MANCHESTER BOARD OF EDUCATION
MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2005
M I N U T E S
PRESENT: Edwards, Lok, O'Neill*, Rizzo, Robinson, Thresher
ABSENT: Hackett, Huyler, Golas
ABSENT: Director of Human Resources Attorney Libby
*arrived 8:05 p.m.
Mr. Robinson called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
Mr. Robinson led in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Minutes of March 28, 2005
Mr. Robinson asked for a motion on the minutes of March 28, 2005.
MOTION: Rizzo/Edwards s.v. The Board of Education adopts the minutes of the March 28, 2005 meeting. (5/0/0)
REPORT - PART 1
2. Milt Perlman, 3 Sanford Road. He stated Big Y sponsors a program that gives points to schools. He pledged Bennet Middle School as the school to receive his points. He congratulated the students who made presentations at the Board meeting as shining examples of students of Manchester. He visited the high school last week to see if the room numbers were ever posted, and they weren't. He suggested having a Christmas in April for the school buildings. He feels that this will save taxes and would get community involved. He recommended to the Mayor that more money not be given to the education department until a number of failures are solved. He feels the system is putting out quite a few students who fail, and he believes that there must be quite a few who are borderline students. He strongly believes that something should be done to address this.
3. Tom Stringfellow, 183 Hillstown Road. Regarding the 140th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, he recommended a magazine Appomattox Commemorative Issue when General Lee surrendered to General Grant; and books Black Troops in the Civil War 1862-1865 by Noah Andre Trudeau; April 1865: The Month that Saved America by Jay Winik. Regarding bullying, he recommended Bullying Handbook: Legal Guide for Administrators and Principals, and Three Kinds of School Safety by John Merrow in the December 2004. He spoke about school budgets and suggested looking at other funding revenues such as property tax reform, lottery, corporate tax, and millionaire's tax to help with local funding. The CEA has a website on how to deal with school spending. He stated that Dr. Daube has a building named after him at Manchester Community College, which is a cover story in the March 28, 2005 Live Wire Newspaper. He suggested an article in the Futurist Magazine, March-April 2005, Physical Fitness and Learning.
1) Personnel Action
Nancy Hewett, guidance counselor at Manchester High School, has submitted her letter of resignation for retirement purposes, approved effective the end of business on June 30, 2005. Ms. Hewett has been with Manchester Public Schools since February 26, 1979.
Janet Miller, speech-language clinician for Manchester Public Schools has submitted her letter of resignation for retirement purposes, approved effective the end of business on June 30, 2005. Ms. Miller has been with Manchester Public Schools since August 29, 1989.
Robert Stowell, science teacher at Bentley Alternative School, has submitted his letter of resignation for retirement purposes, approved effective the end of business on June 30, 2005. Mr. Stowell has been with Manchester Public Schools since September 6, 1977.
Kathleen Michaels, grade 6 teacher at Illing Middle School, has submitted her letter of resignation for personal reasons, approved effective the end of this school year. Ms. Michaels has been with Manchester Public Schools since August 24, 2001.
Naomi Perkins, grade 3 teacher at Verplanck School, has submitted her letter of resignation for personal reasons, approved effective the end of this school year. Ms. Perkins has been with Manchester Public Schools since August 21, 2002.
Frank Fidelman, earth science teacher at Manchester High School, has submitted his letter of resignation for personal reasons, approved effective the end of this school year. Mr. Fidelman has been with Manchester Public Schools since August 21, 2002.
Danielle Maguire approved for a maternity/childrearing leave of absence effective approximately May 12, 2005 through December 2, 2005. Ms. Maguire has been with Manchester Public Schools since August 28, 2000.
for Education Special Projects - $20,365.00
for Education Special Projects - $11,870
for Education Special Projects - $10,526
for Education Special Projects - $748,501
for Education Special Projects, $898,105
to Apply for Education Special Projects - $375
in Appropriation for Education Special Projects - $15,787
in Appropriation for Education Special Projects - $21,144
in appropriation for Education Special Projects - $30,000
from Board of Education budget to Interfund Transfers,
Mr. Robinson asked for a motion on the Consent Calendar.
MOTION: Rizzo/Edwards s.v. The Board of Education adopts the items listed on the Consent Calendar. (5/0/0)
Mr. Rizzo asked about item E7, $375 for the Astronomy Club. He asked if this was the first grant from the Foundation of Manchester Public Schools.
Mrs. Gejda stated that it was the first grant, and that there are others being pursued.
Mr. Rizzo congratulated the Foundation for a great start.
REPORT - Part II
Mrs. Brooks stated the budget projection represents nine months of the fiscal year, and six months of the school year. The 100 category of salaries shows a surplus, and the surplus in the certified account is supporting negative balances in certified administration, special education one-on-one paraprofessionals and the overtime. It is also supporting the anticipated end of year negative balances in non-certified salaries, hourly employees and certified substitutes. Overtime is significantly in the red due to snow removal and the installation and problems with the MUNIS software. It appears the surplus is due to unfilled positions, a number of unpaid child-rearing leaves and a mid-year retirement. The overall category of salaries is showing a positive balance of $431,400. In the 200 category of benefits, there is an overall positive balance of approximately $88,500. This surplus is in health insurance due to the Anthem proceeds received from the Town. In the 300 and 400 categories of Purchased Professional Services, there are positive balances; however, the balances have been frozen to support the negative balance in special education tuition. This category has a positive balance of $278,500. Other Purchased Services in category 500 is in the negative by $990,000 as of the end of March. This is driven by special education tuition. There have only been three homeless students to transport this year. The positive balance in regular transportation and homeless transportation supports the negative balance in special education transportation. In categories 600, 700 and 800, the majority of the lines have been frozen to support any negative balances in other areas, especially special education tuition. Overall, these categories have a positive balance of $172,114. It appears that the year will be ended in the black as of the end of March; however, she reminded the Board that special education is still a very volatile area. Since the March report was completed, there have been additional special education placements, which will make the projections in April appear very different.
Mr. Edwards asked about the balance in category 100. He asked for more background on the positive balance in certified salaries.
Mrs. Brooks stated that the positive balance is due to unfilled positions, two of which are at the high school. There were a number of unpaid childrearing leaves. The maternity leave was paid, and then childrearing being unpaid. This expenditure would be shown as a substitute in that line item. There was also a mid-year retirement where the replacement is being paid out of substitutes.
Mr. Edwards stated he wanted to talk in general terms about this, as there have been community members and elected officials who pointed at this figure and wanted to know how it got over-budgeted. He feels this is in stark contrast to the negative balances there are in the transportation and out-of-district placements. The one line item for private tuition is over one million dollars in the red. He asked if the volatility in this account makes it hard to predict.
Mrs. Brooks stated that there are two things that happened to this account: it was under-budgeted and they were just notified within the last week that there were an additional 30 students out-placed that were not included in the report. These students were out-placed by the State and not the district. She stated the account would be more in the red next month.
He stated when the Board went through the budget last year, they were clearly targeting a number of three percent, and although they got there, his fear was that some things would not be funded, as they should have been. He believes this has become the case. Therefore, it is not accurate to look at one positive balance in the certified salaries and declare the budget was over-funded. Additionally, as he looks down the 600 category, he notes it is for textbooks, library books, and utilities, which was higher than expected this year. When the accounts were frozen last year in September, which is essentially when the budget began, it was done to build up money in some accounts to offset accounts that are under-funded. He noted that there were instructional supply accounts frozen which states students did not get these things this year. He commended Mrs. Brooks on the work she did on the budget, which was not her budget. He stressed that the budget cannot be addressed in the same way this year, and reliable figures must be used.
Mr. Robinson commented on private tuition. He feels that it might be beneficial to get a sense of the numbers involved in these placements as the time grows close that the Board of Directors makes their appropriation to the Board of Education. He also feels it is important for community members to understand what this line item is all about.
Update - Don Sierakowski/Kathleen Rosewall
Mr. Sierakowski provided a copy of the latest letter from NEASC to the Board members. The letter concerned their recommendations and expectations. He stated they had some long discussions this fall about staffing at the high school. He commended the entire staff for handling an overcrowded and understaffed building with the utmost professionalism. The letter from NEASC sites a number of things. They first commended the school on the efforts of staff on the personalization that was taking place in spite of the increase in class sizes. The population is up about 12 percent from five years ago. This called for an additional 17 teachers; however, there have only been 2 additional teachers added. They commended the high school and Board members for adding two part-time security people to the high school staff. On the security issue, he cited a high schools of 2250 that has eight full-time security and two full-time SROs; of 1000 that had two security and one SRO; of 1500 students that has seven full-time security; of 1250 with seven full-time security; of 2950 with six full-time security; of 1504 with six full-time security; of 1740 with six full-time security; 1600 with seven full-time security. He stated that he gave these statistics because as NEASC commends the district with the addition of two part-time positions, that still leaves the school with a total of 3 full-time people in a high school of over 2200. He realizes the Board has made every effort to obtain increased funding, however, it has not been forthcoming. NEASC also commended the school for a very careful assessment of the standards to provide an effective education according to the NEASC requirements. They also commended the plan to bring the school to acceptable standards by the time the next evaluation is done in 2009. The plan is there, however, it has not been funded. NEASC requires another special report from the high school by July 1 that will assess the adequacy of the 2005-06 budget in the following areas: staffing, instructional materials, texts and supplies. Class sizes have grown tremendously over the years to the point that there is now 7 English classes with 27 students, 4 with 28 students, 7 with 29 students, and 8 with 30 students. In social studies, there are 7 classes with 27 students, 9 with 28 students, 9 with 29 students and 8 with 30 students. There are real shortcomings in staff. The library is another area that NEASC cited. The high school gave them a plan shortly after the 1999 evaluation in which the library could be brought to adequate funding over a period of ten years. It would require an expenditure of approximately $750,000. The amount of money put into that to date is zero. The library has one-half the number of volumes of any other average high school in the same ERG. NEASC cited the high school for a lack of professional development funding to align staff with NEASC accreditation standards. They also cited the students as having a lack of access to an appropriate and adequate schedule. There are many students who have multiple study halls because there are no electives to offer. NEASC does a comparative analysis on whether the high school will meet their standards for accreditation. Ultimately, in the world of college admissions and employment, Manchester students compete with students from other high schools where all this is in place and funded. There is no question that there are a large number of students who do exceptional things, but he questions if it is the best Manchester can be. He believes that NEASC feels this is the challenge. Commendations reside mostly on the staff side and what they have done to bring this plan for accreditation into play. The special report addresses almost entirely fiscal issues. He stated he is not heartened about the budget proposals he has heard to date. He commends the Board for having the courage to set forth a budget that is based on student needs.
Mrs. Lok asked if there was money in the proposed budget for additional security positions at the high school.
Mr. Sierakowski stated that there is money for proposed additional security, additional teaching staff and for additional library materials. There is one additional security position to create some progress.
Mrs. Lok stated that in the last two years, the Board has been requesting class size breakdowns from the high school. She asked if there would be a printout of class size breakdowns.
Mr. Sierakowski stated that Attorney Libby has this available.
Mrs. Lok stated that the Board should get this breakdown. She asked about smaller classes.
Mr. Sierakowski stated that there were some small classes; however, more than a quarter of the English classes are over 27 students.
Mrs. Lok asked if there was a plan to share this update with the Board of Directors.
Mr. Sierakowski stated that if the Board and Superintendent wished, he could make this presentation.
Mrs. Lok believes this is a good idea, as the accreditation of the high school is a community issue, and not solely for the Board of Education. She feels it is a burden to the community for the school to be on the warning list. She stated that it is important for the Board of Directors and the community to know what is at stake.
Mr. Robinson thanked the community for the passage of the addition to the high school, as it was a monumental success. On the other hand, issues need to be dealt with, as the status of on warning is really unacceptable to the Board of Education. He asked if the Board's requested budget was adequate in dealing with these issues.
Mr. Sierakowski stated the Board set forth a budget that was based on needs as a first consideration. He believes the items placed in the budget addressed the NEASC concerns. He noted that the high school is only two years away from the start of the self-evaluation.
Mrs. Rosewall from Keeney Elementary presented her report. She introduced Jane Bourque, a grade 3 teacher and Kathleen Pugliese, who were both chairpersons involved in the accreditation. They presented an overview of where Keeney has come from and where it is today. They stated that the accreditation process is not only a great deal of work, but also a process that the staff feels very strongly about because of the benefits it provides for Keeney. It is also a vehicle that allows staff to continually work together in educating the students. Approximately 20 years ago, schools in Manchester were given an opportunity to choose a process for evaluating each elementary school. From a variety of choices, the administration and staff at Keeney decided on the New England Association for Schools and Colleges. Because of the impact that the first evaluation had on the changes and improvements at Keeney, the administration and staff decided to go forward with a second cycle of accreditation. Central Office and the Board of Education were fully supportive of the process. To begin the process, a steering committee was formed, and its purpose was to review the standards for accreditation, set up the subcommittees for the self-study, and to revisit, revise and edit the mission statement at that time. The mission statement is a driving force throughout the self-study. The timeline for the process began in November 1997 with an 18-month self-study. Each committee member served on two committees: one based on a standard and the other on a learning area. Each committee began by reviewing the new mission statement and responded to each question and statement pertaining to their statement or learning area. As each committee completed their report, it was submitted to the action plan committee for review and presentation to the entire staff for input and vote of approval. She reviewed the standards for accreditation, highlighting the School and Community Standard and the Climate for Learning and Growth Standard. In June 1999, when all the reports were completed and a staff vote of approval was taken for each and every one, it was compiled and proofread over the summer. It was then sent along in September to the Commission. In October 1999, the NEASC visiting team came to Keeney. The purpose of the visit is for the NEASC team to validate that what is stated in the report is correct. In January of 2000, they received the report from NEASC stating they had preliminary accreditation. There were 68 recommendations and 57 commendations made. They continued over the next five years responding to each recommendation. NEASC also requested that special progress reports be completed on specific recommendations that they felt were of the highest priority. In October 2000, they submitted a progress report addressing the building concerns and technology improvements. Safety and improvements in the drop off area were also addressed. In October 2001, they submitted a two-year planning document, which focused on professional development, methodologies and creating appropriate assessment measures. The final report was submitted in October 2004, at which time 94% of the recommendations were addressed, with the balance reflecting town wide budget constraints. This report was accepted by the commission in January 2005. The action plan team continues to function at Keeney and in an effort to address new concerns, parent and teacher surveys were completed and reviewed by this committee. As a result of these surveys, action plans are currently being developed to address the most pressing concerns. The mission statement is currently being reviewed by the staff to become more child-friendly. They are continuing to focus on the NEASC recommendations to stay on track. This is all in preparation for a new self-study to begin in 2007, and another visit from NEASC in the fall of 2009.
Mr. Rizzo asked what the motivation was as no other elementary school does this in Manchester.
She stated that Mr. Amara was a huge supporter of this effort, and he chose this accreditation because it is the only process that is ongoing.
Mr. Rizzo asked if the staff is interested and active in this process.
She stated that it was a lot of work, but the staff is very supportive because it is very child oriented and the benefits serve the school.
Mrs. Lok commented that it is important to note that accreditation provides staff within the building an opportunity to do the self-study, which is very important in order to make improvements. The Board has tried to encourage each elementary school to take part in this process. She encouraged Keeney to continue with this accreditation process, and for other schools to join in as well.
and Residency Update - John Bishop/Jen Tait
Mr. Bishop stated that on December 9, 2004 received an anonymous complaint from a concerned citizen who had observed several students exiting a Connecticut Transit bus at the stop located at Manchester High School. The citizen spoke with the students who said they were from Hartford. An immediate inquiry was done and the investigation remains ongoing. What has been determined that several of the students within the normal walking zone of Manchester High School (a two mile radius) utilize the Connecticut Transit system to get to school. Students that entered the bus from Hartford exited either at Cheney Tech or East Catholic. During one surveillance, one student from East Hartford was found to be inappropriately enrolled and a recommendation for denial of educational services was made. He noted that over 50 hours of work went into this one complaint. Statistical data is available for the past five years. In 1999-2000, 331 residency inquiries were opened which led to 65 recommendations of denial of educational services. In 2000-2001, 357 residency inquiries were open which led to 60 recommendations of denial of education services. In 2001-2002, 368 residency inquiries were open with 58 recommendations for denial of services. In 2002-2003, 355 inquiries were open with 57 recommendations for denial of services. In 2003-2004, 392 inquiries were open with 66 recommendations for denial of services. For the present school year as of April 1, 295 inquiries have been open with 41 recommendations of denial of services. He stated the Connecticut General Statutes, as well as Board Policy 5118, guides these inquiries. He stated that no child would be enrolled in school until the criteria of age and residency are met. The School Safety Department of the Manchester Board of Education investigates all questions of residency and age, and makes a recommendation to the Superintendent or her designee as to the child's eligibility for school accommodations in Manchester. If the parent or guardian disagrees with the decision, they may appeal to the Manchester Board of Education. For the purposes of determining residency, the Board and administration consider the following: the child resides full-time (7 days per week) with parents or legal guardian who is a resident of Manchester; parents or guardians of students transferring to Manchester schools for the first time must submit evidence of Manchester residency; the child can reside with a resident of Manchester, and is the intent to be a full time residency; the student can reside in a facility or a home as a result of placement by a public agency; an emancipated minor must submit appropriate court documents with evidence of Manchester residency; the child may be an immigrant residing in Manchester; the student can live in a temporary shelter in Manchester; the student can reside in a safe house with appropriate documents. If there is a question whether residency has been met, it should be referred to the School Safety Office, where it will be investigated. Many surrounding communities have residency concerns, and the towns all meet several times a year. It has been determined by the Shipman and Goodwin Law Firm that central registration is the key component in the control and management of non-resident enrollment. Anyone with residency concerns is invited to call the School Safety Office at 6478-3491, or the Safety Tip Line at 250-3019.
In regard to safety, he reported that the main concerns that have been brought to his attention this year are in regard to parking issues. They are constantly working to improve building security with the addition of cameras. More cameras are needed and they are working towards that with the Business Manager, the Police Department and the Fire Department. Identification badges are becoming commonplace, and they continue with Police Liaison meetings on a monthly basis.
In regard to discipline, they continually work on positive support to decrease violations of discipline issues through the utilizations of programs designed for alternatives to suspensions and expulsions. Expulsions do occur, but they are seeing a decrease as alternatives are implemented.
The TIPS line has been very instrumental in addressing concerns from the community. Information from the TIPS line has been given to the police department, which has helped them in various criminal investigations.
Mr. Robinson noted the level of investigation for residency investigations, which has resulted in saving money for the taxpayers.
Mr. Rizzo noted that residency investigations were quite a bit lower this year than in previous years. He wondered why the numbers decreased.
Mr. Bishop stated that it is running its course, and estimates that by the end of the year, the numbers will rise to previous years.
Mr. Rizzo asked why administrators would wait until the end of the year for a residency check.
Mr. Bishop stated that many times the referrals will develop from PPTs or issues within the criminal justice system.
Mr. Rizzo asked for more information regarding safety issues.
Mr. Bishop stated that there are concerns that are occurring within the community which reflect on the schools. They are dealt with quickly in conjunction with other town agencies. He noted that the SRO program has been very important in providing a conduit for the process to take place. He feels parents and students have a trust in calling the TIPS line.
Mrs. Lok stated that she was glad this report was presented at a public Board meeting. She knows that residency checks have been done for a long period of time, and feels it is important for the community to know as well. She asked at what point during the investigation is the student's education interrupted. Additionally, are parents allowed time to provide proof of residency.
Mr. Bishop stated that he and Mr. Doster makes a recommendation to the Director of Student Support Services. They investigate the facts of the situation.
Mrs. Tait stated that once the administration believes the child does not live in Manchester, there is a legal process that has to take place. They give due notice that a student is not a Manchester resident. The family is responsible for either providing other information, or leaving the district. Some of these families are homeless in which they can be referred to other agencies. In some cases, a hearing may be requested. When it comes to that point, if the family loses, Manchester could charge them tuition. This usually is a deterrent to the family, and they leave the district and register where they belong. By law, Manchester has to notify the district where the student belongs.
Mr. Edwards thanked them for the work they do in regard to student safety. He asked if things are in place to mitigate the risks of serious safety issues, such as school shootings. He realizes the TIPS line is an important aspect of this.
Mr. Bishop stated that more cameras are needed in the schools, as well as additional personnel. He stated that safety and security is very expensive to stay proactive rather than reactive. There has not been a major incident, and the district learns from the incidents from other communities that have suffered these tragedies. The piece he is most concerned about is maintaining communication among the agencies and being an active participant in the planning with these agencies.
Date, Time and Place Update
and Sites Committee
and Instruction Committee
Mr. Robinson commented on a letter the Board received from the Catholic elementary school principals requesting expenditures for textbooks. The request was denied because the level of funding proposed by the General Manager is not such that the Board can expend it at this time. The district provides a great deal of in-kind services.
2. Stephanie Knybel, 138 Bobby Lane. As a parent of an 8th graders and an incoming 6th grader, the accreditation at the high school worries her. Without an accredited high school in Town, the district will not have to worry about overcrowding in the future because people will not send their children to a non-accredited high school. She feels it is a very serious problem that the Town needs to look at. This is her main concern with the budget. Additionally, safety around the schools has always been a concern of hers. She commented that many parents tried to park in the fire lane at one of the elementary schools during an evening presentation. She feels law enforcement is the only way people will learn the laws. She commented that the report on the CHEFA loan is scary, as the district was guaranteed money and now they are backing out of funding. She feels something should be said to the State officials.
3. Tom Stringfellow, 183 Hillstown Road. He stated he was impressed by the presentation from Keeney School. Regarding school security, he believes in due process and not stereotyping any group. He commented on the NEASC report by Mr. Sierakowski. He believes there should be more parent involvement in taking higher-level classes. He attended the Latino Family Night at the high school, and he thought it went very well. He recommended the Futurist magazine, March/April 2005, which deals with school safety.
Mr. Robinson stated that at the last meeting, the Board unanimously forwarded a recommendation to the Board of Directors on the Bennet referendum. He urged members of the community to express themselves to the Board of Directors.
FOR FUTURE AGENDAS
MOTION: Rizzo/Edwards s.v. The Board of Education adjourned 9:35 p.m.