JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
February 5, 2009
Present: Catherine Kaiser, Chairperson
Present: Dr. Marcia Lukon, Superintendent
Dr. Robert Fricklas, Director of Pupil Services
Jane Littlefield, Business Manager
Kathleen Almanzor, Principal at Lawn School
Carole Melucci, Principal at Melrose School
Michael White, Town Council Liaison
Guests: Barbara Szepatowski, Town Council
The School Committee returned to Open Session following a 6:00 p.m. Executive Session pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5, Exception 1, Personnel; Exception 2, Litigation re: Appeal of Regents’ Decision; and Exception 2, Contract Negotiation. Ms. Kaiser announced that there was a vote regarding Exception 2, Litigation. Roll Call vote: Mr Whitehouse, Yes; Mrs. Kallfelz, Yes; Ms. Kaiser, Yes; Ms. Held, Yes; and Mr. Brennan, Yes. All approved. So moved.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the budget meeting to order at 7:15 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: All present.
Public Forum: None.
Unfinished Business: Continued Discussion of FY 2010 Budget:
Ms. Kaiser said that the School Committee had asked administration to work on a contingency plan for the budget if the state cuts aid by 25%, 50%, or 100%. Dr. Lukon explained that administration has met numerous times and has a plan. She added that there are so many unknowns about the Governor’s interim budget, and President Obama’s aid to education is uncertain. She said she preferred to wait a little longer to make this plan known publicly. All contingency plans include reductions in services to students. Ms. Kaiser added that she had a previous conversation with Dr. Lukon and with the Director of Finance. Their plans are comprehensive for a decrease in state aid by 25%. She said that there are plans in place to make cuts without passing along costs to taxpayers. Dr. Lukon added that any reductions would have to come from a level-service budget. She said that she did not want people to perceive that the district had to make cuts.
Mrs. Kallfelz asked when Dr. Lukon would hear about President Obama’s stimulus package. Dr. Lukon explained that she would know more by the end of the month. Ms. Held commented that there are two problems with the stimulus: 1) RIDE gets a portion of this federal funding, and 2) the Governor may reduce state aid by approximately the amount of the federal aid. Ms. Kaiser added that the Governor has asked the legislature for an extension for submission of his budget proposal until February 28. She said the School Committee won’t have any idea about the amount of state aid by the time the district’s budget needs to be submitted to the Town Council.
Ms. Kaiser suggested that the School Committee ask questions this evening about the proposed budget. The level-services budget is what will be put forward to the Town Council, with the knowledge that state aid that Jamestown loses will be handled by reductions added as needs be. She added that the Senate Finance Committee is hearing testimony now on the Governor’s supplemental budget. She received an email yesterday from RIASC. Because of the sobering budget facts, RIASC will not take a stand on any current budget proposal before the legislature. They are withdrawing any opposition to the Governor’s supplemental budget because of the current financial state. There may also be an additional $60-80 million deficit above what is expected.
Ms. Held asked two questions. 1) Ms. Held asked what Dr. Lukon had heard about the proposal about not having mandatory bus monitors. Dr. Lukon explained that this is part of the Governor’s supplemental budget proposal. She added that the parents of a student who was killed present very moving testimony in favor of monitors. 2) Ms. Held asked about administration’s process for gathering individual requests by teachers. Mrs. Almanzor explained that requests are done by grade level or subject matter for equipment and supplies. Then the administrative team meets and goes through the request again. She added that teachers’ requests are conservative.
Mrs. Kallfelz commented that this is a very responsible and thoughtful budget that does its best to protect services for students during difficult budget times. She said she appreciates the additional stress that this places on administration and teachers. She asked several questions. 1) Referring to page 68, Mrs. Kallfelz asked about whether the district would lose carryover state aid for Kindergarten. Mrs. Littlefield answered that this state aid is not in jeopardy. 2) Mrs. Kallfelz commented that the previous budget had funds for a teacher, but the money was not used. She asked whether there were similar savings. Dr. Lukon replied that the district will lose professional development funding this year, but the rigor/relevance position will still be maintained. 3) Mrs. Kallfelz referred to $15,000 in state aid for capital projects. Mrs. Littlefield explained that the state has indicated that aid of $15-18,000 is not in jeopardy. 4) Mrs. Kallfelz asked about the budget for technology. Ms. Melucci explained that, because of the snow day, the meeting was cancelled. Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether the reserve would be used to fund technology. Dr. Lukon said the reserve fund would be used because technology funding would be considered a one-time expenditure.
Mr. Whitehouse asked two questions. 1) Mr. Whitehouse asked how support staff salaries and benefits were determined. Mrs. Littlefield explained that this is currently being negotiated. She used current figures and projected step increases from them. 2) Mr. Whitehouse asked whether there would be any additional retirements. Dr. Lukon replied that Terry Kahn’s retirement was approved at the last meeting. Mr. Whitehouse added that the Governor’s proposal for COBRA is April 1. Dr. Lukon explained that there are counter-proposals to delay the decision, and June 30 is being considered. Mr. Whitehouse asked if administration has considered what to do if the date remains April 1. Dr. Lukon explained that some districts have talked about hiring teachers back. She said she is hoping for the June 30 date. Ms. Kaiser added that the district has to verify that non-retirees do not want the vacant positions.
Mrs. Kallfelz asked whether the number of buses was cut. Mrs. Littlefield explained that one bus was cut. Dr. Lukon added that Jamestown is scheduled to participate in the state transportation plan. Mrs. Littlefield said there was supposed to be a meeting on January 28, but it had to be rescheduled.
Mr. Brennan asked several questions. 1) Mr. Brennan asked about the amount of the reserve fund. Mrs. Littlefield pointed out the figures. 2) Mr. Brennan asked how administration figured Pre-Kindergarten enrollment. Dr. Fricklas explained the figure was based on the number of known students with pre-Kindergarten IEPs, plus the required ratio of students tuitioning into the program. 3) Mr. Brennan asked about figures for students going into Kindergarten. Ms. Melucci said she called the Early Learning Center and spoke with Miss Peggy to determine the number of students going into Kindergarten; then she added six more students. 4) Mr. Brennan commented that having military families in Jamestown is good for the district and the community; however, Jamestown paid about $130,000 to send military students to high school. Dr. Lukon explained that she prepared enrollment figures to compare numbers on October 1 and January 1 to show how changeable they are. Ms. Szepatowski asked if it is possible to figure out the number of students living in homes that are rented by military families versus the number of students would be living here if houses were occupied by the owners. She wondered what the real cost was for Jamestown. Dr. Lukon reiterated that it is very hard to predict military enrollment.
Ms. Kaiser asked several questions. 1) Ms. Kaiser referred to the line item for substitutes, which was $20,000 in the FY 09 budget but is $15,000 per school in the FY 10 budget. Dr. Lukon explained that the money has been redistributed to different lines. She explained how the lines were separated for day-to-day and long-term substitutes. Ms. Kaiser asked whether school districts keep statistics on the average number of substitute-days needed for people on the staff. She asked whether Jamestown had higher absentee rates. Dr. Lukon said she has not seen this type of data collected by school districts. 2) Ms. Kaiser asked about the $5,000 that was placed in the FY 09 budget for strategic planning but was not used. Dr. Lukon explained that it is likely that the FY 09 funds will be used for strategic planning this year, so the number could be reduced in this year’s budget. 3) Ms. Kaiser commented that districts are required to go out for bid for food service, and she said there is a bill to require partnership in the statewide contract. She said Jamestown needs to think about bottom line costs for food versus the healthiest foods. Dr. Lukon added that there are state standards for food in schools.
Mr. Brennan asked several questions. Mr. Brennan commented that the unrestricted fund is 1.75% of the total school budget. 1) Mr. Brennan asked about Kindergarten salaries and whether the district budgeted for another teacher. Mrs. Littlefield explained that the state requires full-day Kindergarten, and the district has to show this as revenue. 2) Mr. Brennan asked about where the tuition for the student attending Narragansett High School was placed. Mrs. Littlefield explained that there is a lump sum for all high school tuitions. 3) Mr. Brennan asked how many students were in ELL. Dr. Fricklas gave ELL student enrollment: one student is at Melrose, two students are at Lawn, and one student at the high school is in full-time ELL. 4) Mr. Brennan asked whether the district is paying for general education tutoring. Dr. Fricklas explained that this budget item is for students that need special methodology and/or programming and are on IEPs; this is not a figure for general education tutoring. The programs are either pull-out or are run after school. 5) Mr. Brennan asked if there is a log of the number of student interventions done by the social worker and the psychologist. Dr. Fricklas explained that there is a log on MaxCapture; in addition, both professionals keep SOAP notes, but they are not detailed. The MaxCapture time block is 15 minutes.
6) Mr. Brennan asked about the Student Assistance Counselor. He said he didn’t understand the use of SALT numbers as a basis for setting up the program, because the numbers come from students and their comments may not be accurate. He added that his children’s age groups have not seen a benefit from this program. Mr. Brennan said that he has not seen evidence of performance on this $30,000, and he gave a plea to take it out of the budget. Ms. Szepatowski suggested that Laura Hosley or Stephanie be asked to come to the next meeting because they would be the best ones to answer questions. Ms. Kaiser commented that she did not think Mr. Brennan had School Committee support for cutting the position now, but it may need to be done later. Ms. Szepatowski added that Mrs. Hosley is looking for alternative funding. Mr. Brennan said he thought it would be good for the Student Assistance Counselor to give a more detailed report and to make it available. Ms. Szepatowski will ask Mrs. Hosley to attend the meeting next week.
Mrs. Kallfelz commented rhetorically that legal fees and settlements have consistently climbed and there is no budget figure for it in FY 10. She said it was an alarming trend to see this increase in legal fees.
Ms. Kaiser said she will be attending a meeting in Barrington on Saturday with other school committee members; they will hear Gary Sasse speak. She will bring back any information.
Mr. Brennan asked some additional questions. 1) Mr. Brennan asked Dr. Fricklas why the special education bus contract went up by 3.4% and the regular education contract went up by 1.5%. Dr. Fricklas explained that this reflects the contract. Mrs. Littlefield explained that special education buses have a higher fee per day. Dr. Fricklas added that he was not aware of additional or longer runs; he will check the numbers. Mrs. Littlefield explained that regular buses cost $220 per day, and special education buses cost $227 per day. She added that there is a midday bus run next year, and this may make a difference. 2) Mr. Brennan commented that The Trust is dropping workman’s compensation by 15%, but Jamestown has a 5% increase. Mrs. Littlefield said she has called Jamestown’s representative to see if the amount should be adjusted. 3) Mr. Brennan asked about the funding for the GemsNet position and said he thought this position was funded by a grant. Dr. Lukon explained that the grant amount is stable at $64,000, but the budgeted amount is $78,000 because salaries are increasing. Mrs. Littlefield added that the fee covers the replacement cost for the new person coming into the position. Ms. Kaiser discussed how this cost was a wash for the district.
4) Mr. Brennan asked where the figures were for the student going to Narragansett High School, and Mrs. Littlefield pointed to the line item. 5) Mr. Brennan asked about the possibility of splitting the soccer coach. Mrs. Almanzor explained that she thinks Jamestown can field two full teams. 6) Mr. Brennan asked about retiree benefits and how Jamestown checks on ex-spouses that are continued on family plans. Mrs. Littlefield explained that the district uses the same process as it does with college students; the district checks the numbers twice each year. Health insurers do not notify the district about deaths, so administration checks newspapers. The district is not notified about divorces, but there is a state law that says that spouses must be covered unless they remarry. Mrs. Littlefield added that if ex-spouses are eligible for comparable insurance, then they must take it.
Mrs. Kallfelz asked about a salary line item on page 41. Mrs. Littlefield explained that it is for summer school salaries.
Ms. Szepatowski commented that the Chamber of Commerce is having the State Treasurer come to a breakfast meeting, and the public is invited to come to ask questions.
Public Forum: None.
Adjourned: Mr. Whitehouse moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:27 p.m. All approved. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date