JAMESTOWN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Lawn Avenue School
April 24, 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
Carole Melucci, Aspiring 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 2, Litigation regarding Retirement Benefits. Ms. Kaiser reported that no votes were taken.
Call to Order: Ms. Kaiser called the general meeting to order at 7:03 p.m. and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Kaiser called the Roll Call.
Members present: All present.
Public Forum: None.
Consent Agenda: Mr. Brennan requested that Personnel be exempted from the Consent Agenda.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to approve the Consent Agenda: A) Minutes of the meetings of March 20 and April 3, 2008; and B) Payment of Bills of March 10, March 30, and April 7, 2008. All approved. So moved.
Mr. Brennan asked Dr. Lukon to discuss personnel changed. Dr. Lukon explained that there are three personnel requests. 1) There is a request for a 0.5/0.5 job share by Karen Kauffman and Gilda Codilla. Dr. Lukon recommended that this request be granted as specified for these two teachers. 2) Terry Kahn has asked for a general leave for the coming year. Dr. Lukon recommend that this request be granted. 3) Phil Capaldi has requested a leave for two years to train with GEMS Net. Dr. Lukon recommended that a vote on this request be postponed until the next meeting so that she can get more information.
Mr. Brennan asked whether Mrs. Kahn’s leave met requirements for a general leave, and Dr. Lukon said it did. Mr. Brennan asked whether this leave would provide an opportunity for different outside therapists to come to the district. Dr. Fricklas explained that the new regulations coming on July 1st specify that speech/language will not be considered special education for students over 9 years. He added that he is calculating the numbers to determine whether the district will need one FTE. Dr. Fricklas will have an answer by the next meeting. Mr. Whitehouse asked whether the music positions have to be advertised because there is a change in the number of hours for each position. Dr. Lukon explained that this is one position that belongs to Karen Kauffman, and she requested that the position be shared; half of the position is for band, and half is for chorus. She added that it does not have to be posted.
Ms. Held moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to approve a general leave for Mrs. Kahn. All approved. So moved.
Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to accept the request by Karen Kauffman and Gilda Codillo to share the music position, specific to those two people. All approved. So moved.
Mr. Brennan moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to table the leave of absence for Phil Capaldi until the next meeting. All approved. So moved.
Correspondence: Ms. Held received correspondence about the RIASC meeting. Ms. Held and Ms. Kaiser will attend; Mr. Whitehouse will let administration know if he is able to attend.
Ms. Kaiser received two pieces of correspondence. 1) Ms. Kaiser has a letter that is going to be sent for Teacher Appreciation Day. She will send the letter from the entire committee. 2) Ms. Kaiser received a letter from NEARI requesting a job fair date.
Mr. Brennan distributed a email responding to the Town Council’s comments relative to the school budget. Regarding Open Meeting laws, Mr. Brennan said he thought the School Committee needs to be careful about what letters are sent through email. In his opinion, if people are editing a document in email, he thought that it borders on something that should be done in Open Session. Mr. Brennan said he talked with Arlene Petit, the Town Clerk, regarding her interpretation of the law. Ms. Petit explained that the committee can discuss what to put on the agenda, and the calendar, but documents cannot be edited unless they were discussed in an Open Meeting. Mr. Brennan said that the ultimate decision maker on the Open Meeting law is the Attorney General. He explained that the public scrutinizes North Kingstown School Committee’s every move, and he cautioned Jamestown’s committee to be considerate of the law. Ms. Held explained that she asked her husband to read the statutes; he did not think the series of emails was problematic, because the School Committee had discussed the document in their own meeting as well as with the Town Council. Ms. Kaiser added that she did not think this document was an Open Meeting violation, but the committee needs to be cautious. She noted that, in emails, she says, “Do not respond” if she thinks there may be a violation on a particular issue.
Food Service Update: Dr. Lukon reported that Sodexho’s figures show larger food service numbers than last year’s. However, their numbers are for full meals, while last year’s figures included a la carte items. Dr. Lukon cautioned that overall food sales participation might not be reflected in these figures. Ms. Kaiser explained that one of the chefs from Kids First came to Jamestown unannounced to see if the food service is adhering to guidelines. The Food Service Subcommittee requested this audit. A report is submitted to Sodexho. Mrs. Kallfelz added that state law requires that there be inspections twice a year, so this was done at the same time as the audit.
Discussion of FY 2008-09 Budget and Possible Vote: Ms. Littlefield reviewed changes in the budget figures. She explained that replacements for two teachers were budgeted at a middle step, and this saves $55,926. She explained that there are additional anticipated expenses for the Business Manager’s retirement, transition cost, a special education student that will not be graduating, and an increase in property insurance from 10% to 12%. Total savings to the budget is $13,546.
Dr. Lukon explained that Mr. Kitts is proposing to change some lights, and this will mean a fast payback. She added that the district does not have a handle on the amount of gas that buses extract from Jamestown’s tanks. Mr. Brennan said he was concerned that fuel is approaching $5.00 per gallon and added that buses cannot account for trips to other schools before returning to Jamestown. He suggested that a consultant be hired to figure out a way for the buses to account for fuel costs. Dr. Lukon suggested that the district could determine how many miles buses travel, average miles per gallon, and the amount of fuel that buses are expected to use. She added that there has to be a better accounting system for fuel. Ms. Littlefield explained that Jamestown does pay more for track meets, etc. Buses fill up the tanks and then re-bill the district. Jamestown pays for the buses per day and also for fuel. However, if the buses go somewhere else, they are supposed to fill their tanks elsewhere. Dr. Lukon added that any overage would go into the reserve fund.
Ms. Littlefield showed budget figures as they are projected to be if the amounts are changed this evening. Ms. Kaiser said that the Town Council will vote on approving the School Committee budget this coming Monday. She suggested that the budget be reduced by $13,500. Ms. Held asked whether there were rumors that the district would receive state aid, and Dr. Lukon said no.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to reduce the last budget amount by $13,500 for a final figure of $11,848,884. All approved. So moved.
Ms. Kaiser suggested that the issue of the 2009/10 budget be placed on the agenda for discussion once a month. She added that the Committee used $139,000 from the unreserved fund this year. In light of the cap being reduced and use of money from the unreserved fund, she thought it was better to discuss the budget in advance.
School Calendar 2008-09 and Possible Vote: Dr. Lukon explained that the school calendar handout shows days that North Kingstown goes to school while Jamestown does not, and vice versa. She recommended that the calendar be approved.
Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Ms. Held seconded for discussion a motion to approve the school calendar for 2008/09. Ms. Held questioned whether Jamestown should start school before Labor Day but said it was probably not worth changing the schedule. Ms. Littlefield added that Jamestown is charged a flat fee for the buses, plus gas. All approved. So moved.
Job Fair and Possible Vote: Ms. Kaiser explained that the committee discussed this issue extensively at the last workshop, but there could be no vote at that time. She recapped the last meeting’s discussion: 1) pros and cons of a job fair were discussed; 2) School Committee members felt, and the Superintendent recommended, that a job fair was not necessarily best for students; 3) a collaborative process and healthy discussion between administration and teachers would probably be a better system; 4) the School Committee can say it is not interested in a job fair this year; 5) management has to have a stronger say in building flexibility into the system; 6) management has the best big picture of the system; 7) a job fair does not allow for management direction; and 8) the School Committee would like to try this year to fill any vacancies by having teachers discuss them with administration.
Faith Krause asked whether seniority would play any role in filling vacancies and what method would be used to replace the 2nd Grade position. Dr. Lukon said she and Mr. Capaldi discussed this, and he asked staff what people are interested in changing positions. Several teachers commented that this was not done. Dr. Lukon explained that there is no opening in 2nd Grade right now because of a reduction in staff. She added that she is interested in hearing about any interest in changing positions. Ms. Krause explained that staff members have talked and are confused about a plan to replace the job fair. Dr. Lukon said the will send a survey tomorrow for people who want to change.
Beth Weibust said that people need to know what openings there are. Dr. Lukon said that administration met today to discuss this issue. Mr. Whitehouse added that positions would have to be advertised. Ms. Krause asked what would happen after positions were posted. Dr. Lukon explained that there would be discussions with teachers about filling it. Ms. Krause said that staff members fear they will be bumped out of their present positions. Mr. Whitehouse explained that the position would have to be vacant; vacant positions are filled first. Dr, Lukon added that she sees this as a very open process; administration wants people to be happy in their positions. There are some areas with openings. Administration is looking at what areas need to be strengthened and may talk with people to see if they want to move.
Deb Barrone explained that she was on the negotiating committee, and the contract was done in good faith. She said that there is no plan yet for filling vacancies, and JTA hasn’t voted to agree. Ms. Kaiser said it isn’t up to JTA to agree; the decision on whether to have a job fair is a mutual agreement; overarching this is that management has the right to make final decisions. She added that administration spoke with the JTA union representative about interest in changing positions. Ms. Barrone said she thought that because there was no plan, it would be more accepted by staff to have the job fair this year and then form a committee to discuss the ramifications. She sais she thought the process needs more mutual discussion.
Maureen McGuirl said that when she applied for the Dean of Students position, criteria were set. She explained that the concern is what criteria are being used to say yes to one teacher and no to another. Ms. Kaiser said administration would discuss frankly with the teacher regarding their desire for change, their skills, and the school’s needs. She added that everyone wants a plan, but this is not a step-by-step procedure; it is management making the best decision while collaborating with teachers. Ms. McGuirl explained that it is good to know what people are entering into, and thought the process and the changes should be codified.
Ms. Cherney referred to a discussion she had with Ms. Kaiser regarding trust and morale. She explained that when there is no defined plan, this creates discomfort and distress. She asked for the Principal to give her assessment. Mrs. Alamanzor said that, before a job fair, there would have been a discussion about what was best for a small school system. She added that her view on the job fair is that she does not find that it is the most ideal way for Jamestown to fill vacancies. Mrs. Alamanzor said she thought it was better to have discussions among teachers and administration. She added that distrust can be two-sided. Administration is in the situation of deciding what is best; the process is about trust, communication and what is best for students. As a professional and as an administrator, she thought that a job fair was not in the best interest of students.
Ms. Barrone said that teachers would rather have a job fair this year, build trust, and work on a plan during the coming year. One teacher asked for a definition of who is management. She also asked how teachers could assure in the future that changes won’t be politically based. Dr. Lukon explained that management includes the Superintendent, the Director of Student Services, and two principals. Mr. Whitehouse added that, as long as he is here, politics will never get in the way of serving children. He said he knows exactly how people feel when they are laid off, because that has happened to him nine times in his career. He added that is sounds as if the School Committee is messing with people’s lives; however, the School Committee does not take this lightly. Mr. Whitehouse said he wanted to see this situation fixed, Jamestown has a very talented staff, and he wants to make sure staff are used best for children. He added that children come first, then fiduciary responsibilities, and then teachers.
Ms. Kaiser said that management has had the power all along to do away with the job fair. Ms. Held added that any decision by administration has to be justified, discussed, and articulated when it is made. Ms. Weibust said that administration keeps changing very often, and teachers don’t know who is going to be here. She added that staff trust administration now but may not trust in the future. Ms. Held commented that there are way too many variables to put this process into a formula and codify it. She added that flexibility is absolutely key. The cap will continue to decrease each year, and costs will continue to rise. She said that it is not possible to codify for any circumstance and added that teaching is an art and not a science.
Mrs. Kallfelz said that, in the absence of very specific criteria, the district needs to rely on good communication between administration and teachers; a job fair sets up an adversarial relationship. She said she hears that teachers want to be respected. In the end, decisions made by administration must be for what is best for the school, and communication is critical for success. Ms. Bernardo said it would be nice to have checklist regarding what is looked at in changing positions. She added that teachers need to get into a groove in their positions. She asked the School Committee not to play chess with people.
Ms. Held said she wanted to clear up the discrepancy about things not being communicated to teaching staff. She added that this should not have happened. Nick Alfred said that he is part of the JTA Executive Board. There was an email from the Executive Board to the staff that stated very broadly that if someone wanted to change positions, they should see the Executive Board. The email was very broad, and it may not have been specific enough.
Ms. Bernardo said that, after job fairs in the past, her job changed. She asked whether there are deadlines about when a job is considered official. Mrs. Alamanzor said that administration has to clarify and explain why they have to make the change, and there is language in the contract about it. She added that in this case, there was wording in the contract about someone teaching more than they could.
Mr. Whitehouse moved and Mr. Brennan seconded a motion to deny the request for a job fair for the 2008-09 school year. All approved. So moved.
Teacher Seniority Lottery: Dr. Lukon explained that three teachers were appointed on August 14, 2007, and names must be drawn to determine who is most senior. Names were drawn by Cynthia Cherney, and the most senior teachers were determined in the following order: 1) Denise Fiorio, 2) Kristen Bennett, and 3) Colleen MacIntyre.
Resolution Supporting House Bill 7776: Ms. Kaiser explained that this bill supports having communities not specify specific health care providers in their contracts. She added that the Town Council has already voted to support this bill.
Ms. Held moved and Mrs. Kallfelz seconded a motion to support House Bill 7776. Mr. Brennan asked for discussion and said that, in the future, the committee will have to discuss savings. In contracts, one specifies a type of service “or equal”. All approved. So moved.
Memo to the Town Council Regarding Proposed Use for Returned Funds: Mrs. Kallfelz explained that Rolling Agenda has worked with the town and with local groups to develop a comprehensive plan to improve recreation and safety on the island. The school district will return to the town $170,000 in excess over the cap. This memo requests that the Town Council address concerns regarding specific safety improvements near the school grounds and fields. She added that Town Planner, Lisa Bryer suggested that excess school funds be used for these improvements; it was not the Town Administrator. The proposed letter to the Town Council will be corrected before it is signed.
Mr. Brennan questioned two issues: 1) if the school gives the money to the town and then tells them how the district wants them to use it, then why doesn’t the School Committee just spend it; and 2) if the committee gives away the money and the town gets 30% reimbursement from the state for certain projects, to whom does the funding go. Mrs. Kallfelz added that some things in the plan aren’t specified. In addition, the plan opens access to school recreational facilities. Regarding the 30% rebate, Ms. Littlefield said she was not sure the town would receive it. Ms. Kaiser suggested that this issue be researched; if the town receives a rebate, perhaps the school could keep a portion of it and put it in the unreserved fund. She added that the Town Council has already agreed to this proposal; the School Committee is supporting a discussion they have already had.
Mr. Brennan moved and Ms. Held seconded a motion to approve the Rolling Agenda Best Land Use Plan and the money that is being given back from the unreserved fund to be allocated/designated to this use, and the letter to be signed on behalf of the School Committee by the Chair, pending the correction. All approved. So moved. Mrs. Kallfelz added that she has a copy of the plan for members to see.
Information & Proposals:
Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Lukon reported that School Committee policies will be placed online. She distributed a handout that showed the overall format of the web page and categories of policies. She added that Dr. Fricklas is looking at older special education policies, some of which are no longer valid.
Principal’s Report: Mrs. Alamanzor and Ms. Melucci reported on several items. 1) Peggy Wark has been awarded the prestigious Special Friends of Rhode Island Children’s Award. This is the first time the award has been given to a classroom teacher. Mr. Whitehouse will send a note of congratulations to Ms. Wark. 2) Aldo Bianchi provided professional development in mathematics to teachers in grades 3-8. Teachers talked about incorporating problem solving into the curriculum. 3) Students are going to Ellis Island on May 16. Dennis Heaphy, an actor from New York who works on Ellis Island, came to perform as a Russian immigrant attempting to enter Ellis Island at the turn of the century. Students asked many questions. 4) NECAP Science Assessment will be held in May for grades 4, 8 and 11. Mrs. Alamanzor and Ms. Melucci attended training as testing coordinators. There will be 90-minute testing periods on two days, followed by part of a third day for inquiry tasks.
5) Island Treasures will be held at Lawn on Friday, June 6. Twenty-seven community members will participate. Some of the presentations will be off-site. 6) After-school enrichment activities are under way. Mrs. Alamanzor listed activities that are being offered. There seems to be a good rhythm in offering three sets of 8-week classes. 7) Maureen McGuirl has received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship to go to Georgetown University to work on her Master’s degree in constitutional history. 8) Mrs. Bernardo’s class entered an Earth Day essay contest for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and her class won the best class award in their category. Mrs. Bernardo explained the process. 9) Mrs. Alamanzor brought copies of the Warrior for School Committee members who do not have children in the district.
SIT/Lawn: Mrs. Kallfelz reported that she could not attend the meeting. Mrs. Alamanzor explained that discussion centered on Island Treasures. She read SALT results to the SIT, but she could not distribute the document yet because its final form has not yet been approved.
SIT/Melrose: Mr. Whitehouse reported that the committee discussed a number of issues. 1) Strategies for developing membership were discussed. 2) The committee thinks that teachers should be more involved in leadership for this SIT. 3) There was discussion about whether the two SITs should be combined. 4) The format for communication was discussed. 5) Professional development was discussed. 6) Mr. Whitehouse asked about the math curriculum in 3rd and 4th grades. The consensus was that the present program be continued for another year. The SIT will act in an advisory role on this issue.
SELAC: Ms. Held reported that SELAC met on April 8. The committee discussed a number of issues. 1) A letter was submitted to the North Kingstown School Committee objecting to general education level classes. 2) Dr. Fricklas presented information about the Trail Blazers program for summer school students. 3) The special education survey is online and might already have been sent. 4) Officers for next year were discussed, although no one has stepped forward. 5) The committee considered the roster of who votes and who does not. 6) Bylaws were reviewed.
Facilities Committee: Mr. Bennan reported that a meeting needs to be scheduled so the committee can discuss the five-year plan and budget. Dr. Lukon will talk with Mr. Kitts about scheduling this meeting.
North Kingstown School Committee: Mr. Brennan reported that he could not attend the last meeting because he went to the Wind Energy Committee meeting which was held on the same night. He explained that Jamestown School is a candidate for wind energy. He added that, regarding the school newspaper, he spoke with Nancy Bennett, who will work with Georgia Wright to write an article about wind power. Mr. Brennan said there has been no news from North Kingstown, and meetings have been quieter. They are having large presentations on health care and have done comprehensive overviews of plans.
SORICO: Mrs. Kallfelz reported that she could not attend the last meeting. She noted that there was a presentation on what values SORICO can add to school districts. This discussion is part of SORICO’s transition planning. The SORICO annual meeting is on May 22.
Legislative: Ms. Kaiser reported that she has testified on two issues: 1) asking the state to fund mandates and 2) moving the March 1 notification date for teacher non-renewal to June. She said she thought neither will be passed.
Policy: Ms. Held reported that she and Dr. Lukon met to look at policies that are more than ten years old. Dr. Fricklas will look at special education policies to determine whether they need revision.
Wellness: Ms. Held reported that there will be a meeting next Wednesday. The committee will have a copy of the Model Tobacco Policy. They will discuss whether to have a separate tobacco policy.
Public Forum: None.
Adjourned: Mrs. Kallfelz moved and Mr. Whitehouse seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:03 p.m. So moved.
THE AFOREMENTIONED MINUTES ARE HEREBY APPROVED:
Chairperson, Jamestown School Committee Date