"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Other March 12 Board Meeting Observations

There was such a full agenda at last night's board meeting and it really ended up to be an emotionally draining 3 hours. The two big items were the 4K presentation and the CAC recommendations based on the community survey results. I was part of the 4KIC and proud to have been part of the most professional, thorough treatment of any new program research I've seen to date. Kudos to Paula Landers, facilitator extraordinaire!

The CAC recommendations for referendum were a small section of the list. I was amused to see the BOE suddenly take up the drumbeat for creating a strategic plan and Jerry jump right onto that bandwagon. I've been advocating, cajoling, pushing, you name it, I've tried it, for this august body to do this for YEARS. At least they're talking about doing it now.

Other recommendations the CAC made was to implement 4K (outside of referendum), to consider renovation/replacement of the MS no later than the 18-19 school year. Clarification of that point was asked for by the BOE because the HS won't be paid off until 2020. The answer was that the planning should begin at that time.

The new principal contracts were approved, with Joanie Dobbs as the new Levi Leonard principal and Jason Knott from Edgerton at the Middle School. Mr. Cashore's contract was revised to separate out his AD stipend from his AP duties and change his post retirement benefits to align with current administrator contracts, adding costs to be placed into an HRA to "catch him up" in this regard.

Several policies were approved as well, with further discussion about 521.1 Board Staff Communication policy in which Jerry indicated that the intent was to preserve the chain of command and not to discourage staff from contacting individual board members with concerns. That was important to the passage of this policy.

An interesting conversation came about when Jerry was discussing using part of last year's fund surplus for salary and benefit increases. It wasn't until the motion was made that I realized that this was for this school year and would be retroactive to last July 1. It comes from the $165,000 surplus in the 12-13 budget. Going forward, this change could have implications and the BOE encouraged the compensation committee to come back soon with next year's recommendations. Folded on top of this discussion, muddying the waters from my perspective, is the concept of one time stipend awards to staff. The reasoning was that a percent increase of a lower salary is naturally lower and the stipends would help equalize that. Rewarding staff for all their hard work was at the heart of the discussion.

Teaching staff were strongly represented to advocate for a choice of 20 or 24 pay periods. It was a very emotional discussion fraught with discussions of the survey that was done, who it was sent to, how it was presented, the history as to how it came about in the first place, some reference to focus groups that were never held and general unrest. 77% of the staff surveys returned supported 24 pay periods. The cost for maintaining two pay schedules has been variously reported and ranges from $10-50K in addition to the current wages in the district office. The discussion included how closely related student achievement was with school climate, and did the board not believe that increasing achievement was worth this additional cost? The history lesson included aspects of the discussion during handbook meetings that were supposed to communicate the change to staff but apparently did not. The process was put into place just last July and the BOE voted 4-3 to keep 20 pay periods this year and noted that the handbook change process forms were in the handbook and that the next version of that would be addressed in June. God bless her, Mrs. Oswald, awesome MS teacher, filled one out on the spot and handed it to Jerry right in the middle of the meeting! I understand both sides of this question and why the board voted as they did. It's unfortunate that this has taken so much of the board's energy when the question was asked and answered last year. The entire debacle highlights the abysmal state of communications in all areas of our district, not just the board. It is imperative to repair this problem if the ECSD wishes to have a positive staff.

Thanks to the BOE for clarifying that the resignation of the 0.5 FTE Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher Mark Simonson at JCMM (he was only on a one year contract) doesn't signify the demise of the program at the MS. The 0.5 position will be replaced with a 1.0 FTE next year! It was a joyous moment for me to behold.

That hits most of the high points. I did speak about Senior Projects, but will write a separate post on that later. Signing off from Hammann Campaign Headquarters!

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