REDDING BOARD OF EDUCATION REGULAR MEETING
February 1, 2022 – 7:00 p.m.
John Read Middle School – Community Room
Board members: Parkin, Hoffman, Oulton, Belfatto, Gibbons, Sadana
Administration: McKinnon, Pierson Ugol, Petruzzelli, Del Conte, Scrofani
Others: 5 members of the staff and public, and the recording secretary
CALL TO ORDER
C. Parkin called the Redding Board of Education Regular meeting to order at 7:02 p.m.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the January 4, 2022 Regular Meeting and the January 6, 2022 Regular Joint ER9 Boards of Education meeting as submitted. (Hoffman, Sadana). Approved. 6-0.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education approve the minutes of the January 22, 2022 Redding Budget Presentation, with the following revision on page 2 “Cost center overview presented…” should read, “Cost center overview was presented by Sara Scrofani…”. (Oulton, Hoffman). Approved. 6-0.
BOARD MEMBER COMMENT
L. Gibbons welcomed new Redding Elementary School Principal, Melissa Labrosciano.
M. Hoffman cited studies from Johns Hopkins University and the United Nations about COVID-19 issues that had been in the news that day and said that for a period of time we all thought that mask wearing was the right thing to do, but after listening to these news reports it’s time to stop. He said he’d like to talk about this topic at the next BOE meeting, and have the BOE send a letter to the governor stating that Redding needs to make their own decision about mask wearing.
L. Gibbons said she would like to have that discussion.
J. Belfatto said he would like to have that discussion.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jason McKinnon, said that the Administrative Reports would be streamlined at this meeting in an effort to get to the budget.
John Read Middle School Principal, Meghan Ward, reported that: 16 students had recently been selected for the Student of the Month program; one of the three JRMS CyberPatriot teams finished third in the State of Connecticut competition; and she thanked art teacher Bonnie Spies for hanging up all the beautiful student artwork in the Community Room.
Redding Elementary School Principal, Melissa Labrosciano, said hello and that she had completed her second full day. She said that the community has been welcoming and kind, and that she is looking forward to getting to work.
Director of Finance & Operations, S. Petruzzelli, responded to prior questions from the BOE, about specific line items in the Budget Object Summary, on the issues of: substitutes, nurse salary, secretaries, custodians, outplacement tuition, textbooks, library books, medial insurance, unemployment and workers’ compensation. There was a brief discussion about a transfer that BOE members felt did not need to take place. S. Petruzzelli reported that the health insurance claims for January were exceedingly high; he was asked to have the most recent claim numbers for the Thursday, February 3, 2022 meeting with Brown & Brown.
BOARD COMMITTEE REPORTS
Facilities and Fields Committee: M. Hoffman said that this Committee is gathering information and getting back to a meeting schedule.
DEI Task Force: C. Sardana said that Devin Wible, from the Easton BOE, had been elected Chairperson of the Task Force and that their meeting schedule has been posted.
C. Parkin mentioned that the town’s Art Hub Planning Working group had met. He said this group’s goal is to come up with a structure for which the town can review grant requests.
2022 NATIONAL YOUTH TOBACCO SURVEY
Dr. McKinnon explained that JRMS had been approached by the CDC to participate in the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey; 550 schools in all will participate, with the answers of 50 randomly selected students to be included in the overall results of the national survey. He said that the survey would require parental permission and would be presented to parents on an opt-in basis. Dr. McKinnon said that the survey takes 20 minutes for students to complete and its goal is to reduce the use of tobacco products in students. BOE members asked about the benefit to the District. Dr. McKinnon said that the benefit would be to help determine tobacco usage in the youth of America.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education permit the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey to be administered on an opt-in basis to John Read Middle School students. (Sadana, Parkin). Failed. 1-4-1. (Parkin abstained).
2022-2023 OPERATING BUDGET
Dr. McKinnon started his presentation by saying that he had presented a 4.9% increase in the budget for 2022-2023 at the January 28, 2022 Budget Presentation and that he had been asked to bring this down to the 3% range. He explained the new ER9 budget website on which viewers are able to: see key budget worksheets, data and charts; ask questions; watch the January 28, 2022 Budget Presentation; watch the first budget workshop of January 27, 2022; and, see the cost center.
Director of Technology & Digital Learning, Sara Scrofani, presented on the Refresh Cycle for District Chromebooks and SMARTBoards. She said that: replenishment takes place in grades three and five; students take home their Chromebooks starting in grade five; only 25 of the 100 Chromebooks awarded through an ESSER grant have been purchased, and that this will bring down the Chromebook budget line;
the certified staff PC’s are leased; 2026 is the end-of-life year for 330 Chromebooks at RES & JRMS; the District is following new recommendations from Google for end-of-life timeline for Chromebooks ; she is calling to ask for an extended warranty on the leased equipment; humidity levels hurt the equipment the most; and, that they used feedback from staff and usage reports in making these decisions. S. Scrofani shared charts on the needs for interactive whiteboards and SMARTBoards at RES and JRMS. A brief discussion on refresh cycle time and the need for a strategic plan for technology took place.
Dr. McKinnon addressed prior questions about transportation costs in the budget presented on January 28, 2022. He said the following changes had occurred and were all reflected in the transportation portion of the budget: field trips (field trips will be funded by parents as they have historically always been); a decrease in the increase for transportation (from 3% to 2%); a credit from the bus company; and, a diesel fuel credit. S. Petruzzelli explained the sharp increase in SPED transportation costs occurred because after the 2021-2022 budget was approved, an outplacement for a student took effect. He also shared a chart on the costs involved with SPED transportation that included a breakdown of the bus, the driver, the bus aide and fuel; the chart showed how a typical bus run could cost $563.34 per day.
Dr. McKinnon spoke to the questions of class size by saying that the first and third grades are the one to be carefully considered this year. He said that five sections of first grade will result in 16 students per class and four sections will result in 20 students per class; for third grade, six sections will result in 17 students per class and five sections will result in 21 students per class. Dr. McKinnon said that they will probably land on 25 sections in total, with five sections across each grade. He said that paraprofessionals cannot be used for instructional help if they are assigned 1-to-1 with a student, and that he is anticipating retirements and so no lay-offs. Dr. McKinnon also said that lawn maintenance had to be added to the budget because it was not in the previous budget, and that the water testing and maintenance costs were able to be lowered after hearing from the water company.
Dr. McKinnon distributed a draft job description for Facilities Manager and explained two options for the time allotment for this position. He said this position could be divided equally between the three districts, or, could be divided as .6 at Region 9, .2 at Easton and .2 at Redding.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Stephanie Pierson Ugol, gave a brief overview of grants for staff positions. She said that the Title 1 and IDEA grants are annual and that the ARP and ESSER II grants are for pandemic relief. Dr. Pierson Ugol reported on the following: Title 1 grant is in the amount of $26,000; IDEA grant is in the amount of $181,272; ARP & ESSER II grants are in the amount of $123,600. BOE members had questions about whether or not these grants covered benefits, pension, unemployment liability and CT MERS. Dr. Pierson said that the grants do cover benefits and that she would have Vicki Cram check into the other items.
Dr. McKinnon presented a breakdown of the cuts and savings discussed at the meeting and their effect on the budget in its present form. He said with the cuts and savings to transportation, Chromebooks, mid-shift custodian, plan b for Facilities Manager, field trips, approximately $15K from operations, reduced health coverage contribution, and 24 sections at RES that the budget now amounts to a 3.9% increase.
New BOE members asked how it is that one decides upon these things. A discussion took place concerning how to decide upon these items. M. Hoffman said that the focus is on class size, but that there’s 116 staff members at RES. Dr. Pierson Ugol pointed out that several of the RES staff members are funded by grants and/or are part-time employees. J. Belfatto said that when he first moved to Redding 16 years ago that Redding schools were 1,2,3 and now surrounding towns are in the top 10 and Redding is not, even though Redding’s per pupil spending is more than those towns. C. Parkin explained that it is very difficult to compare Redding to other towns because of our district set-up, campus set-up and age of our facilities. C. Sardana explained that many different factors go into rankings, such as diversity, and low diversity contributes to Redding’s lowered ranking; but, he added, the student outcomes are still great and strong for Redding students.
Dr. McKinnon said he agreed with C. Parkin’s assessment of comparing per pupil spending. He said that the District needs a strong strategic plan that pays attention to student needs and facility needs, and also a three-year budget. Dr. McKinnon reiterated the questions for Central Office from the BOE as: an explanation of instructional vs. non-instructional paraprofessional; an update on the water tank issue; and a more detailed overview of SPED transportation.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education Regular meeting be adjourned. (Belfatto, Gibbons). Approved. 6-0.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:48 p.m.
Submitted by Stephanie Oulton
Secretary, Redding Board of Education
Recorded by Sarah Ota