JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
February 7, 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
Louis Kitts,Supervisor of Maintenance
Michael White, Town Council Liaison
Guests: Bruce Keiser, Town Administrator
Julio DiGiando, Town Council President
The School Committee returned to Open Session after a 6:00 p.m. Executive Session pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5 Exception A (1) Personnel. No votes were taken.
Ms. Held Moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to return to Open Session. All approved. So moved.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the work session to order at 7:10 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 statement regarding cuts to the special education budget. He stated that SELAC will convene a special meeting on February 26 and will generate a position statement. SELAC is opposed to any further cuts to the special education budget. Mr. Rafanelli gave statistics on the percentage of previous years’ special education budgets as part of the total district budget. He thanked Dr. Fricklas, Dr. Lukon, and Mrs. Alamanzor for their efforts.
Consent Agenda - Personnel: Mr. Brennan asked Dr. Lukon to discuss the new appointments and the request for Leave of Absence.
Dr. Lukon described the qualifications of three new staff members and recommended the appointment of Andrea Brayman as .7 FTE physical Education/Health Teacher, Debra Saul as Administrative Assistant to the Director of Pupil Services, and Margaret Moretti as School Secretary. Ms. Kaiser added that these appointments are for filling vacancies and are not new positions.
Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the appointments per the Superintendent’s recommendations. All approved. So moved.
Mr. Brennan expressed concern about the transition from GemsNet back to Jamestown for Sara Sweetman, and he questioned whether the extension of her Leave of Absence for another year would benefit Jamestown. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that grades K-6 are aligned with GemsNet. Ms. Sweetman knew that she would be returning to any position and not to a particular job. Mrs. Alamanzor added that this has been a really good alignment for Jamestown, and Ms. Sweetman is here part-time. Mr. Brennan noted that Jamestown is paying about $15,000 for Ms. Sweetman’s benefits while she is not here. Dr. Lukon said that Jamestown receives the benefit of having Ms. Sweetman give professional development here. Mrs. Kallfelz said she thought there was marginal expense for significant benefit to Jamestown. Ms. Kaiser suggested that, if this type of incident recurs, then a financial assessment should be done. Dr. Lukon said she got a letter from GemsNet, and they will pay Jamestown $30,000 for Ms. Sweetman’s position. Ms. Kaiser asked whether there was a guarantee that Ms. Sweetman would do professional development. Mrs. Alamanzor answered that there is no set number of hours, but Ms. Sweetman is always available. Mr. Brennan asked that the two Leaves of Absence be voted on separately.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to approve the Leave of Absence for Karen Kauffman. All approved. So moved.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the Leave of Absence for Sara Sweetman. Mrs. Alamanzor noted that this was more a position “on loan” rather than a leave. Motion carried 4:1, with Mr. Brennan voting No. So moved.
Unfinished Business: Continued Discussion of FY 2009 Budget:
Dr. Lukon gave a short budget presentation that focused on changes that had been made since the budget was presented last week. The operating budget this week is proposed to be $11,766,331, which is a reduction of $75,564 from last week. The total operating budget is increased by $665,311, which is 5.99% higher than last year’s budget. Dr. Lukon described the factors that are driving the budget, the ways the budget would be funded, the major increases impacting the budget, and the projected enrollment figures for each school. She explained that military students comprise 11% of this year’s enrollment, but figures are hard to predict. She explained the proposed staffing changes that were described last week and explained their importance.
Dr. Lukon explained that the special education services budget is unchanged from last week’s figures. She added that Jamestown has thirteen special education students that are transported out-of-district now, and only one of these is from grades K-8. Ms. Kaiser noted that she understood that Jamestown was eliminating three special education Teacher Assistants because these students were moving on. Dr. Fricklas explained that the students were moving to the high school and would need specialized services there, but staffing would not be needed in Jamestown’s schools. Mr. Brennan questioned whether 48% of the students in Grade 8 were special education students, and Dr. Fricklas thought that percentage was high. Dr. Fricklas explained the breakdown for out-of-district expenses and added that the greatest expense is for highly specialized needs of particular students. Average out-of-district tuition is up 3-4%. Mrs. Kallfelz questioned why there was an need for one placement out-of-state. Dr. Fricklas said he understood this was because of a due process hearing. He added that the student is a senior this year, and cost to Jamestown ends when the student is issued a diploma. Mr. Whitehouse asked about the potential responsibility for this student after graduation. Dr. Fricklas said the IEP is due in April.
Dr. Lukon explained that the capital expenditures were revised down by $10,000 for this week; capital costs are projected to be $131,800 this year, which is a decrease of 25% over last year. Mr. Whitehouse reiterated his concern that there were no projects that should be done but were delayed. Ms. Held thanked Dr. Lukon for the water cost figures. She asked whether the increase in the line item was due to higher building use. Mr. Kitts said yes. He explained that after-school programming occurs in 90% of the building, and there are both youth and adult programs at night. Ms. Held asked whether the building use fee schedule included water use. Mr. Kitts explained that the last projection was done using electricity and fuel costs; he will have to add water costs this year, especially for large groups that rent the building.
Dr. Lukon explained the $55,000 charge for the system-wide accounting program. She said that, right now, this is not going to be paid by the state. Mr. Brennan asked whether it was okay to move this figure to the technology portion of the budget. Ms. Littlefield said she is asking the auditor. Mr. Brennan asked whether there is a way to share the system with North Kingstown. Dr. Lukon said that this is a total hardware and software conversion. She will ask North Kingstown, but she did not think the system could be shared across districts.
Dr. Fricklas described community-based initiatives. He said the program is looking to use community resources to have students (especially those with autism or at-risk) be educated under tutelage within the community. The program is experiential, hands-on, and standards-based.
Ms. Littlefield explained three changes in costs in the budget this week. 1) North Kingstown tuition was decreased because Jamestown has received word that one student will attend private school. 2) The Blue Cross/Blue Shield rates will increase by 10% instead of 14% for employee and retiree health benefits, so the figure was reduced. 3) Capital project expenses were reduced by $10,000. The total reduction since last week is $75,563. The transfer to the school fund balance is now $47,000.
Ms. Kaiser asked about bus tokens. Ms. Littlefield is taking information about this to Tina. Ms. Kaiser said she is uncomfortable with using the transfer from the school fund balance for operating expenses. Dr. Lukon explained that there are still some possible decreases. More private school placements will bring North Kingstown tuition down. There may be some retirements but there is no notification yet; this would permit the district to hire staff at a lower step. Dr. Lukon added that she hoped use of the school fund balance would be zero. She said she anticipates that high school tuition costs will be lower as some student notify Jamestown of their wishes to attend private schools. It is hard to predict how many military families will come to the district. Dr. Lukon said that Impact Aid will come to the district in October. She suggested that the total amount of Impact Aid received be applied to the 1009/10 budget.
Ms. Kaiser briefly discussed the 5% cap. She said that this committee thought that, with the descending cap in coming years, the school shouldn’t go below the 5% cap. Mr. Keiser said the town is now looking at the levy limit to see how much money could be raised. He added that, with the declining cap over the next five years, the town will be able to raise less than in previous years. Over five years, this is a decrease of $35,000. He explained that, according to the philosophy of 30/50, the cap should decline from 5% down to 4%.
Dr. Lukon provided data sheets on enrollments back to 2003/04, military families for last year and this year, and data on summer school that showed the general education student numbers and estimated costs in each group. She added that there are general education students in both the Melrose and Lawn Integrated programs. These classes have to be provided anyway for special education students. Dr. Lukon recommended summer school tuition of $360 per child for general education students, $180 per child for those on reduced lunch programs, and $0 tuition for students on free lunch programs. Mr. Brennan asked whether Dr. Lukon could “ghost in” a number. Dr. Lukon said this would be hard to do. She suggested that the School Committee consider applying summer school tuition receipts to next year’s budget.
Ms. Kaiser asked committee members for their questions. Ms. Held asked a number of questions. 1) The cost of instructional materials is down. She questioned whether the amount was lower in an attempt to reduce the budget or because materials were not needed. Mrs. Alamanzor said the teachers did a respectable job of providing their budget needs for materials. She added that the cost is lower because the district invested in math materials last year. 2) Ms. Held asked about the ELL budget, which is up significantly. Dr. Fricklas explained that the student will be at the high school, and Jamestown pays a proportionate share for the teacher, and it is based on the number of students in the class. He added that there are not many students in the class this coming year. Ms. Littlefield explained that the ELL costs are based on contract, and she provided the fees. Dr. Fricklas said there are regulations for ELL students that are comparable with regulations for students with disabilities. He added that the ELL teacher develops IEPs for each students, and programs are monitored by the DOE. The plan states proficiencies by year. Dr. Lukon added that standardized tests are used to determine proficiency. 3) Ms. Held noted that the decrease in Teacher Assistants at Lawn saved about $39,000, but the total cost is higher because of an increase of $41,000 for a severe/profound teacher. Ms. Littlefield explained that the $41,000 was for students who were moving from Melrose to Lawn. Dr. Lukon added that the district reduces the least senior teachers. 4) Ms. Held asked about bus contract savings, and Dr. Lukon explained that the district eliminated a bus. Dr. Fricklas said he is going to a meeting on February 27 at the DOE regarding an out-of-district transportation pilot study. He will ask Jamestown to be part of the pilot. The state is promoting a decrease in districts’ coming years’ budgets; however, he was not sure how the transportation contract would be negotiated. Dr. Lukon said there may not be a pilot because of the Governor’s budget decreases. 5) Ms. Held asked about the increase in the line for strategic planning. Dr. Lukon explained that she anticipates bringing in a consultant to facilitate the process. 6) Ms. Held asked about the decrease in legal fees. Dr. Lukon explained that the lawyer is not needed for as many hours now that negotiations are complete. Mrs. Kallfelz added that she has seen an increase in legal involvement which his contrary to the budget figures. Ms. Littlefield will email to members a breakdown of costs. She added that there was a settlement last year. Mr. Brennan added that the unreserved fund is used for settlements. 7) Ms. Held questioned the increase in the line for non-public texts. Ms. Littlefield said there are more students, and the cost of books has increased. She explained the process of getting new books. Ms. Held said that, since all districts go through the same process of getting new non-public textbooks, perhaps it would be better to order them jointly. She suggested that the issue of administering the ordering process be discussed with SORICO. 8) Ms. Held said she supported the slight increase in the cost of having two principals, and she explained her rationale. Dr. Lukon explained that responsibilities for administrative staff have increased tremendously, the job is not stagnant, and the number of tasks are the same even though Jamestown is a small district. Mr. Whitehouse agreed very strongly that it was better educationally to have two principal teachers.
Mr. Brennan asked several questions. 1) Mr. Brennan asked about the line item for the severe/profound teacher for Grade 5. Dr. Fricklas explained that a severe/profound student is moving form Grade 4 to Grade 5. Mr. Brennan said that the method regarding how the figures moved from last year to this year is confusing. Ms. Littlefield said she thought there was a salary contingency line until negotiations were complete. She said that Mrs. Alfred has provided the salaries as they were, so figures would show “apples to apples”. Ms. Kaiser noted that the district added one severe/profound teacher last fall. Dr. Lukon said this line will be analyzed, and she will bring a breakdown to the meeting next week. 2) Mr. Brennan noted that, in general, 33% of retirement and health costs are for people that are not working in the district now. 3) Mr. Brennan asked why the substance abuse counselor didn’t do the energy drink program for the students. He said that he didn’t think this position should be funded, and, if not, it would save the district $47,000. Ms. Littlefield explained that the district pays a lump sum of $30,000, and the town and Substance Abuse Task Force pay the rest of the salary. Mr. Whitehouse commented that, in the district in which he teaches, the substance abuse counselor was de-hired and then rehired in a very short time. He said he thought the position seemed important, and he wanted to hear Mr. Brennan’s view. Mr. Brennan will share the letter he composed last year. Ms. Held thought it would be good to share what the substance abuse counselor did. Dr. Lukon has a report and will bring it next week. Ms. Kaiser tabled the discussion until next week’s meeting.
Ms. Held expressed concern regarding the number of Teacher Assistants reduced at Lawn. It does appear that there are full FTE Teacher Assistants at Lawn. Mrs. Alamanzor replied that there are two Teacher Assistants in Grade 5, one in grade 5-6 and 1 in Grades 7-8.
Mrs. Kallfelz said this was a very thorough budget presentation; she had a number of additional questions. 1) Mrs. Kallfelz asked for clarification regarding Teacher Assistant personnel changes. She asked whether Teacher Assistants moved through the grades as the students moved, and Dr. Fricklas said they did. 2) Mrs. Kallfelz reiterated Ms. Held’s support for the full-time Principal position at Melrose. She added that the district has worked for several years to find the best solution. She said the reality is that two buildings need two strong leaders so that challenges can be met better. 3) Mrs. Kallfelz thanked administration for the thoughtful budget.
Mr. Whitehouse had a number of comments. 1) Mr. Whitehouse said his biggest concern was to keep ears open for $55,000 for the accounting system. 2) Mr. Whitehouse asked to please pressure the state to pay for bridge tokens as they had agreed. 3) Regarding private school textbooks, Mr. Whitehouse suggested that administration call the legislature. Ms. Kaiser added RIASC put forth a suggestion not to take the expense for textbooks away from the districts, but instead, to grant towns a waiver in any year that budgets are level-funded. She said that no legislator was willing to take the suggestion forward. 4) Mr. Whitehouse will visit Dr. Lukon so that he can discuss other issues.
Ms. Kaiser had one additional question. She suggested that the School Committee needs to hammer out a policy on how to handle the unreserved fund. The amount of the fund climbed quite a bit this year. Ms. Kaiser questioned whether the fund should be capped and whether it should be used for litigation. She thought the amount in the fund should be reasonable. Mr. Brennan commented that the district is also applying part of the unreserved fund to the capital reserve. Dr. Lukon suggested that committee consider capping the unreserved fund at a particular percentage rather than at a fixed amount. Mr. Keiser commented that the federal government recommends for the town a cap of 10-12% in unreserved funds; he thought that it was appropriate to consider a percentage of the fund. Mrs. Kallfelz added that administration has tried to get the auditor to commit to a percentage, but he hasn’t done so. Mr. Keiser added that the town is looking at not funding some capital projects now. Ms. Held asked Mr. Keiser if the government recommends a 10-12% cap for town, whether a 5% cap is enough for schools. Mr. Keiser said yes; if the school blew down, the town is responsible for replacing it, so a higher cap is appropriate. Mr. Brennan commented that there were some unexpected costs last year: legal fees, a severe/profound teacher had to be hired, and out-of-district tuition. He thought a 5% cap or $500,000 sounded like a good number. Ms. Kaiser suggested that members think about this issue before the next meeting.
Mr. Brennan asked about the increase in fuel costs. He said that fuel is bought from the delivery station. He thought the price would have to go up fairly significantly in a year. Dr. Lukon explained that Mr. Kitts was advised to budget $4.00 per gallon for fuel.
Dr. Lukon reiterated that, for the next the meeting, she will bring data on the following items: 1) special education severe/profound staffing; 2) information about the substance abuse counselor; 3) the date that the budget vote is schedule; and 4) a response regarding whether the accounting system could be shared with North Kingstown.
Public Forum: Mr. DiGiando asked whether Jamestown was receiving school lunch from North Kingstown. Ms. Kaiser explained that Jamestown is purchasing its own service. Ms. Littlefield showed year-to-date and last year’s expenditures for food service. She explained the specifics for the amount budgeted for this year. Ms. Kaiser added that Jamestown is not yet through the pilot year of the program, and she described how the projected cost was figured. She added that she did not anticipate that food service would cost more than what was paid to North Kingstown.
Adjourned: Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:20 p.m. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date