JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
February 28. 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
The School Committee returned to Open Session after a 6:00 p.m. Executive Session pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5, Exception 9, Level III Grievance. Ms. Kaiser announced that a vote was taken to deny the Level III grievance. Roll call vote was repeated in Open Session: Mr. Brennan, Yes; Ms. Held, Yes; Ms. Kaiser, Yes; Mrs. Kallfelz, Yes; Mr. Whitehouse, Abstain. Motion carried 4/0. So moved.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the open work session to order at 7:16 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: All present.
Public Forum: Anthony Rafanelli, Chair of SELAC, read a letter of support from SELAC members. At their recent meeting, SELAC discussed the reduction of three special education Teacher Assistants for the coming year, agreed that the district presented a responsible budget, and approved of the Community Based Learning program which was presented by Dr. Fricklas. Mr. Rafanelli said that SELAC extended an offer to the School Committee to discuss the progress of the special education program.
Ms. Held read two letters from parents, Jill Harrison and Jill Ball. Both parents supported the special education program for their children, and both parents thanked the School Committee for funding it.
Laura Hosley, Coordinator of the Substance Abuse Task Force, spoke in support of the position of the Student Assistance Counselor. She explained that there is a lot of research that shows a decrease in substance abuse among children who participate in educational programs. Ms. Hosley explained the history of how the Student Assistance Counselor position was funded in Jamestown. She added that there is a state proposal to cut all Substance Abuse Task Forces and to form four regions. Ms. Hosley suggested that some of the present work be folded into other existing programs. In the future, the state is looking into funding student assistance full time, but it has not happened yet. Ms. Hosley said she thought that substance abuse prevention programs are of utmost importance, especially for students who are being prepared to go into the high school. She said she thought her job was as the Task Force coordinator was to get everybody involved. She announced that there is a big underage drinking conference on March 6, which is being attended by a number of people from the community. Ms. Hosley said she wanted to alert the School Committee to substance abuse programs and to encourage members to keep the Student Assistance Counselor position in the budget.
Unfinished Business: Continued Discussion of FY 2009 Budget and Vote: Ms. Kaiser solicited questions from School Committee members.
Capital Budget: Mr. Brennan asked about funding for the Student Assistance Counselor. Dr. Lukon explained that she talked with Bruce Keiser about the amount in the budget to pay for this position. She added that the town pays for one day this year, the grant pays for one day, the school pays for 2.5 days, and the Substance Abuse Task Force pays for .5 days. Mrs. Kallfelz asked what would happen if the town fails to pay for the position next year. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that the district, the grant, and the Task Force would still provide money this year. If the town decides not to fund the position next year, it would be decreased to four days. Dr. Lukon explained the process by which the town pays the Student Assistance Counselor, and the school reimburses the town.
Ms. Held questioned whether the district has signed an agreement with Pathways for next year. Dr. Lukon said no, the district has budgeted for the Community Based Learning program as if it were Pathways, with the idea that it would be very hard to get that program in place; the parameter is that it cannot cost any more than what is budgeted for Pathways. In the event that the program does not go, then Jamestown students would participate in Pathways. Dr. Fricklas added that there is no formal contract, but Pathways is interested in continuing with the present arrangement. Ms. Held added that, when this collaboration was discussed initially, there was talk about how to arrange the space or structure it, so the contract was set at one year, and the district took a shot in the dark about the fee. She questioned whether there was any more discussion on the fee. Dr. Lukon explained that the district settled on a fee of $9,600 in the budget. Dr. Fricklas added the program would continue, with the stipulation that when Community Based Learning, then Jamestown students would participate in it instead of with Pathways. Mrs. Alamanzor commented that the arrangement has been good on both sides and it has been very positive from the student perspective. Dr. Fricklas explained that savings to Jamestown for having students in the program here rather than having them sent to Pathways and paying tuition and transportation. Mr. Brennan asked whether there is a line item for Pathways in the revenue portion of the budget. Ms. Littlefield explained that, because this was the first year for this collaboration, the revenue went into the general fund.
Mr. Brennan questioned the enrollment figures for special education students, and he pointed to the five special education students in 12th Grade versus the significant number of special education students in 8th Grade. Dr. Fricklas explained that changes in the number of special education students are based on student referrals and who becomes eligible. He added that, without looking up the specific disabilities for each child, it would be hard to tell why the numbers increased. Dr. Fricklas noted that the numbers could be higher because more special education students are moving to Jamestown because of district services. Mr. Brennan asked whether a change in state laws might account for the significant increase in the number of special education students in 8th Grade. Mr. Whitehouse said he thought the numbers for both 8th and 12th Grades were aberrations, and it was better to take the average of students who received services over a number of years. He added he thought one couldn’t look back to know exactly what the difference was in 1989. Mr. Whitehouse said he thought that changes in the curriculum, referrals, etc., would be the best prognosticators. Dr. Lukon said there has been in increase in special education across the country. Dr. Fricklas added that there have been changes in regulations that would add/reduce the percentage, but this would not mean large numbers of special education students. He said he could analyze special education within the district to see if he could find a pattern.
Capital Budget: Dr. Lukon explained that the Facilities Committee has worked on this part of the budget and has made a responsible request. She explained that there has been a problem with collecting money for lunches, and she thought it would be good to discuss the issue. Dr. Lukon explained the process by which lunch money is received from students and processed by staff. She added that it takes an hour of staff time just to process the money and take it to the bank. Dr. Lukon suggested that an investment in technology would help by 1) reducing the time to process lunch money, 2) speeding the process of taking money at the door, 3) allowing the children spend less time in lines so they could spend more time eating lunch, and 4) providing a convenient way for parents to pay by putting money in an account through Paypal, that would also allow them to look at their own accounts to see whether their children are buying lunches. She explained that she got a quote from NutraKids, which is used by numerous other districts; overall cost for software, hardware, and training is $10,090. Shipping could cost up to $1,500. Solange said that she could do part of the training because SODEXHO uses this system in other schools. The initial cost would be about $11,500, and wiring would cost another $500. The yearly maintenance fee would cost $905. Mr. Brennan stated that this system would have to go out to bid.
Ms. Held added that someone would still have to take money to the bank daily. Dr. Lukon explained that this is because of the way SODEXHO does their accounts. Mr. Whitehouse explained how this program works in Tiverton and said that parents could pay for lunches by Paypal or by check. Dr. Lukon explained that students would have swipe cards that could be left in the kitchen and a paraprofessional could check students off a list. Alternatively, some systems have touch screens with students’ faces, so only the child with the picture gets lunch. Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether there is an option for cash for students, and Dr. Lukon said yes; however, the biggest portion of the lunch bill is automatically debited. Mr. Whitehouse added that the system takes care of the money, so there is no need for staff at SODEXHO to handle large amounts of money daily. Mrs. Kallfelz asked where Jamestown’s gain would be. Dr. Lukon explained that it would be in the process of counting money, checking it, and taking it to the bank. It takes one staff member an hour to take the money to the bank, and it takes at least one hour for one staff member at each school to count the money and tally lunches. Ms. Kaiser added that one option is that parents can block their children from buying certain types of foods. Mrs. Kallfelz explained that if the average cost is $7,200 in man-hours per year, then the district would pay for the system in a year. Mr. Brennan asked whether there were touch screens for entrance for the school, and Mrs. Alamanzor said not yet. He asked whether the food service system could be linked to the human resources system or something like it, and Dr. Lukon said she didn’t know. Ms. Littlefield said that Mr. Kitts is looking into the security system, and Dr. Lukon added that he is talking about swipe card. Mrs. Alamanzor commented that this system is more for safety.
Mr. Whitehouse said he thought this system is a very good program and he has seen how it works; however, it is sort of 11th hour funding. Dr. Lukon proposed that the expense be placed in the capital budget. She added that the chart of accounts system has not been implemented yet, and she thought that the state would have to provide some funding for it. The system does not have to be in place until July 2009; however, Dr. Lukon thought it would be better to implement it before it is mandated so that the bugs could be worked out in advance. Mrs. Kallfelz said she thought that this is a wise investment in that it permits the district to be more efficient with staff. Dr. Lukon added that, when looking at 30/50, adding more staff is not a very positive thing to do; however, using technology is a better option. She referred to the call system, which now takes a minute to alert parents to school closing. She said the district needs to find things like that to decrease the amount of administrative time needed to do things.
Mr. Brennan said that if the cost of this system is put in the capital budget and transferred from the unreserved fund, then it could be put out to bid. He added that if the district didn’t purchase the system, then the funding would stay in the capital fund. Mr. Brennan suggested adding an additional $1,000 over the estimated cost of the program, and Dr. Lukon suggested $13,000 be used as the figure.
Ms. Kaiser explained that the only change to the budget this week is a transfer of $13,000 from the unreserved fund to the capital fund. Mr. Brennan asked whether it is okay for the cost of the accounting system to be placed in the technology line, and Ms. Littlefield said yes. Ms. Littlefield recalculated the line items in the budget that were changed as of this evening’s discussion.
Mr. Whitehouse moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to approve the FY 2008-09 school budget in the amount of $11,867,384. All approved. So moved.
Public Forum: None.
Adjourned: Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:19 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date