At the onset, Mark Dely corrected the Minutes of the 5/28/15 Special Meeting to clarify his concerns over the Chair and Superintendent executing a $1.5mil contract for architect services. His addition to the Minutes was approved by the board.
Next, Natalie Williams announced she would be meeting with state legislators over the summer and asked if the board had any particular issues that needed to be addressed. Mr. Manuel said he wanted information on the new SPED voucher law. Specifically, he would like to know what accountability measures are in place and what happens when the SPED students return to public schools? Ms. Williams suggested discussing state regulations on nutritional standards for school cafeterias. Mr. Dely wanted to know if GMSD can opt out of state regulations. Lisa Parker suggested asking the staff if they had any questions or issues for the state legislators.
The report will be presented and discussed in a series of three Town Hall meetings to be scheduled for the last week of June.
Aramark Nutrition Contract
It turns out that there might be a problem with signing an agreement with Aramark because an RFP did not go out. There was some discussion about "piggybacking" that was difficult to follow. Quite frankly, we do not know what is meant by piggybacking but did understand that Aramark raised some concerns over the need for an RFP. So, a bidding process may be initiated soon then a special meeting will be called for the school board to approve the new contract for food services. The only other alternative is for GMSD to continue to provide in-house cafeteria services.
Later in the meeting, the Nutrition Budget was presented with a built-in $100K loss. This was modified from the previous budget amount showing an even greater loss. The budget modification was based on sales projections from Aramark; even though, the contract with Aramark now faces some uncertainties. The board passed the Nutrition Budget with Mark Dely abstaining on the grounds that more work needed to be done.
Dan Haddow reported that several new teachers and district office staff have been hired but some open positions are still available. Specifically, the district is having trouble filling the position of chemistry teacher at Houston High.
Mr. Haddow also spoke in favor of the budget amendment to fund educational lanes (higher pay for advanced degrees). It turns out that the State actually requires educational lanes unless the school district receives an exemption. Currently, only 14 school systems have applied to be exempt. In discussing teacher retention, Mr. Haddow cited the need for educational lanes and added that the two biggest factors in retaining teachers are 1) manageable students and 2) autonomy in the classroom. He applauded GMSD parents for raising well behaved students but noted teacher autonomy is being affected by state testing mandates. Mr. Dely suggested that Natalie Williams bring this up to state legislators.
Mr. Haddow then went on to praise GMSD staff members saying he did not want to lose them to other municipal districts offering higher salaries. The board subsequently approved funding for educational lanes and raises for central office staff.
Mason Grace reported that the City has approved the Apple contract. He also mentioned a couple of new things for next year including the Right Arrow texting program and another program that seems to be a parent information portal. He then cited a laundry list of GMSD accomplishments for this year that included student achievements, school & faculty awards, improvements to facilities, added programs, and increases in school staffs.
Building & Grounds
Josh Cathey reported that the HMS parking lot project, HHS HVAC upgrades, HMS new gym floor installation, and the new windows at FES are all expected to be completed by the end of July. He also mentioned that he is being kept up to date on the new astro turf football field at HHS. The fundraising is almost complete, the group is trying to secure a bridge loan, and expects groundbreaking to take place soon with the installation to be completed by Fall.
Teresa Price reported that the extended school year program is going well and GMSD received a $2500 student disabilities grant from Vanderbilt. Gina Evans has been hired to replace Gretchen Jones, a Behavioral Specialist, who is resigning to be a stay-at-home mom. And a new psychologist has been hired to fill a vacancy.
Autumn Enochs reported on OPEB and reminded the board that the school system budget must be turned into the State by July 15th.
Kathi Wright representing the Kyle W. Kiihnl Foundation after her nephew was killed by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, spoke on the dangers of drowsy driving and thanked the school board for supporting later start times.
1. Revision Policy HR 5. 310 Vacations and Holidays.pdf
2. Approval of Special Course Application
3. Miscellaneous Budget Amendments:
BUDGET AMENDMENT - 2C.pdf
BUDGET AMENDMENT - 3.pdf
BUDGET AMENDMENT - 58.pdf
BUDGET AMENDMENT - 59.pdf
4. Federal Projects FY16 (2).pdf
5. Capital Improvement Budget FY16 (2).pdf
Then, the Board considered Budget Amendment 4 allocating an additional $1.7mil in County property tax revenues for among other things: creation of new positions in central office, a $10K take-home bonus for Mr. Manuel, an increase in coach stipends, new interventionists, educational lanes raises, staff raises, etc... Click the link to see a complete list.
Ken Hoover expressed concern that these additional resources are being earmarked for the district office instead of schools. He then handed each school board member and Mr. Manuel a piece of paper and explained that he had worked on a cost analysis. When he looked at instructional costs and central office costs then compared GMSD with several other school systems, it appeared that GMSD was putting more resources into their central office than other school districts such as Maryville and Oak Ridge.
Mr. Manuel objected to Mr. Hoover's findings and said that such operational decisions are within his discretion as the superintendent and it was his job to evaluate information to make budget recommendations to the board. He went on to point out that the Maryville school system structured its budget to hide some of its district expenses in other items of its budget. He noted that GMSD had fewer district office employees than Maryville and said that if Mr. Hoover would like, he would ask his staff to provide a comparative analysis with every single school system in the state.
Mr. Hoover said he wished he had known about that offer before he spent all day working on his analysis. He also said that he truly wanted to have a greater understanding of Mr. Manuel's perspective and it would have been much easier if Mr. Manuel had gone over the findings with him before the meeting.
Mr. Manuel said that GMSD began with a skeletal crew but now needed to expand central staff so its employees are not overworked.
Mark Dely questioned whether the increases in central office expenditures were happening too quickly. He noted that other expenditures such as start times were considered and debated for quite a while before the board reached a decision. He wondered why the same attention was not being paid to these expenses. He said that he does not object to spending money on additional personnel at the central office level but would like more information justifying those expenses. He thanked Mr. Manuel for his offer to provide a cost analysis and said it would be helpful in deciding how best to use district resources.
Natalie Williams pointed out that 90% of GMSD personnel is in the schools. It was unclear if she meant 90% of the cost of personnel is spent in the schools or if she meant 90% of the number of GMSD employees work in the schools.
Linda Fisher delivered a long speech that she jokingly referred to as a church sermon. She began with emails she received during the superintendent search that praised Mr. Manuel as the right person for the job. She then recounted all the uncertainties that existed when the district was first formed. The school board began operations with a one page budget and a bunch of "what ifs." GMSD had no idea of how many students would attend their schools and had to borrow money from the City of Germantown to get their district started. She said that a whirlwind of decisions were made in March 2014 as the district had only 7-8 weeks to get it all together before school started. She reminded the board that many items affecting student achievement were being funded in the budget. She then added that central office staff needed to be appreciated too, noting that it has been a while since many support staff members have received raises.
Ken Hoover asked how big should our central office be? And what is our role as a school board in making such determinations? He wanted Mr. Manuel to share his vision with board members and provide them with his reasoning for the expenses. Mr. Hoover said he was happy to re-visit the funding request in the future but for now, it was his opinion that GMSD's central office is staffed richer than other districts.
Mark Dely pointed out that the board was satisfied with the number of central office personnel a few weeks ago when the original budget was approved. He said it only became an issue when additional monies were made available and questioned whether the money should be spent at the district level when the board has heard complaints of the lack of bathroom stall doors at HHS along with other needs. He said there were at least three dozen different ways that the additional monies could be spent and wanted to know why this decision was being rushed. He suggested setting aside the additional monies and discussing things in detail before making any decisions.
Lisa Parker referred to the School Feasibility Study conducted by Drs. Fite and Mitchell in 2012 as setting the goals for the district to have central office staff consisting of 71 employees. She noted that the increase in staff would bring the total number of central office office employees to only 34. (JAM Note: We couldn't find the recommendation for 71 central office employees in the Feasibility Study but we did see where revenues were projected based on an 8 school district that served students outside of Germantown City limits. And we also saw where the study recommended outsourcing and inter-district cooperative agreements as options to keep costs down. We reccommend reading the study and drawing your own conclusions as to whether it substantiates the need for 71 central office employees.)
Ms. Parker then moved that the budget amendment be approved. Natalie Williams seconded the motion. Ken Hoover moved to amend the motion by removing the five new central office positions so they can be discussed individually. Mark Dely seconded the motion to amend. It failed. The original motion was voted on and approved with Mark Dely being the lone dissenting (no) vote.
Budget Amendment 5 funding start times and the 1:1 intiative passed overwhelmingly supported by all board members.
The Federal Projects Budget which we thought had been moved to and approved as part of the Consent Agenda was voted on again....and it passed again.
The Board voted to amend the OPEB declaration of trust without discussion then adjourned.