee members for their information. The full report has been sent to the home of every Rhode Island Senator and Representative.
Principal’s Report: Mrs. Alamanzor reminded the committee that her report is abbreviated because of preparation for the coming SALT visit.
The NECAP student report is going to K-3rd Grade parents tomorrow. Administration is planning for a School Report Night at the end of March or the Beginning of April. Dr. Lukon added that there will be professional development on the report on March 14. Mrs. Alamanzor said the report will also be sent to an assessment subcommittee.
SIT/Melrose and SIT/Lawn: Mrs. Alamanzor reported that both SITs are focused on the SALT team visit. Members are discussing how to increase interest in Parent Day. Information will be published in the Jamestown Press next Thursday.
SELAC: Dr. Fricklas reported that the group discussed the budget. Mr. Rafanelli came to the last School Committee meeting to express SELAC’s concerns. The group also discussed membership and laws regarding a voting/non-voting majority. Dr .Fricklas explained that the School Committee needs to endorse the official membership of SELAC every year. SELAC will bring this issue to the March meeting. Ms. Held suggested that, in the future, this issue be brought by SELAC to the School Committee in September.
Facilities Committee: Mr. Brennan reported that there has been no meeting.
North Kingstown School Committee: Mr. Brennan reported that North Kingstown’s financial situation is well publicized in the newspaper, and they will have lots of deep cuts. He added that they discussed cuts in athletics at the last meeting.
SORICO: Mrs. Kallfelz reported that at the last meeting, there was discussion of the expanding role of SORICO.
Legislative: Ms. Kaiser reported that she is going to the RIASC legislative meeting. Dr. Lukon said that she receives a weekly report from RIDE, and there are interesting things in it. Ms. Kaiser also receives it.
Policy: Ms. Held reported that the tobacco policy will be tabled. She will take it to the Wellness Committee so they may work on it.
Wellness: Ms. Held reported that the group discussed informational workshops and the new health curriculum, fajita day in the lunch program, and the rock wall for teachers. Mrs. Alamanzor added that PTO will pay for part of the rock wall.
Public Forum: None.
Adjourned: Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:25 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date