REDDING BOARD OF EDUCATION
January 10, 2017
Board of Education Members: Irwin, Gaspar, Hoffman, Denny
Administration: McMorran, Lagas, Pierson Ugol, Edwards, Martin, Wessman Huber, Basta, Wallin
Others: Approximately 15 members of the public, staff, and a reporter from The Redding Pilot.
Dr. McMorran called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM, indicating that Mrs. Sobel had resigned from the Redding Board of Education to accept an appointment to the Region 9 Board of Education.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the December 6, 2016 regular meeting of the Redding Board of Education as submitted. Gaspar, Hoffman. Approved. 3 yes, 1 abstention (Mrs. Denny abstained).
Motion: move that Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the joint meeting of the Redding Board of Finance, Redding Board of Selectmen, and Redding Board of Education for the Special Budget Development Meeting of December 12, 2016. Hoffman, Denny. Approved. Unanimous.
Sandy O’Reilly of Old Redding Road: Her son’s bus reversed pickup after an unexpected delay which caused her son to miss the bus. The driver did, however, come back to pick him up her son which she appreciated. She suggested that the Board of Education look into a tracking app such as “track my bus” similar to the app Uber uses. The app would allow parents to track where the bus is in case of inclement weather or other delays.
Lisa Goldstein, Redding Road: Thanked the Board for their work in the budget process and asked if there could be advance notice regarding what the cuts would be.
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT:
Mrs. Denny commended Ms. Sobel on the work she did on the Board, especially for the work she did in improving relations/communications with the Board of Finance.
DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE ACTION
A. Board of Education Election of Officers:
Dr. McMorran read Sara Sobel’s resignation letter and recommended that the Board make a nomina-tion to replace Mrs. Sobel as chairperson. Mr. Hoffman nominated Dr. Irwin to be Acting Chairperson. Mrs. Denny seconded the nomination. Dr. Irwin accepted. During the discussion Mr. Hoffman said he thought it was important for the school board to make the nomination sooner rather than later and that the school board should make the appointment rather than an outside board. Dr. Irwin pointed out that at the general meeting in February the board can appoint a 7th member of the Board. Dr. Gaspar said traditionally the Town Committee of the departing board member proposes a replacement. Vote By Ballot: Dr. Irwin was appointed as Acting Chair of The Redding Board of Education. Approved. Unanimous.
B. Policies – 2nd Reading:
-4121 Substitute Teachers
– 4111/4211 Recruitment and Selection
– 4112.5/4212.5 Security Check/Fingerprinting (includes Regulation)
– 4112.51/4212.51 Employment/Reference Checks
– 4112.2 Certification
– 4118.14/4218.14 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disabilities (includes Regulation)
– 4118.41/4218.41 Rights, Responsibilities and Duties Electronic Mail
The Board decided to defer this approval until the February 7th meeting when more Board members will be in attendance.
C. Joint Board of Education/Board of Finance Financial Inquiry Committee:
Dr. Irwin requested a follow up to the Board’s concern regarding four expenditure issues discussed at the previous meeting: the boiler at RES; the Special Education formula for excess cost sharing; the transfer into the health insurance reserve; and the bus contract. Mr. Hoffman said that the joint committee had not met since the last meeting. Dr. Gaspar said the Board of Education is responsible for its budget and the Board members take this responsibility seriously. He stressed that it is important for the community to come the Board of Education with their concerns because the superintendent reports to them and it’s a better way to organize the conversation. Mr. Hoffman also stated that the board wants to hear the public’s concern and they will make sure the concerns get addressed.
Motion: Move that the Redding Board of Education request Dr. McMorran to provide a detailed report on financial issues that recently occurred and what measures are in place to prevent them from happening in the future. The report will be provided by the March 2017 regular meeting. Hoffman, Denny. Approved. Unanimous.
D. Creative Science Explorers:
John Stinson, co-founder of Creative Science Explorers, gave a presentation on the program, which is currently being used in the Easton elementary and middle schools. The non-profit program engages students, coordinates with the curriculum and partners with the educators. Some projects have included building a model of the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building. Students from Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University teach these before-school/after-school programs. A specified number of interested Redding teachers would participate and would be paid by CS Explorers for their work at an agreed upon hourly rate. The college students also get paid and get credit at their universities. The charge is $50 per course and scholarships are offered to students who want to attend but can’t afford to do so.
Mr. Stinson said they started the program in Easton with Grades 4-6 and have just expanded the program to include Grade 3. They will eventually include Grades 2 and 8. He also stated that the program is 100% funded by the registration fees.
Dr. McMorran said all the students working with the children have met compliance requirements for background checks and finger printing and they are working under the supervision of our staff who are working beyond their contractual day. He believes this program supplements school programs in a nice way. The Easton board has engaged in a written contractual agreement with the organization and he would recommend the same for Redding.
E. Presentation of the 2017-2018 Operating Budget:
Dr. McMorran introduced Dr. Michael Lagas, Interim Director of Finance and Operations, who will be on staff through the end of the current school year. The three boards will be conducting a search this spring for a new Director of Finance and Operations to begin working on July 1, 2017. Easton and Redding will also be searching for a Supervisor of Special Services, which is a position shared between the two districts.
Dr. McMorran presented the budget grouping it into six sections to make it easier to understand.
The six components in descending order of expense are:
• Instructional Costs;
• Special Education (Psychological, Special and Speech Services);
• Operations Expenses (Physical plant, transportation, tech);
• Administrative Team;
• Academic program (textbooks and materials); and
• Athletics and Co-Curricular Programs.
The last two components comprise only 2% of the overall costs. Dr. McMorran stated this evening’s presentation would describe the commitment to human resource investment in the school. He said that the budget is “just right” for the number of students and programs and that it was as lean as he could make it. To reduce the budget further would involve one of three things.
• The early retirement of at least seven teachers;
• Drastic increase in class size;
• Elimination of long-standing programs such as Project Adventure, Gifted and Talented, or reduction of music and enrichment at the elementary school.
He said he did not recommend cutting these programs as they have made Redding the unique school system that it is.
The budget request is $21,372,654, an increase of 1.41% or $292,654. Dr. McMorran said the three unions with which the schools have contractual relationships are getting an increase of about 2%. The budget percentage increase is lower than previous years approved budgets, and there has not been a bigger percentage increase since the 2010/11 request.
He also pointed out that kindergarten enrollment was 56 this year, which was higher than projected. By law, children must be enrolled in public school by first grade so he believes the number for first-grade students could end up being larger than the projected numbers. He also said the national average for children needing special services is 13%, and the percentage of children needing special services in Redding is the same.
Redding Elementary School: Dr. Wessman Huber read a letter regarding the Redding Elementary and John Read Middle Schools’ Acts of Kindness activities. There will be bulletin board presentations set up at the schools, Town Hall and the Mark Twain Library during the week of January 23, 2017. In honor of the town’s 250 year anniversary, there is a challenge for 250 Acts of Kindness. The letter included an invitation to the Board to come to an Acts of Kindness event at Redding Elementary School on January 23rd at 7:45 am.
John Read Middle School: Mrs. Martin read the results of a survey from parents and teachers on the student-led conferences, which will help them make improvements for next year.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction: Dr. Pierson Ugol discussed a plan to revise the 8th grade writing portfolio to include a professional discussion among 8th and 9th grade English Language Arts teachers regarding 8th grade student writing performance measured with middle school and high school writing rubrics. The outcome of this meeting will support ongoing curriculum revisions.
Special Services: Ms. Edwards referred the Board to her submitted monthly report and stated that she would not add anything at this time since she will be giving her full proposed budget presentation for 2017-2018 at the next Board meeting on Thursday, January 12th.
Interim Director of Finance & Operations: Dr. Lagas reported that a preliminary report received today from Anthem indicates the December health insurance claims totaled $329,948, which was approximately $170,000 less than the November claims, but is the second highest month in the last six months. He reported that the State of Connecticut will be cutting education funding to Redding by 31.7% or $84,000.
Dr. McMorran acknowledged Michael Lagas, Vicki Cram, Stephanie Pierson Ugol and Peggy Sullivan for all their work and stated that we are in good shape because of their efforts.
BOARD COMMITTEE REPORTS:
Dr. Irwin reported that the Board’s Curriculum Committee met just prior to the Board meeting. In this meeting, Dr. Pierson Ugol shared the research base for the Reading and Writing Workshop model currently in place at the elementary and middle school level. The committee discussed the differences between this model and the whole class core novel approach. The administrators stressed the importance of personalizing reading instruction so that students are instructed at their own reading level while being exposed to an array of literature.
Mike D’Agostino, Glen Hill Road: Stated the Board should announce there is a vacancy on the Board now that Sara Sobel has moved on to the Region 9 Board of Education.
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT:
Dr. Irwin said that the Town Committee of the person vacating usually nominates someone to replace them but anyone interested could put their name forward. Interested parties should attend either the January 12th meeting or the February 7th meeting.
Mr. Hoffman thanked the administration for the new look of the budget and in particular Dr. McMorran for the work he does.
Motion: move to adjourn the meeting. Irwin. Hoffman. Unanimous.
The meeting adjourned at 9:48 pm.
Recorded by Paula Darlington.