BOARD NOTES - NORTH SHORE BOARD OF EDUCATION, FEB. 25, 2014 State Lowers AIS Requirements About $580,000 Shaved from First Draft of Budget Administrative Restructuring Eliminates Two Directors' Positions
PRESENT: Board President Herman Berliner, Vice President Tom Knierim, Trustee Amy Beyer, Trustee Sara Jones, Trustee Toni Labbate, Trustee Michael Nightingale, Trustee Marianne Russo, Superintendent Ed Melnick, Assistant Superintendent Rob Cheblicki, Assistant Superintendent for Business Olivia Buatsi, District Clerk Betty Ciampi
ATTENDANCE: About 12 people were in the audience
MINUTES – Trustee Nightengale stated that he believes that there were several questions from board members and statements by the students from Northport and Locust Valley High Schools regarding the IB program that were not included in the minutes from the January 30 Board meeting. Trustee Knierim said that minutes are intended to document actions taken and traditionally are more informal when it comes to information gathering. District Clerk Betty Ciampi stated that what was included in the minutes was that the students shared their experiences, and that minutes are not necessarily a “he said this, she said that,” record. Dr. Berliner recommended that Trustee Nightengale propose specific language concerning what should be in the minutes. He added that minutes are a general summary and not like a court transcript. The board voted unanimously to approve the minutes from the January 30 meeting.
Treasurers Report – Approved Unanimously
SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT – Dr. Melnick stated that the mid-terms and regents exams at the high school went smoothly, and that the Middle School’s “Into the Woods” production was very successful. He said that there has been some chaos in Albany with regard to the common Core, with the Board of Regents, Legislature and Governor "hashing things out," but some significant decisions having been made. The proposal that a student would have to earn a 75 on the English Regents and an 80 on the Algebra exam in order to graduate will be delayed and will apply for the first time to the class of 2022 (this year's 4th graders). 65 will remain the passing score until that time. The state has said that in grades 3-8, Math and ELA results cannot be used for promotion or retention. In addition, the Department of Education has said that schools will now only be required to provide Academic Intervention Services (AIS) to students receiving a "1" on the exams and no longer for those who receive "2's". Board President Herman interjected that the district could still choose to provide AIS to students it believed needed the services. Dr. Melnick continued that only 1% of instructional time overall can be spent on local assessments used for Teacher evaluations. With regard to the current exams, there will be little relief except that the 3-8 exams will be 10 minutes shorter over the three days of the exam. With regard to teacher evaluations, teachers receiving an ineffective or developing rating will have more appeals option available to them for the next two years. The implementation of common core is not being delayed. The tests in grades 3-8 will still be based on that curriculum
With regard to athletics, Dr. Melnick said that the Women’s Basketball team had made it to the County finals. The Todd Heimer Gymnastics Meet had been held at the high school the previous weekend. In addition the athletics department held a letter of intent signing ceremony in which 11 student athletes committed to particular colleges. He said that the HS guidance department hosted an instant decision day at which 22 students met with St. Johns admissions staff. 16 of the students were accepted that day with over $300,000 in scholarships offered. As of this date the guidance department has processed nearly 1,200 college applications for the class of 2014.
At the March 6 BOE meeting there will be a public hearing to discuss whether or not to approve a veterans exemption for a portion of the school property taxes.
STUDENT GOVERNMENT REPORT –
The student representatives said that the European trips taken by the Spanish and Italian classes, and the Music department to Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia, had gone very well. Sports Night would be taking place on Thursday Feb. 27 and rehearsals for the musical Grease would begin in mid-March.
Dr. Melnick added that he believed high school principal Albert Cousins has done an excellent job in implementing procedures concerning student behavior on the overseas trips. The reports from the trips, he said, were that the students “made us proud."
Trustee Maryanne Russo added that the overseas trips provide an incredible opportunity for students and commended the faculty who organize and supervise the trips.
BUDGET REVIEW. Dr. Melnick explained that the spending plan being discussed that evening was a draft and that as cuts were made, subsequent drafts would be published reflecting those changes. He encouraged people in the audience to hold budget coffees.
The budget process, he said, begins in October when principals and the directors are asked to submit anticipated expenditures "starting from zero" - as opposed to assuming a certain percentage increase. The Superintendent continued that he and Assistant Superintendent for Business Olivia Buatsi then met with the principals and directors during which $2 million had been cut from their proposals based on "how essential is this expense in the education for our children." He said they looked at each line and the five year expense pattern, taking into consideration extenuating circumstances that would cause a bump in spending, and prepared a draft budget for the school board. The amount budgeted for each line is as conservative as possible, he said, without under-budgeting.
The Superintendent and the board then began to go through lines of the budget draft which increases spending by 3.315% over last year. He had stated at the January 16 meeting that more than $900,000 would have to be trimmed from the spending plan to bring it to a 2.3% increase which would keep the tax levy within the limit. In total, Dr. Melnick recommended approximately $580,000 in cuts to the draft proposal for the areas that were covered at Tuesday’s meeting.
He proposed trimming approximately $100,000 from the initial budget draft in the categories "Board of Education," "Central Administration," "Plant Maintenance," and "Central Services, Facilities and Operations" and Commercial Insurance and BOCES Administration." The greatest cuts in these areas were for custodial overtime ($30,000). The specific budget lines where changes were made will be indicated in the second draft, which will be reviewed at the March 6 meeting.
Overall, the most significant reductions will occur, Dr. Melnick said, through administrative restructuring. He proposed that the secondary Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Humanities directorships be eliminated and replaced with "Lead Teacher" positions in both the Middle and High Schools in the four core subject areas - Math, Science, English, and Social Studies. The restructuring would result in approximately $250,000 in savings in salaries as the two directors' positions would have cost the district $325,000 next year, while the stipends paid to the Lead Teachers will total close to $80,000.
With regard to regular instruction (which includes teachers' salaries, technology, test preparation materials, curriculum development, workshops and staff training, copier leases, salaries of teacher aides and substitute teachers, as well as other expenses), Dr. Melnick proposed cutting $230,000 from the draft proposal.
Two teaching positions at Glen Head Elementary, the Superintendent said, would be eliminated due to declining enrollment, with the school graduating five fifth grade classes in June and only three kindergarten classes entering in September. He figured the savings in salaries to be about $180,000.
Dr. Melnick also recommended that the district spend less on test preparation next year than it is currently, by cutting $25,000 from the "district-wide test prep materials" budget line, which represents a 50% reduction from last year.
Throughout Dr. Melnick’s presentation, School Board Members and audience members asked questions.
Trustees Tom Knierim and Amy Beyer asked about the “Legal/Tax Certiorari” budget line for $5000 and the recent NYS Court of Appeals decision striking down the County’s efforts to repeal the “county guarantee.” Dr. Melnick replied that when there was a possibility that the county would win its case, counsel was needed to examine the tax assessment challenges to figure out the potential financial impact on the district. Although the school districts won the case, he said that the threat is not over since the county executive has said that the county will lobby the state legislature to repeal the guarantee.
Trustee Nightengale asked where funds come from, if the district must exceed a budget line because of an unanticipated expense. The response was that it is a budget transfer from another line.
Trustee Beyer asked about a $21,000 budget line for BOCES district wide facilities security monitoring. Dr. Melnick explained that BOCES, from a central location, would monitor security cameras during times when school was not in session. Dr. Berliner asked Dr. Melnick to look into Blue Light phones that could be placed in parking lots or other areas to enhance the safety of students or staff staying late. Dr. Melnick said that John Hall looked into it, and that it would be $6,000 to $12,000 per phone. Dr. Berliner said that it might be something worth considering.
Trustee Nightingale asked about the $30,000 softball and baseball special projects. Ms. Buatsi and Dr. Melnick said that it is to renovate the fields which Dr. Melnick described as failing.
The trustees briefly discussed encumberances which refer to expenses budgeted in one year that are paid in the following year.
Trustee Russo asked about the $17,000 cost of the Tri-State Performance assessment design initiative (PADI). Dr. Melnick responded that the assessment is in line with the goals of district's philosophy with regard to assessing outcomes such as engagement, critical thinking, and creativity.
Trustee Russo asked how the district evaluates the effectiveness of the Teacher's College Writer's workshop. Mr. Cheblicki replied that the tri-states evaluation, which is done every three years, would help evaluate its effectiveness. He also said that the district has compared writing of students from prior to the program being implemented to students who have been going through the program and that on-demand pre and post assessments are given. With regard to the costs of the TC program, he said they were the greatest during the program's implementation, and then in subsequent years the spending on training declines. Trustee Russo asked whether the faculty is interviewed concerning their perception of the quality of the programs and the workshops. Mr. Cheblicki responded that they were. Dr. Melnick added that teachers could appear at a board meeting to discuss their feelings about the program. Mr. Cheblicki said he has heard positive feedback concerning improvements in the quality of student writing.
Trustee Knierim asked whether the teacher budget lines included additional staffing. Dr. Melnick replied that the only addition was a .4 (2/5 position) Spanish Teacher at the Middle School.
Resident Eileen Stanton of Glen Head asked if IB costs were included in the staff development lines. Dr. Melnick replied that they were "partially."
Resident Sandra Leporin of Sea Cliff, referring to Trustee Russo's comments about evaluating the effectiveness of the Teacher's College program, expressed concerns that if teachers are brought in to present on the subject, it is likely that only teachers who have had a positive view of the program would be selected. Dr. Melnick replied that he would not do that. He said that any teacher who wants to participate is welcome to do so and that they are not selected to support a particular point of view.
Resident Tim Madden, Sea Cliff asked for clarification of the decrease in the salary line for teachers at Glen Head School. He asked if the $180,000 reduction was in addition to the $200,000 decrease that was indicated in the budget draft. Dr. Melnick said that it was, and that the $200,000 decrease was due to the retirement of faculty at the top end of the salary scale being replaced by younger teachers.
Resident Eileen Stanton, Glen Head asked about a $400,000 budget line for monitors. Dr. Melnick replied that it was for monitors at all of the schools in a variety of situations.
Trustee Knierim pointed out that with regard to state mandated testing, $90,000 was budgeted for administration of the test alone. Test prep materials, he said, we have control over. Dr. Melnick stated that elementary test prep materials were being cut significantly, but that the school was maintaining previous levels of spending for prep materials for high school assessments such as AP and Regents exams.
PUBLIC COMMENT - Ann Sheeran, Glen Head asked about the elementary foreign language program and in particular about the number of students going into Spanish and Mandarin in the sixth grade. At Sea Cliff, Dr. Melnick replied, 50% decided to stay with Mandarin and 50% with Spanish. At Glen Head and Glenwood, he said that it was about 40% Mandarin and 60% Spanish. In sixth grade, 50 students have chosen Mandarin and that there will be two sections. There are about 230 students in total in the grade, he said. Students will continue to take their sixth grade language in 7th grade. When students choose a language in Kindergarten, he continued, they stay with it through 2nd grade. Going into third grade, they have a choice of Mandarin or Spanish and must stick with it through sixth grade. In seventh grade, they will be able to choose Mandarin, Spanish, Italian, Latin, or French. With regard to IB, Ms. Sheeran said that she feels that many do not know the exact cost of the program. She asked if the district would still be able to afford to keep AP ten years from now. Dr. Melnick said that it is the intention of the district to maintain AP courses where there is not an IB equivelant. With regard to costs, he said for 2012-13, the cost was $30,270, for 13-14 $115,500, for 14-15 $89,090, for 15-16 and thereafter $144,000/year.
Trustee Russo asked about IB curriculum development, and a $26,000 budget line for that purpose and whether the district was accurately accounting for the costs. Dr. Melnick replied that the district was - that if it wasn't for IB curriculum development, it would be for other curriculum work.
Sandra Leporin, Sea Cliff, asked about how legal actions against the district affected the budget. Dr. Melnick said that there is a labor retainer and a general counsel retainer that apply to many services. They do not, however, cover special education impartial hearings. If a resident files a petition against the district in an area that is covered by the retainer, then the retainer applies, he said.
Eileen Stanton asked what would the expenses be for AP if the district did not have IB. Dr. Melnick said that he could not give an exact number at that time.
B - C Passed unanimously
ITEM D - Trustee Sarah Jones asked Dr. Melnick to comment on the item - approval of agreement with Learner Centered Initiatives to provide a curriculum audit. Dr. Melnick stated that it would help the district develop assessments that would evaluate outcomes such as creativity, engagement, critical thinking, etc. He said the Consultant would help provide teacher training in this area.
ITEM D approved unanimously
E-L approved unanimously
COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC
Tim Madden, Sea Cliff, asked about a statement made by a trustee at the January 30 BOE meeting that the Board's legal counsel had double-billed the district, and if the issue had been resolved. Trustee Beyer replied that she would be addressing the issue during Old Business.
OLD BUSINESS - Trustee Beyer stated that the Board established a special sub committee after billing issues had been raised at the last meeting. She said that she, Trustee Russo, and Trustee Knierim sat down with the attorney and reviewed the bills and received clarification. She said the full committee was satisfied and that it was recommending approval of the budget transfers that had been tabled at the previous meeting.
NEW BUSINESS - Trustee Knierim asked if the on-line district calendar could be updated to reflect the loss of vacation days. Dr. Melnick said a revised calendar would be posted.
Copyright 2014, Northwordnews.com, Sea Cliff, New York. All rights reserved