REDDING BOARD OF EDUCATION REGULAR MEETING
February 6, 2018
Board of Education: Irwin, Hoffman, Parkin, Hoeing, Pilato, Reilly, Whaley
Administration: McMorran, Reiss, Torre, Martin, Hammond
Members of the Public: Approximately 7, and staff members
CALL TO ORDER:
Dr. Irwin called the meeting to order at 7:34 p.m.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
January 2, 2018 Regular Board of Education Meeting:
MOTION: move that Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the January 2, 2018 Regular Meeting. Reilly, Hoeing.
Brief discussion was held regarding the accuracy of the December 5, 2017 minutes, as corrected January 2, particularly as they relate to the election of Board officers.
January 8, 2018 Special Budget Workshop:
MOTION: move that the Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the January 8, 2018 Special Budget Workshop. Hoeing, Whaley. Approved. 6-0-1 (Irwin abstained).
January 23, 2018 Easton, Redding, Region 9 Joint Boards of Education Regular Meeting:
MOTION: move that the Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the January 23, 2018 Easton, Redding, Region 9 Joint Boards of Education Meeting.
Mr. Parkin briefly explained the following revisions made in an effort to conform the minutes for approval by all three boards:
Page 1, first paragraph should read:
Dr. Irwin called the meeting and the Redding Board to order at 7:31 p.m.
Page 1, first paragraph, add:
Mr. Parker called the Easton Board to order at 7:31 p.m.
Mr. D’Agostino called the Region 9 Board to order at 7:31 p.m.
Page 1, under ‘Public Comment’: the word “Selectman” should be corrected to read Selectmen
Page 1, under ‘Discussion and Possible Action: Presentation by the Easton Redding Community Caring (SIC) Coalition’, 2nd paragraph, 2nd sentence, should read: “The Superintendent referred the Boards to their respective student privacy policies requiring that such surveys be opt-in rather than opt-out.”
Page 2, under ‘Review of Joint Committees’, 3rd paragraph, 4th sentence down: remove … “director of finance and operations. The committee’s mandate includes reporting back at the May tri-board meeting regarding feasible locations for central office.” Replace with: Director of Finance and Operations and Superintendent of Schools. The committee will explore all the viable options and make a recommendation for discussion at the Joint Boards of Education Meeting in May.
Page 2, under ‘Discussion on Central Office Budget’, Region 9 Motion: correct date to 2018-19
Page 2, under ‘Discussion on Central Office Budget’, Redding Motion: remove the word ‘Unanimous’
MOTION: move that the Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the January 23, 2018 Easton, Redding, Region 9 Joint Boards of Education Meeting as corrected above. Hoffman, Reilly. Approved. Unanimous.
MOTION: move to amend the agenda to include (1) consideration of voluntary early retirement incentive program; (2) discussion of building administrator contracts; and (3) collective bargaining issue relating to new teachers’ contract. Parkin, Hoffman. Approved. Unanimous.
PUBLIC COMMENT: None
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT:
Mr. Parkin gave credit to the PTA for organizing the Imagine a World/STEM Fair at RES.
Mr. Parkin acknowledged Damian, from the Central Office, for his help with considering video live streaming board meetings. Mr. Parkin added, anyone who has feedback, suggestions on remote meetings to please contact him offline.
Mr. Parkin thanked Dr. McMorran and the administration for their timely responses to questions and inquiries, given their involvement with three Boards and expressed concern there isn’t a capital plan and asked the Facilities Committee to draft a plan.
Mr. Parkin recognized the Special Education funding challenges and noted they are not unique to Redding, but that unlike our peers, Redding does not have declining enrollment to offset rising special education costs. Mr. Parkin doesn’t see a responsible path to 0% and given Governor Malloy’s proposed elimination of ECS funding asking to consider non-compliance with some state mandates to focus spending on the classroom.
Mrs. Hoeing attended the 2-day, 4-hour mental health first aid training session that focused on young people. She suggested creating awareness about the program for the community, Board, faculty, and children in younger grades who may not be on the listserv. Mrs. Hoeing added the course will be offered again in the spring and the first aid certification is good for two years.
Mr. Hoffman commented that the rapid changes in information technology (i.e. subscription-based services, outsourcing help desk functions, and fixed pricing models) are transforming business. He suggested the same principles might be applied in an educational setting.
Mr. Hoffman is not pleased with the current service levels and cost for janitorial services. He suggested the Board entertain open a bidding process to outsource janitorial services which has the potential for savings and increase service levels.
Mr. Hoffman thanked Mrs. Martin for opening up the floor for a Q+A session with parents prior to the start of the recent band concert.
Mr. Hoffman thanked the administrators for his recent tour of the two schools. He truly enjoyed seeing kids engaged in the learning experience.
Dr. Irwin reiterated Mr. Parkin’s acknowledgment of Dr. McMorran and the administration for fielding numerous questions, their attention to the requests, and providing timely responses to the three boards.
Dr. Irwin also acknowledged the volunteer efforts and success of the Imagine a World & STEM Fair that was held on Saturday, January 27 at RES.
Mrs. Hammond gave appreciation to the Redding Pilot for featuring Imagine a World on the front page.
Mrs. Hammond reported that report cards went home on Friday. She’s received feedback from parents and the kids are writing their own individual goals.
Mrs. Hammond invited the Board to attend RES’ Town Hall Meeting on February 15.
Mrs. Hammond announced February 26 – March 2 is Read Across America week and invited the Board to come into the classrooms to read to the children.
Mrs. Martin reported about engaging in dialogue with parents on topics from helping families navigating their kids using cell phones to announcing when there is no open gym on the school’s website.
Mrs. Martin invited everyone to attend Family Game Night on February 22 where there will be board games, family fun, and pizza. Younger children are welcomed.
Mrs. Torre spoke of an article she read on helping students with anxiety move forward. She is working to understand how to best support all students.
Mrs. Whaley received an email from a family inquiring on what the schools do to acknowledge and celebrate Black History month. Mrs. Martin responded it depends on the grade level. Most of the education is in the individual social studies classrooms. For example, 8th graders did research and they will read on the morning announcements. Mrs. Hammond shared children in pre-k through 4th grade, read aloud and younger grades use picture books.
Both Mrs. Martin and Mrs. Hammond welcome conversations with parents if they have questions and/or an interest to help.
Dr. Irwin reminded parents that school is in session on Tuesday, 2/20, which is a departure from past practice.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: COMMUNITY MEMBERS SERVING ON COMMITTEES
There was a discussion on community members serving on committees. Dr. McMorran provided guidance from several bylaws and suggested considering inviting people to committees based on their specialty. He added the committees need a charge when forming and voting is maintained by members of the Board. Mrs. Whaley suggested putting out a communication that the Board is looking to do this. One possibility is to make an announcement through the listserv. Mr. Parkin suggested also mentioning it in the paper.
Dr. Irwin asked which committees are looking for community involvement and expressed concern that not all committees meet regularly. She asked committees to let her know when they are scheduled to meet and they could put out a call. Dr. Irwin suggested committees should meet and come back to the Board with recommendations for the March 6th BOE meeting.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: POLICY REVIEW
3280 Gifts, Donations and Bequests – 3rd Reading
The Board reviewed the 3rd Reading of the Gifts, Grants, and Bequests Policy. Dr. McMorran suggested the Board changing the word “must” to “may” in the second sentence of the third paragraph to permit discretion in accepting gifts.
MOTION: move to approve, on a third reading, policy 3980(a) Gifts, Grants and Bequests as revised. Hoffman, Hoeing. Approved. Unanimous.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: GIFTED AND TALENTED PRESENTATION
Mrs. Hammond presented an update on the Gifted and Talented program since the fall study group that was led by Dr. Pierson Ugol. Their focus is incorporating learning as part of transitioning incoming gifted 5th graders into JRMS. The program focuses on students being creators, communicators, and collaborators in their learning through student lead project-based learning. It’s an opportunity for smaller groups of 8-12 kids to dive deeper into passion projects. Mrs. Pilato added, Dr. Pierson Ugol has conducted an incredible amount of research in this area, including kids at different levels working together and elevating their performance.
There was discussion on the format, setting, and faculty coaching model. Mrs. Whaley noted the passion project is more interesting and engaging for all the students. She asked if it is possible to extend the project-based learning projects to the larger classroom setting and students break out into smaller groups. She was also interested if there is a benefit for the more advanced students to work with other kids and suggested it may bring different perspectives to the learning process. Dr. Irwin noted the students are doing work at different levels of depth and Dr. McMorran added that we don’t want to use gifted students as teacher helpers.
Mrs. Hammond shared the takeaways to expand learning opportunities for 5th graders and to improve communication with parents on the identification process. Mrs. Martin added to the discussion, that every student at JRMS goes through math enrichment for one quarter, but not at the depth at the elementary school. Mrs. Hoeing requested an explanation to be able to provide to parents on what enrichment is offered at JRMS and to highlight what other districts are doing.
Mrs. Hammond noted the next group meeting is scheduled for February 22. The agenda includes looking at next steps for gifted 5th grade transition into JRMS. Mrs. Hammond invited Board members to come into the classes to see the students at work.
Dr. Irwin continued the conversation asking if Redding’s gifted and talented program is similar to other towns? Mrs. Hammond responded very few towns offer gifted /talented programs. They looked into schools in Fairfield County, Westchester Country, and beyond, and even schools outside the US. They were not able to collect a lot of information, but for those schools who have gifted and talented programs, Redding is in line. Mrs. Pilato asked if Redding wants to model the gifted program to another district’s model or do we want to create a unique program?
Dr. Irwin asked how Redding’s gifted program budget relates to towns and for those schools who do not offer enrichment programs, do they need another para to allow differential learning in the classroom?
Dr. McMorran reminded the Board that this is going to be difficult budget season. The Board will have to weigh the role extracurricular plays, helping kids articulate their passions, and finding balance in their decisions.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION: 2018-2019 PROPOSED BUDGET
Dr. McMorran presented the budget development process and factors that are driving an increase in the proposed 2018-2019 budget. The main differences between the current and proposed budgets are related to salary-certified ($521,713), medical insurance-certified ($363,049), student transportation ($332,813), salary-support staff ($284,952), and electricity ($100,000) for a current projected budget increase of $1,602,527 (7.72%).
In preparation for the February 8, 2018 budget workshop, there were discussions on each of the line items in more depth, including:
Staff salary and medical insurance – Dr. McMorran noted the cost of staff is going up partially related to teacher contract agreements, medical insurance, and adding staff for Special Ed. A quarter of the budget is dedicated to Special Ed. Mrs. Pilato asked if medical insurance is part of the contract negotiations. Dr. McMorran stated Redding is self-insured and if we had not switched to a higher deductible, we would see an even higher increase.
Transportation – Dr. McMorran stated we are going into the 3rd year of a three-year contract extension with DATTCO. We will experience a contracted rate increase in the upcoming budget year. Dr. McMorran also noted outside of district transportation costs for Special Ed also impacts transportation costs. Mr. Parkin asked if the $1.2m transportation cost included Special Ed.
Dr. McMorran stated Special Ed would be an additional cost. Dr. Irwin asked if Special Ed was required to go through DATTCO. Dr. McMorran responded not entirely.
There are five or six vendors that are used for Special Ed. Mr. Hoffman confirmed that we are not tied to DATTCO for Special Ed.
Electricity – Mr. Reiss projected electricity needs are increasing. Mrs. Pilato ask if there were more opportunities to go green. Mrs. Martin offered that lights automatically adjust now. Mr. Reiss added we went to LED lighting several years ago. We have healthier buildings in terms of climate control, air circulation, and we are reaching more areas of the building then before. In the past, the cost was lower price and less efficient. Mr. Parkin asked if we are cooling whole buildings all summer. Mrs. Torre responded no. Mrs. Whaley asked if the buildings are zoned and Mrs. Martin responded, yes, they can control the temperature.
Mr. Reilly follow up with the decision for the capital project was to be more efficient, but it’s not looking like it now. It’s creating a lot of questions. Were we expecting this or is it a surprise? What was the expectation for savings?
Mrs. Pilato asked to talk about how address need for the tech position that was eliminated at Thursday’s budget workshop.
Mr. Reiss stated the need for long term capital for the water system work. In the meantime, they will continue to use bottle water.
Mr. Hoffman asked about the strategy for an operation budget vs capital budget next year? Mr. Reiss responded the strategy is on a project basis.
For heating oil, Mr. Reiss stated there is a 15% increase due to the increase in gallons needed and an increase in cost per gallon. They will purchase oil in bulk and across multiple districts.
Mrs. Pilato asked if we can do the same and shop around for electric rates?
The discussion also included other areas that are anticipating increases as well as areas that expect an offset decrease ($263,720).
Dr. Irwin suggested at Thursday’s budget workshop the Board be prepared to discuss in detail recommendations and figure out how to get the budget down. Dr. Irwin shared that she met with BOF Chair Kim Yonkers. They are aware of the increases (i.e. insurance, contractual cost, and transportation) and are invited to attend Thursday’s budget workshop.
Mr. Hoffman presented a cost analysis of Special Ed between 2015 and 2018. He is concerned the trajectory is rapidly increasing and the Board needs to understand why. He reported the number of Special Ed students is predicted to decrease by 2.92% while the cost is predicted to increase by $1,078,547 ($21.83%). Of the projected budget increase, Special Ed will account for 77% of the total cost of education in Redding. Dr. Irwin commented the needs of Special Ed students are changing and unique to the individual student.
The discussion continued with Mr. Parkin commenting that every district is facing the same challenge. He asked if this is an opportunity to position Redding as a tuition seeking district. In that scenario, could the program be set up to accept children from other districts on a tuition basis? Dr. McMorran responded it is not a money making model and suggested looking for opportunities to collaborate regionally.
Dr. McMorran encouraged the Board to reach out to other CT Boards of Education to see how other districts manage sending students out of district when they can’t meet their individual needs within their own program.
Mrs. Hoeing requested if it is possible to put together general explanation of the trends (i.e. increase needs in behavioral health, what is driving the cost) to better understand.
Dr. Irwin stated the only agenda item for Thursday is the budget.
Mr. Reilly asked if there is a workshop scheduled for March.
Mr. Reiss reported on the current state of the health insurance reserve and projected unspent funds through January.
Mr. Parkin asked whether the computer purchases reflected on the transfer report satisfy the need in the 18-19 budget request and, if so, whether that request can be withdrawn.
Dr. McMorran presented Mrs. Martin with the Bonnie B. Carney award on behalf of JRMS for education excellence.
BOARD OF EDUCATION COMMITTEE REPORTS:
Mr. Parkin announced the following upcoming committee meetings:
02/08 – Redding Long Range Planning
02/15 – ER9 Transportation
02/26 – ER9 Central Office
Mr. Parkin reported that the Structure and Ways of Working Committee had met a second time and recommended structure changes for the Board meetings including: front loading the agenda with matter for administrators to permit their departure in a timely fashion, asking the Board members to note any items that required administrator input by the Friday prior to the Board meeting, and doing more of the work of the Board within the committees and reporting back to the Board rather than deliberating as a committee of the whole on all issues.
The committee further suggested finding a balance for celebrations and areas for improvement in administrator reports. He requested anyone with suggestions on how to make reports useful, to please contact him directly and he will bring the suggestion back to the committee.
Mr. Parkin noted that the committee will pilot a virtual meeting for its next meeting to test technology.
Mr. Reilly reported that he attended the Pension Committee meeting on Monday, January 29, 2018 and will continue to represent the Redding BOE on the committee.
Representative William I. Duff, State Representative 2nd District – Mr. Duff announced that he is attending BOE meetings within the four towns of Bethel, Danbury, Newtown, and Redding to hear how the regulations are affecting the towns. Redding is not the first community to ask questions around breaking mandates. He encourages the Redding BOE to submit ideas for legislations that are affecting them in negative ways.
Mr. Hoffman requested if we receive a new mandate, can the State remove another mandate?
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT:
Mrs. Pilato mentioned seeing a pre-teen suicide segment on CNN. She wants to make sure we have an open climate to report things that are not always working ideally and allow the administration to tell the Board about policies that aren’t working.
MOTION: move to enter executive session for the purpose of discussing (1) voluntary retirement incentive program, (2) building administrator contracts, and (3) collective bargaining issue and invite Dr. McMorran to attend a portion of the session. Parkin, Whaley. Approved. Unanimous.
The Board recessed to executive session at 10:15 p.m.
Dr. McMorran was excused from the executive session at 10:45 p.m.
The Board reconvened in public session at 11:18 p.m.
MOTION: move to approve offering a voluntary early retirement incentive program, offering a total of $15,000 in benefits to teachers opting to retire early. Parkin, Hoffman. Unanimous.
MOTION: move that the meeting be adjourned. Whaley, Hoeing. Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting adjourned at 11:21 p.m.
Submitted by Chris Parkin, Redding Board of Education Secretary
Recorded by Christine DiDomenico